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Activist Alan Canfora, wounded in shootings at May 4, 1970 protest at Kent State, dies at 71

Kent State to commemorate 50th anniversary of May 4 shooting with virtual event
Posted at 7:53 PM, Dec 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-27 19:53:54-05

KENT, Ohio — Alan Canfora, one of nine Kent State students wounded when members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd demonstrating on campus on May 4, 1970, has died at the age of 71.

“It is with immense sadness that I share news of the passing of my beloved brother, Alan Canfora--a devastating loss to our family, friends and the Kent State/May 4 community,” Canfora’s sister Chic Canfora posted to Facebook. “Our hearts are broken at the loss of a spirit so irreplaceable to us and to the world. The burden of our grief will be lightened in the days to come by the thousands of voices Alan inspired, the causes he championed and the lives he changed. Give us strength and give us time.”

His sister later said her brother died Dec. 20 at his home in Munroe Falls following a brief illness unrelated to COVID, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Due to coronavirus concerns, only a handful of family members were present.

Funeral arrangements are pending, she said.

On May 4, 1970, life forever changed for Chic Canfora, also a student at Kent State University at the time. It was on that day that Canfora, and many others including her brother Alan, were protesting American military action in Cambodia.

“We had to process our grief, our fear, our anger, our confusion, not just in the hours afterwards, but in the days, the months, and the years afterwards,” Chic Canfora told News 5 in an interview on the 50th anniversary of the shootings.

By 12:30 in the afternoon, a group of Ohio National Guardsmen fired their weapons at the protestors, killing four students and wounding nine others, including Canfora’s brothers.

“We will never forget the sights and the sounds of the gunfire, the adrenaline rush as we dove for cover hoping not to be hit and the horror we discovered when we came out from the cars and trees that shielded us,” she said.

Then 33-year-old Professor Jerry Lewis, one of a handful of faculty marshals trying to keep the peace, applied first aid.

“I saw a student laying on the ground some distance away so I went over, it was a blind student who had been tear gassed, so I applied first aid,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, on the 50th anniversary this year, the campus was closed, just like it was 50 years ago.

"The whole experience seems surreal knowing that on the 50th anniversary the campus will be closed like it was 50 years ago," Canfora said.

Alan Canfora fought for decades to protect the May 4 legacy, according to the ABJ. He spoke throughout the country on college campuses, and frequently gave tours of the historic KSU site to groups of high school students, educators and incoming university presidents.