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[Unknown Speaker]: Give your name. [unintelligible].
[Tom Balthis]: My name is Tom Balthis. I live at [unintelligible] Newton Street, Akron. I’m a student at Kent State. I more or less just wanted to report that–
[Unknown Speaker]: [unintelligible]
[Tom Balthis]: I don’t know how to quite put this. There were–I mainly wanted to try to describe the people that were [unintelligible].
[Unknown Speaker]: Alright.
[Tom Balthis]: The mob that was breaking the windows was made up of say five to seven people, not any more than that. And in that five to seven people, there were two girls with sticks–big sticks–that led the whole thing, you know, busted the windows. And well the reason for the whole thing--the mob was proceeding down the street and one of the kids--I think that--it’s my opinion that this kid was one of the--more or less one of the organizers. It was circumstantial that the crowd was there, but also, I think that this guy more or less took over or, you know, used the crowd to accomplish his purposes. This man who had short hair--awfully short hair--
[Unknown Speaker] Do you know the name?
[Tom Balthis] No names of any of them. Now, that’s why I think he was somewhat of a plan person or other persons. They more or less just took charge of the crowd or used them. Well, anyways, this kid had real short hair, not a [unintelligible], real conservative, you know, quite a bit shorter than mine. And as the group was proceeding down the street, up to this time there had been no breaking windows or anything. [Unintelligible] little trash in the street, but that was all there was.They started rushing downtown and they were singing songs and this kid had a rock on him--a rock, or a brick, I don’t remember quite what it was. And he threw it at a bank right up the street that’s heading south, so I think that would be [unintelligible] or something like that.
And that’s--and after he did this, then these other two girls who--some had long hair, [unintelligible] they took their big sticks and started beating away at the windows. And then a couple more people joined in, but they were like--they were more or less just following these people behind. The majority of the group just started leaving, you know, because they knew the police were bound to be there sooner or later once they started busting the windows. But after the police didn’t come, the group just stood there and [unintelligible] watched these kids breaking all these windows.
Yeah, and this crowd had been waiting there in the street--well, I was part of this original crowd, you know, on the sidewalk by JB’s. They’d been standing there for a long time, going back to the beginning of the crowd. When it first started--there’s usually a crowd that hangs around outside of JB’s–and this crowd was exceptionally large that day. It was circumstantial that it was large because it was a warm night--it was an awfully warm night--it was the warmest night, I think so far, that Kent had seen, you know, because [unintelligible] and the crowd was large just because of that. And it’s usually large around there anyways because that’s where they congregate.
And then the motorcycle group came. Now, when they came they [unintelligible] their motorcycles and everything and they more or less attracted a lot more people outside to see what the noise was. And so the crowd grew a little bit larger. And now it’s starting toward the fringes of the streets. And that is--the crowd was so large that you had to go out into the street to get around the crowd because it was just--the crowd had grown to that large of a number. It was then that this motorcycle group came, you know, and it attracted more people. And there were a lot of people on the [unintelligible] that night, like I said earlier, just because it was so warm.
[Unknown Speaker]: And those people on the motorcycles, do you think the ones who were the leaders?
[Tom Balthis]: No, definitely not. They were--I actually heard two of those members talking about--”Looks like there’s going to be some trouble here. We better get out of here before we get in trouble.” That’s exactly what they said. They’re there every--I see them there quite a bit. I don’t know any of them personally or anything like that, but they’re there usually and have been recently, because of what’s happened. They used to go there--
[Unknown Speaker]: It’s usual for them to be there?
[Tom Balthis]: Yeah, they go there for their good time, they don’t go there to start any trouble. Unless that’s included in their good times, I don’t know. But they didn’t--I’m pretty sure, I can almost swear to it that they didn’t have anything to do with what happened that night, except that they--because their motorcycles were so loud that they attracted--more people were attracted to the crowd to see what the noise was.
[Unknown Speaker]: Mhm.
[Tom Balthis]: That was more or less the start, you know--or the snowballing of this crowd getting larger. Unless the crowd had reached that big of proportion. More people just started coming to see what this big crowd was doing out there. And like I say, I was on the fringe of the street. I left, then I had to take a friend of my sister, but I came back, you know, and I--this was--I left at about 20 after 11 and I came back at 10 till 12, and this crowd was larger before that, but at 10 till 12, or possibly just a little bit earlier. Well, 12 o’clock--10 till 12 or 10 after. The crowd had progressed out into the street. I don’t know who led them--more or less led them--but it was peaceful up to that time. Students were walking around in the street and a lot of people wanted to know what was going on. I guess they thought it was neat that--that the students had--were walking [unintelligible]. Now most of the people--couple other students--not students, a couple other people–[unintelligible] they seen this crowd there, they more or less detoured their cars around this crowd. And everything was peaceful up to this point.
