Revolutionary Worker #1199, May 18, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Over 300 gathered at Kent State for the 33rd anniversary of May 4, 1970--when the National Guard killed four students protesting the Vietnam War--and May 14, 1970, when two Black students were killed at Jackson State during an antiwar protest.
An antiwar march and rally was organized by the Kent State Antiwar Committee and the Not In Out Name Youth Network. The action was part of national actions by the NION Youth Network commemorating the 1970 killings.
Kent State officials didn't want this to happen. At first a permit was granted, but later, Kent officials revoked it on the grounds that it might cause a disturbance or violence. The students' response was to march anyway, and youth came from all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
At the rally, people spoke about how the U.S. continues to carry out wars against the people, like the bombing and occupation of Iraq. Speakers included: Jello Biafra; Victoria Lovegren, a professor who went to Iraq; a NION member who also went to Iraq; Art McCoy, an organizer for October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality and Black On Black, a community organization in Cleveland; members of the Kent State Antiwar Committee and other NION organizers who spoke out against the roundups of Muslims, Arabs and South Asian people, and the repression here.
When the march began, there were earth flags, black flags, and several red flags waving in the breeze, drums beating loudly and lots of chants and banners. The march stopped where the students were killed at Kent State in 1970. Then it wound its way through the campus, down the hill to Main Street which leads to downtown Kent. The chant, "Whose streets? Our Streets!" rang out loud and clear.
On Main Street, hundreds of cops stood ready to attack the march. At one intersection, they lined up with pellet guns drawn, aimed at the demonstrators. Then more cops surrounded the youth from three sides. The march was blocked by 100 plus cops in riot gear. More cops lined up behind the marchers and at the far end of the street.
When the march crossed over to the campus the police moved on the crowd, arresting one man who was on the curb carrying an earth flag. When Art McCoy, a Black activist, went up to a cop and asked him what the protesters should do, he was put to the ground and arrested. A 53-year-old woman was arrested as she was sitting in the grass eating lunch. An older man sitting next to her holding an earth flag was also arrested. Another man who is a peace activist at Kent was singled out as he took pictures from a Burger King parking lot. The cops then went after more people, pointing and saying, "Get him" or "Get her." Police blocked camera lenses with their hands and at least one person with a video camera was arrested.
The woman who was arrested eating her lunch was moved from one police van to another. When she stepped out of one van she had a problem with her shoe and stomped her foot to fix it. For this, two cops threw her into the seat of a van with such force that her head hit the window, causing the window to shatter and her head to bleed profusely. She was then charged with a felony for vandalism of government property!
People gathered back at the site of the 1970 killings as a police helicopter flew low and buzzed the crowd. The cops ordered everyone to leave the campus. When one youth asked the cops why they were telling everyone to leave, over a dozen riot police took him away. As three vans of cops in riot gear arrived, people went into the student union.
That evening, riot police stood outside where Jello Biafra was scheduled to speak. Then they came inside and stood at the back of the auditorium. A teacher who was at Kent in 1970 saw this and was stunned and outraged. He told the RW : "Those cops were like fascists... But Jello was still great and we collected money for those arrested."
In all 12 people were arrested and people went to the Kent jail to try and get them out. Many people in cars going by showed their support and donated bail money. When people started writing on the sidewalk with chalk the police came out and said if people didn't stop they would be arrested and charged with "damaging property" and "vandalism." The cops also threatened to arrest people for collecting bail money--but this didn't stop the youth, who collected $200.
Damien, a high school student who is a member of the RCYB and the NION Youth Network, summed up the day this way: "The police attack really shows what kind of dissent is going to be allowed in this society. If we don't step up the resistance they will be able to silence us. I was scared shitless at this attack. I have seen riot police on television but I have never been face to face with a force out to get me and my comrades. I was frightened, but for me it showed the kind of determination that side is waging and if we are going to stop this war machine we are going to have to match them and be even stronger and more powerful. I felt we were carrying forth the spirit of Kent State in 1970..."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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