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Special Collections and Archives

Ruth Collander -- Tape 10:A:2 and Tape 30:A:1

Recorded May 2-3, 1990

Transcribed by Lisa Whalen and Kathleen S. Medicus


I was thirteen years old when May 4th happened, and that particular week, right before May 4th, my next door neighbor, Paul Kreigle, was one of the first helicoptors into Cambodia, and the first announced invasion of Cambodia. So during May 4th week, I was dealing with a military man coming to my neighbors' door, and dealing with a very, very, very long funeral. My room was collaged with newspapers. And just the walls and the ceiling were covered with pictures from Life magazine, Vietnam pictures. And I can remember sitting in my room, and hearing the accounts on the radio, and being extremely angry at the way they talked about the protesters. I knew very well that the stories of them having weapons, and big rocks, just wasn't true. And since then, I've only been getting angrier and angrier.

I came to Kent State in 1975, and that year I met Alan Canfora. He showed me around the sites, showed me the bullet hole in the sculpture in front of Taylor, and walked me to where each person was killed, with a large dormitory group. Then my first May 4th was 1977, and I remember going to the front line, and feeling very strong about it. Dick Gregory and Jesse Jackson were speaking at the time. And we marched -- the group marched down to Rockwell Hall, which at that time, was the Administration Building. We took over the Administration Building, with Ron Kovic and two hundred other people. And from that group, went around, raised an awful lot of money, and also created Tent City.

Tent City ended up with a lot of arrests, 194 people. And I wonder why they chose to arrest everyone and stop -- stop the movement of the gym, we had enormous support. We had media from all over the world coming, interviewing us. We got nothing but positive letters, from thousands and thousands of people- we petitioned. I think every department in the entire university had faculty that was definitely on our side, wanting to have the gym moved. But Governor Rhodes didn't want the gym to go in its original spot, he wanted it on the site of the May 4th shootings. With the trial coming up, that would destroy the evidence.

And when someone walks up and tries to show an outsider where the site of the May 4th shooting was, now we have a huge gymnasium complex where a wooded hillside used to be. Sixteen trees that were over a hundred years old, that were supposed to be federally protected, were chopped down. And our beautiful community of Tent City was torn away from the hill. And it was kind of ironic, but we moved the tents every three days, just to protect the lawn, and then they cut out the entire hillside and erected a huge fence around it. Sixty five people threw themselves over the fence, and were arrested. This time, instead of paying five dollars and getting out of jail, it was five thousand.

Treatment got worse and worse and worse. You had to have a Kent State ID to be walking around on campus. And things got just uglier and uglier and uglier. Then, one afternoon we were standing in the student center, about twenty of us were doing nothing but chanting the First Amendment. The police came along, and carried out three people -- I think it was three, maybe more. But not everybody who was chanting, just the ones they wanted.

I can remember one time, walking down from Tent City, with a man who had just come into Cleveland, and he was carrying a billy club. So Tent City was a completely non-violent community, and it was a place of much love, and caring and respect. So we were escorting him away from Tent City, and off to the parking lot to his car, to make sure that he was leaving. And the police put their searchlight on us, and came over and asked me for my ID, and I gave it to them, and he called to see if I had any record. I didn't, so he told the police that I was Chicky Canfora. I'm not Chicky Canfora, my name is Ruth Collander, also known as Cedar.

I live at Kent State, and I came back to Kent, after being away for thirteen years, and my feelings are even stronger this year than they were thirteen years ago, when I was last here for a vigil. Last night I went to a forum, and I felt that the speakers, particularly Breidemeyer, was still smarmy about the whole incident. I feel -- I feel we've been ill treated, and I don't -- I don't feel that the anger thats within a lot of people, can be smothered over by this memorial.

[Pause, recording resumes the following day]

Since I've just come back here after being away for thirteen years, I gave a lengthy account yesterday, and I remembered that I forgot a few things. In my lengthy list of arrests that have happened on campus, that, also, my mother, who had seen me in the news quite a bit, was wondering if what I was doing at Kent State was -- was right. She asked in her -- she prayed in her church to -- for a sign, what she was doing was right. And a week later, I think the count was twelve or thirteen people, threw themselves in front of the bulldozers that were going to cut away the site of the May 4th shooting. And that was 1977. Two of the people were ministers, and one of them happened to be my minister.

Another thing that happened, when the fence went up, we had a rally, and we were tear gassed. I was tear gassed, and I was pregnant, and I had a miscarriage. I went to Townhall II, the clinic in town, and they said that they had an increase in miscarriage that was quite surprising. And I know at least one other woman, and I won't name her name, but I know at least one other woman was also tear gassed with me, she was also pregnant, and she had a miscarriage.

I mentioned before that when the police tried to pick me up in a parking lot on Kent State, called me into the police department. They were holding my ID that stated my name, they called me in as Chicky Canfora. Now later, Chicky Canfora got thrown in jail, I'm sure because of wanting -- picking her out of a crowd, and arresting her to build up her record. And from what I hear, she was extremely mistreated.

The other night, I think it was May first, I went to a forum, and Richard Bredemeier was on the forum. And he claimed that he didn't remember when twenty of us were standing in the student center, reciting the First Amendment, and the police came along and picked out the three people that they especially wanted, roughed them up and threw them into jail for an unseemly amount of time. He said the other night, that he didn't remember this incident. Luckily, Bill Whitaker was also in the audience, and he was the lawyer for that particular incident, and he knows that Richard Bredemeier knew of this incident. And the fact that he could have forgotten that that happened on his campus, points to the fact that, this sort of thing happens so often, that he cannot keep track of the unjust arrests that go on.

Just last month, this is 1990, a man who was trying to educate the public about potential for hemp as a paper making source that uses far less acreage than trees, was bounced off to jail. Richard Bredemeier said the reason why he was arrested was because a lady in the library wrote a letter that said that she wouldn't want noise to get into the library coming from the Student Center. And I think anyone who knows the student center at Kent State University, is perfectly designed to accommodate a huge crowd, there's festivals, there's garage sales, all kinds of activities: loud music played quite often. And luckily the library is designed, it's twelve stories high, it's a very large plaza; the sound does not carry into the library. And besides, wouldn't it be appropriate for the First Amendment to be filtering into the library of Kent State University.

 
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