May 4 protester and victim Alan Canfora to speak at UA

May 4, 1970 was a day that brought the campus into the national spotlight. In the midst of the very controversial Vietnam War, the peaceful protestor was a popular image.

Kent State protestor Alan Canfora will be speaking at The University of Akron next Thursday at 12:15 p.m. in the Common Room of the Honors Complex as an opportunity to hear a firsthand account about of events that infamous day.  The event is open to all to attend.

“I invited Mr. Canfora to our senior seminar last year,” said Dr. Patrick Chura, associate professor of English at the University of Akron, who is currently instructing a senior seminar class on the literature of the Vietnam War. “He gave a very compelling talk that offered an important first-hand perspective on the Kent State tragedy.

“In our seminar, which is studying oral histories of the Vietnam War era, his voice should certainly be heard,” Chura said. “But I think all will find the lecture interesting.”

According to the Kent State May 4 Organization’s website, the “reaction to Nixon’s announcement [of bombing in Cambodia] was similar to that of other campuses across the nation.”  Recent escalation of bombing in Cambodia had added a new element to the war and increased American commitment in Southeast Asia even more.

The May 4 Organization’s website details the days leading up to the final event of the opining fire of Ohio National Guard members on student protestors on the green space of campus.

Beginning with Friday May 1, 1970, the website tells the story of student protest and gives historical framework in order to build the atmosphere of the event.  In the days prior to the shooting, violence was present in Kent in small riots on downtown Kent’s Water Street and the famous burning of the campus ROTC building on May 2.

According to the May 4 Organization website, “In the first two weeks of May, 30 ROTC buildings would be burned nationwide.”

On the eve of the May 4 shooting, Ohio Governor James Rhodes stated that the protestors were “the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist element…we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent!” according to the May 4 Organization.

Approximately 200 students were gathered on the Commons at Kent State at 11 a.m. on May 4, 1970.  The shooting that resulted in four dead protestors was famous nationwide and made a major impact on how the Vietnam War was viewed domestically.

Alan Canfora’s website labels him as a “May 4, 1970 casualty, eyewitness, expert.”  Canfora was an “anti-war Kent State University student” who stood in front of the assembled National Guard on the Commons and waved a black flag in protest.  Canfora was shot in the right wrist during the event.

“He speaks passionately about the events of May 1970 and what they should mean today,” Chura said. “He has worked for decades to bring to light important new developments about the tragedy that have already impacted our historical understanding of it.”

Canfora speaks out from the protestor’s point of view about the May 4 events at Kent State.  He has been the volunteer director of the Kent May 4 Organization since 1989.