Jane Fonda to Help Commemorate 50th Anniversary of May 4th Shootings at Kent State

Feb 10, 2020

Jane Fonda will return to Kent State this spring. The university has announced her appearance is part of events planned to honor the 50th anniversary of the May 4th shootings

Chic Canfora looks forward to Jane Fonda’s return to Kent State. “She was here in 1971," Canfora recalls. "She was here with a strong message that dissent is a powerful form of protection for our democracy."   

Canfora was an eyewitness May 4, 1970. Her brother Alan was wounded. She has helped plan this year’s commemoration, the first time there’s been a united effort with the university to remember the day when National Guardsmen fired into students protesting the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine.

Canfora says the era of cooperation began with former university president Carol Cartwright, continued during Lester Lefton's tenure, and reached a turning point with Bev Warren. During a speech about May 4th at the Chautauqua Instition in August 2018 Warren, for the first time, apologized to those who were on campus at that time.

Canfora says the message was a healing one for families who then drafted a letter to the university. "It was time, under this kind of moral leadership, for Kent State University to assume it's rightful place in history and take over the commemorations going forward." 

Jane Fonda appears in a mug shot taken after her arrest in Cleveland in November 1970. Fonda, 32 then, was detained by customs at the airport as she entered the country from Canada because they found a stash of diet pills, Valium, and tranquilizers in her luggage. She faced a charge, later dropped, of kicking a local cop during the airport incident.
Credit CLEVELAND MEMORY PROJECT

In addition to Fonda, the events leading up to May 4th will feature renowned historian Eric Foner and Harvard professor Laurence Tribe. “It speaks to how important this moment was in history that the number one constitutional law expert in the country wants to be here at the place where our constitutional rights were put to their greatest test,” Canfora said. 

She hopes Kent State can be a model for the power of peaceful protest and reconciliation.

“We can model for the rest of America that peaceful protest has its place in a democracy and if we can’t gather and peacefully protest together without the fear of some government intervention or provocateurs trying to brand us as a riotous crowd as we saw in 1970, then we will have no hope to change and reconcile, which is our theme this year,” Canfora said.