The crowd just sat there, and this is when the young man that I was referring to earlier, with--he had a white [unintelligible] on and he had real short hair, conservative haircut. He started some chants--I remember him directly starting some chants, or singing, more or less to excite the crowd--I don’t know what it was. And after this, the two girls--
[Unknown Speaker]: Do you think this might have been a signal to the other members of his group--his starting the chant? Did you feel that way about it in retrospect?
[Tom Balthis]: I couldn’t say. The only thing I could say is that I--it’s circumstantial, that that crowd--plain circumstance, there’s no way around that because of the–I would say the hot weather, the motorcycle gang, the largeness of the crowd attracted more people. That was all circumstance there. The fact that these people were there, that might not be circumstance.
[Unknown Speaker]: You said the huge crowd, then, was not planned.
[Tom Balthis]: That definitely was not planned, in my opinion. It couldn’t have been. I saw everything as the crowd more or less took shape. These people more or less took advantage of the crowd being there, you know? Like I say, they could be outside agitators or anything, but they were there and they took advantage of the crowd. They hadn’t planned for that crowd being there, in my opinion anyway. I don’t see how they could have. And after the crowd had gotten that large, the girls and the guy walked across. There was a party going on across the street, too, and this also attracted to it--that’s another factor you can add in there. And they were--the music was playing real loud over there and these people ran over to the side of the house there in the yards there--where the yard went down to the street. There was a big [unintelligible] over there and they wheeled it out in the street and dumped its contents onto the pavement and they set fire to it. And they were beating on the drums like [unintelligible] and they were dancing around--one kid and a couple others. A few drunks along the way joined in--people I couldn’t identify. Then everyone got the idea--they wheeled the can back to the side of the road and then they decided, “We’re going to march downtown to the intersection and stop the traffic.” So, they started to do this and this is--as the crowd started progressing out of the streets, the one kid with the white headband threw the rock at the bank window. And that was--I would say that was the signal that--
[Unknown Speaker]: The throwing of the rock was the signal?
[Tom Balthis]: For the rest of the--for these other two girls. They had these big sticks and they were just busting big plate glass windows. And then, again, these same girls started more or less looting the stores, the ones they had busted [unintelligible]. And, like I say a few drunks joined in along the way [unintelligible].
And while all this was taking place, the actual--another circumstance I forgot was earlier that evening, this was before I left--earlier that evening a Kent policeman had went by and someone had threw a firecracker at him. He didn’t stop--they threw it right by his door and he didn’t stop or anything. The crowd at that time--he easily could have gotten out and arrested this person, or [unintelligible], or shown some type of force, but he didn’t, he just kept right on going. And since he kept on going, everyone started jeering at him, you know [unintelligible], but everyone starting jeering him, and that’s another circumstance that added to the hostility and the fact that it was that big that it didn’t disperse more or less, because the policeman didn’t show any force there.
From the time that firecracker was thrown, you know that was when the crowd more or less started growing, to the time that the state militia arrived, or Ohio Patrol, I’d say was two hours. All that time, the students were--not students--the kids were out in the street for close to an hour and a half, or more, I’d say. As far as the number of kids who were actually students, I couldn’t identify too many as being students. Kent is so big, you don’t know that many of the students anyways. But, I would say it was about 50/50, and the students that they did--the people that they did arrest more or less were people coming out of bars. They didn’t catch the actual people who busted the windows, I know that--I saw that. Maybe a few they did, you know, that happened to join in, but the people that they arrested were mainly drunks who didn’t like the fact that--or people drinking--anybody that night who didn’t like the fact that, you know, the State Ohio Patrol was pushing them around and they didn’t know what was going on. And people just more or less show resistance towards police, or youth I should say. That was all that I saw happen that day.
[Unknown Speaker]: Well, was there anything on the next incident? Were you over on The Commons?
[Tom Balthis]: I was--what happened Monday--I didn’t see the actual shooting. I was--saw what led up to the events of it earlier.
[Unknown Speaker]: [Unintelligible]
[End of Tape]
[Beginning of Second Tape]
[Tom Balthus]: Tom Balthus [unintelligible].
[Tom Balthus]: This is take two, Tom Balthus, 2200 Newton Street, Akron. Kent State student.
[Interviewer]: Tell them this is May the fourth.
