THE KENT STATE MASSACRE-THE VIDEO
Sixty-seven rounds of ammunition fired over 13 seconds (which killed four students, wounded nine others, resulting in one permanent paralysis) became the shots that changed the world. It was May 4th 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio. Unpopularity of the Vietnam War was at its peak that spring, and with the invasion of Cambodia a week before, the tension was fever-pitch. In that atmosphere, the Ohio National Guard fired upon students recklessly, harming observers and passers-by.
The tragedy set off a nationwide student strike participated by no fewer than eight million students that shut down hundreds of colleges and universities and came to symbolize the sharp political and social divisions of the age. Among the most potent images to emerge from the incident is this photo of 14-year-old runaway from Florida Mary Vecchio wailing over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of the slain students. Snapped by John Filo, an undergraduate photojournalism major, the shot appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the country and won a Pulitzer Prize.
Filo was in the student photography lab when the shots rang out. The bullets were supposed to be blanks, the shooters later testified that they used the real ones because they were in fear for their lives, which was doubtful based on their distance from the protestors. “Triggers were not pulled accidentally at Kent State”, Time magazine concluded. Other photographers also captured the scene from other angles. Vecchio was accused by Florida’s Governor Claude Kirk of being planted by the Communists. She later ran away from home again, sent to a juvenile home, and was arrested for loitering and marijuana possession. She later admitted that the picture “destroyed my life”.
An editor had airbrushed the fence post above Ms. Vecchio’s head out of the photo in the 70s and the altered photo has been reprinted in many magazines since.
“So who is this Jello guy anyway?”
Jello Biafra is one of the country’s most outspoken supporters of free speech and freedom (constitutional or otherwise.) He has released four albums of material recorded during the spoken word tours that carry him across the country. Each of these contains a great deal of legal and social information that he has compiled from various sources over the years. The scope and quality of the information is sure to shock even those who thought they were well informed on subjects they’ve heard about.
Jello Biafra also ranks as the first musician ever to be put on trial because of the content of a record album. The Frankenchrist album he released with his old groupthe Dead Kennedys contained in its original release a reproduction of a painting by Swiss artist H.R. Giger (known best for winning the Academy Award for the 1979 film Alien.) It was because of this painting that the L.A. City Attorney filed a charge of “Distribution of Harmful Matter” against Biafra and several others. During the trial however, the DA spent a great deal of time analyzing the career and lyrics of Biafra in an attempt to incriminate him on subjects other than the painting in attempts to set legal precedence. Fortunately the jury was deadlocked 7:5 in favor of acquittal and the judge dismissed the case in lieu of granting a re-trial. The fact remains, however, that this trial took over a year out of Biafra’s life and ended up costing over $100K in legal bills despite the fact that the penalty was a $2000 fine and no more than a year served. The full story of this trial and he tactics used by the legal forces behind it may be heard on Biafra’s High Priest of harmful Matter album.
In order to avoid corporate censorship of Dead Kennedys’ music, he started the Alternative Tentacles record label. Every single Dead Kennedys album and 45 was released on this label, as well as all of his spoken word albums. Other groups released on this label include the Butthole Surfers, Lard (A. Jourgenson and P. Barker from Ministry plus J. Biafra,) D.O.A., Neurosis, and Alice Donut. They, along with SST and Dischord, represent some of the earliest and longest running indie labels in the US that have stayed true to their ideals and origins.
Legendary San Francisco promoter Dirk Dirksen during Biafra’s 1979 mayoral campaign.
Biafra has always been one to speak his mind and take risks. What started out as a practical joke became a very serious campaign for the position of Mayor of San Francisco in 1979. While he did not win, he became a magnet for the vote of those dissatisfied with the leading candidates and came in fourth with 3% of the total vote. He never lost his sense of humor during the campaign with a platform that consisted of requirements for all downtown businessmen to wear clown suits between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, legalized panhandling at a 50% commission for all state workers laid off due to deficit caused staff reductions, and legalized squatting of the homeless in all buildings left vacant for tax write-off purposes. During his campaign, he wore T-shirts from an opponent’s (Quentin Cop) previous campaign and vacuumed leaves off of another’s (now US Senator from CA, Diane Feinstein) front lawn. His effect on the campaign upset the election so much that they later passed a resolution stating that no one would be able to run for office under anything but their christian name. Unfortunately Jello isn’t his real name… it’s Eric.
With an abrasive voice and a sarcastic and cynical mind, he speaks his opinions based on facts which are irrefutable. Like the late Frank Zappa, he is one of those distinct individuals who is willing to go to up against the government to fight for those rights that they seem to think of as out of date and disposable.
cool biafra quotes
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