In 1977 the Kent State University Administration announced its decision to construct a Gym annex on the site where some of the events of May 4 1970 occurred. On May 4 of that year about 200 students occupied the administrative building in Rockwell Hall in order to express their dismay with this decision. During the eight hour occupation the students drafted a set of demands related to the proposed gym construction and formed an organization which they called the May 4 Coalition.
From the moment the bullets struck the bodies of the 13 Kent State students on May 4, 1970, the truth about what really happened that day and its meaning for subsequent generations have been a constant point of contention on the Kent State campus. In 1971 the state of Ohio had convened a grand jury on the events and issued a report exonerating the Ohio National Guard for killing 4 students and wounding nine others, while indicting 24 Kent students and 1 professor for their alleged criminal activities on May 4. The battle over the truth about May 1970 was in full swing and the proposed construction was viewed as one more means to obscure the truth by altering the May 4 site. On May 12 of 1977 May 4 Coalition members and supporters occupied the proposed construction site and set up a Tent City.
The ensuing struggle lasted almost 2 years and involved hundreds of people from around the country. Tent City lasted over 60 days and ended only after the forced removal and arrest of 193 people. Tent City and the efforts to prevent construction of the gym annex gained national notoriety and legal battles were even taken to the Supreme Court of the United States. Although the gym annex was eventually constructed, the gym struggle proved an invaluable tool in preserving the truth about May 1970.
The May 4 Task Force, a student run university organization, has carried on the tradition of those who took part in the gym protests of the 1970s. They have kept up the battle for the truth over the years since. Each year they organize the annual commemoration on May 4. Many of those who took part in the gym struggle have returned over the years to attend these commemorations. However people's lives grow more complicated and time to travel to Kent diminishes.
We have lost contact with many individuals who partook in the gym struggle.
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