[Tom Balthus]: This is May the fourth, also. Well, earlier that Monday morning I heard from my friends that there was going to be a rally out in The Common, and all my classes are scheduled at night, so very seldom do I even come up to the campus. Like, I’d been coming up earlier for about a week because it’s getting close to midterm. I was studying at the library. I’d get up there about eleven o’clock and stay there until my first class, which is around six o’clock. I had all my classes scheduled at night. But, my friend, I rode up with him that day, and he told me there was going to be a rally at 12 o’clock on The Commons. So, I decided to go to see what was going on up at The Commons, and when I first got to The Commons, there was nobody at the bell at all, they were just walking around there. Then, a group carrying black flags and headbands started approaching the flag, and then there were–in that group–I’d say there were five. And they did bring rocks with them, [unintelligible] awful small rocks, in my opinion. And they didn’t bring enough to–I’d say maybe they brought–you could count the rocks in your hand. They brought maybe twenty to thirty rocks, and they set them down. Well, less than that, I couldn’t even say that. Then they set them down where the bell was at. And it was then–there were only five people then–they started ringing the bell. And the Guard clearly heard the bell already, they were under orders that day to disperse any crowd of three or more. At that time, there were five students there. And they didn’t disperse the crowd.
[Interviewer]: There were five students there?
[Tom Balthus]: Well, at the start of the ringing of the bell, there were five people there. And these people were in plain sight of the Guard, I’d say there were approximately fifty Guard over close to the ROTC building, or in that area. And they clearly heard the bell because I heard the bell once it started ringing from over at the Hub, and I thought for sure they’d run over there and disperse this crowd, but they didn’t. And I couldn’t understand it because that was their orders, to disperse any crowd of three or more, supposedly. And-
[Interviewer]: Now, had this, how did you know this?
[Tom Balthus]: What’s that?
[Interviewer]: How did you know that they had orders to disperse any crowd of [unintelligible]?
[Tom Balthus]: I don’t know, I heard-
[Interviewer]: Was there an announcement somewhere, or had there-
[Tom Balthus]: There was an announcement, I know for sure that there was, that someone had told me–I don’t know if it was my friend or someone else–that we were under Martial Law or something, I guess. I didn’t quite get the full effect of it, I [unintelligible] feeding me a line of, he said “We’re under Martial Law, so, I’m supposed to disperse a crowd of three or more.” But we went down there and sat in the library for a while, outside of the library here and we had a group of about seven, we were just laying around, maybe eating, we ate over at the Burger Chef then we were studying a little bit, and they didn’t say a thing to any of us. So I said “Maybe they were just kidding.” I figured they would disperse us right away, seven. Of course, that’s not a very big number. But I thought sure they would disperse these five people who originally approached this bell. And so, I started walking over there to see what they–what was going on. So, when I got over there, I would just say I was one of the–me and my friend were one of the first ten persons at that bell–and we saw these people there, and they were ringing the bell and everything seemed alright. They had these pamphlets they were passing out–not pamphlets–yeah, pamphlets, newsletters, whatever you want to call it, that had the addresses of the congressmen on them, and they were passing these out. And I’d listen to some people talk. They didn’t, there was no-
[Interviewer]: Well, did the Guards-
[Tom Balthus]: The Guards, clearly-
[Interviewer]: -order you to leave?
[Tom Balthus]: The Guard was, the Guard ordered no one. At that time, there were only, like I say, we were, my friends or any of us, and they did not approach any of us. That’s what I couldn’t understand, why they didn’t immediately come over there and disperse that crowd, but they didn’t. And from the start of the ringing of that bell–I’d say five minutes–people start coming from nowhere. It swelled to about 100. Well, less than 100, about 50. That was in five minutes-
[Interviewer]: Then you would assume that they had to be very near in order to get there.
[Tom Balthus]: Well, not really. You figure in five minutes you can walk this far across the campus, really.
[Tom Balthus]: If you hear the bell. And, that’s when I thought sure the Guard would come over there and disperse the crowd, but they didn’t. So, it’s then, I decided, I was wondering what was going on, so I went over to find my one friend. I’d been gone for maybe another five minutes, when I came back that crowd was 500 at least. And there are people out in the outskirts, numbering 500. But within twenty minutes that the Guard didn’t disperse that crowd, that crowd was up to 2,000, 3,000 people, it was that big. There’re people, where all the people were lined around the edge-
[Interviewer]: But did the Guards know University Police?
