Columbia Residents Gather to Remember Kent State: A ‘Memory We Don't Want To Lose Sight Of’ | KBIA

Columbia Residents Gather to Remember Kent State: A ‘Memory We Don't Want To Lose Sight Of’

May 4, 2021

This past Saturday, Mizzou alumni and Columbia residents alike returned to Peace Park to honor the lives lost in 1970 in shootings at Kent State and Jackson State.

They gathered bringing back memories of naming the park, building a huge peace symbol and rallying on this spot – 50 years ago – vowing not to forget their peers killed in anti-war protests.

So, this past weekend, they remembered together. And the peace symbol? It’s still there.

Credit Nate Brown / KBIA

Eric Staley: Fifty years ago, I was one of three people who instigated the building of this memorial, and two of us are here today. Unfortunately, the third person has died, but we're here partly in his memory. In honor of that, but also in honor of the history of this park.

May 4 of 1970 was Kent State and a couple of weeks later was Jackson State, where a couple other people were killed for pretty much the same reason, and that's the kind of memory that we don't want to lose sight of.

I mean, we have issues currently of police brutality, which is not to say that all police or most police are brutal, but the issue has continued to remain – of questions of authority against the common person.

Credit Nate Brown / KBIA

Gary Leabman: Currently living in Hermann Missouri. Class of 1971. Business school. Apparently, there was a whole bunch of the erosion from recent storms in the spring and there was a pile of rocks, just waiting to go into the creek.

So, two of my friends and I started hauling rocks and creating the circle, and then soon 10 or 15 people were helping – it didn't take long, and we made the peace symbol – and we didn't know it would lead to Peace Park, but we're certainly glad it did. Fifty years ago, feel good about that.

  Saly Seye: My name is Saly Seye. I'm 18 and I'm a senior at Rock Ridge High School. It's important for us to remember these events specifically because they involve youth activism, and as everybody says, literally all the time “the youth are our future.”

Credit Nate Brown / KBIA

It's important to see parallels, you know, at Kent State, they deployed the National Guard. That's how people got shot, people who weren't protesting – people who are walking to class got shot, and now people are protesting the brutal murders of black people and the National Guard is being sicked on them in the exact same way.

So, I think that understanding the history of this park - especially because it's so near to us, you know, we come here all the time. We spend time with each other like this is a central place for us, and I think understanding that takes away kind of some of the mystery that exists between generations not understanding each other – because they did and understood and acted in the same way that we are now.