[Tom Balthus]: The University Police–I didn’t even see them near the place. And, in fact, the Guard–I talked to one of the Guardsmen earlier, and, well, I shook it to him. I said, he says “Where’s the meeting going to be at today?” I says, “They’re gonna have it on The Commons,” I says, and then he says,“Oh.” So, it was common knowledge to the Guard that there was going to be a rally on The Commons–not a rally, or a meeting–whatever you want to call it. There was going to be some type of organization over there on The Commons. This is for, this is why for sure I thought the Guard would be over there, standing by the bell, or standing near The Commons, to disperse any crowd that started to gather. They didn’t though, and they were fifty to a hundred yards away, they didn’t even attempt at all to disperse that first ten people. And then it just grew, and grew, and grew. And then, after it grew to about 3,000, I guess that’s when they, that’s when the guy in the jeep drove out and ordered the crowd to disperse. He didn’t order it to disperse when it was ten to fifty people, he just didn’t do that. And then that’s when–you’ve got numbers behind you–naturally you’re going to be resistant somewhat, because you feel power, I guess. That’s when you’re not going to get 3,000 people to disperse. He didn’t either, that’s why what happened that day happened. Then, as he drove the jeep out, a couple of kids, I noticed, picked up rocks and threw rocks and hit this guy and his jeep. And this more or less, [unintelligible] it brought everyone’s morale up, I guess, however you would describe it.
[Interviewer]: Gave it emphasis.
[Tom Balthus]: Emphasis, yes. I guess it gave everything more meaning, that we were resisting the National Guard, they shouldn’t be on our campus in the first place, and something like this. And after, like I said, after the crowd were 3,000, they tried to disperse it, and then that’s when I noticed the Guard approaching. As the Guard started approaching up the hill, that’s when I left. I went out the side of a building. They started throwing gas earlier, and then, the gas was falling way short, it wasn’t even–plus, the wind was blowing the opposite way and the gas wasn’t hitting the students at all. And they didn’t plan for this either when they shot the tear gas out–they shot it straight at the crowd, and the wind blew it away from the crowd. And after, they shot it to the side. That’s more planning out, poor planning on their part. But then, well, I left then. When they started shooting the tear gas I ran up the side of Taylor Hall, right past the, right between the pagoda. I was standing at the pagoda wondering what I was going to do. It was getting kind of, I was getting a little scared because a lot of kids are really mad because they shot tear gas at them, because they broke up the peaceful rally. And I started to leave, so I go down to the stadium where I had my car parked, then I got my camera out. So, I came back with my camera, and when I got back, that’s when I heard the shooting, shoot, I was about 400 yards away when I heard the shooting, I got up this hill. I was waiting for the camera and I heard the shooting, and I saw smoke rise on the hill there. I’m pretty sure I saw smoke, but maybe it’s my imagination. I heard the shots and they sounded like firecrackers, real sharp sound. Then, I saw the smoke rise, and I thought it was someone setting firecrackers off, so I just went on down to the stadium and came back. I came back they were hauling the last kid away in the ambulance. I went over there, and the crowd, the mood of the crowd then was, they just didn’t care anymore. They weren’t going to leave, and they would’ve left but they didn’t care to leave. It’s like, aloneness, you might say, I don’t know. And, actually, it was disbelief. They couldn’t really believe that they’d open fire on a crowd like that. And that’s when they went back and sat down on the hill, and that’s when Dr. Frank and [unintelligible] the psychology professor came over and gave them a talk.
[Interviewer]: So, when they made the order on the, I guess from the, didn’t you say from the jeep they gave the order? Is that right?
[Tom Balthus]: It was originally from a bullhorn.
[Interviewer]: From a bullhorn?
[Tom Balthus]: Then they drove jeep out to get closer to the crowd.
[Interviewer]: Did you feel that you would be in danger if you didn’t leave? Or did you think about it at all?
[Tom Balthus]: I heard earlier that they’d shot students down at Ohio U. I says that doesn’t side, while shooting people in the United States? That’s gotta be wrong. I had a little fear myself, but most of the other students there didn’t. They felt, you’d have to say, I hate to say this, but you have to say it. It’s more or less like a game to them, really. To a lot of the students. To quite a few, it was, they were serious about the whole thing, they didn’t like the National Guard being on the campus. They felt they were in the right, and they weren’t going to move for anyone. But to quite a few, it was like a game, I’m afraid. Especially when they started tossing the tear gas, but I myself, I felt like I was in, I felt some type of danger, but it wasn’t immediate. And after I came back, I didn’t feel any danger, after they’d shot the students, that’s what’s funny. But I felt it before, that’s why I left. That’s about all I have to say, actually related to it.
[Interviewer]: All right.
[End of Tape 2] ×
Recorded statement of Kent State University student Tom Balthis, conducted by the CKSUV.
Kent State University
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|Subcollection||Commission on KSU Violence records|
Commissions, Hearings, Tribunals
Reactions, Responses. Students
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection