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Kent State May 4 Protest Defies Repression, Suffers Arrests
by Carwil James
Sunday May 4th, 2003 6:53 PM
Defying a university and city refusal to grant a permit, 300-600 people honored the memory of those shot on May 4, 1970, by continuing to demand an end to global war. Hundreds of police blocked the march from entering downtown, arresting at least 6.
As the official commemoration for the 4 students shot dead by the National Guard on May 4, 1970 was winding down there was a rhythm in the background: half a dozen people pounding out a beat on a 7 foot high "drum machine" calling people together to protest the war and to defy university and city attempts to ban ant-war dissent from the day in Kent.

And they gathered by the hundreds: students from as far away as Chicago and Lansing; those who had lost friends in 1970 who are still resisting war by the American empire; and people of all ages from the Kent[, Ohio] community. Spoken word performer Jello Biafra and a Kent peace activist who spent her weeks before the war visiting Iraq addressed the gathering crowd, before organizers turned to the issues of the day: ending the occupation, reclaiming free speech, and honoring the dead of the 1970 student strike at Kent State and Jackson State.

Four poets offered pieces challenging war and calling for people to rise up at the final living place of the four students who were felled by Federal bullets 33 years ago. And then the march was off: winding its way around campus, often led by Black and Red blocks of anti-capitalists and shouting to all the world that the movement to end the Iraqi people is alive and well in northeast Ohio. They shouted for peace, they shouted for democracy, they shouted: "Bush, you liar: your cowboy ass is fired!"

As the march turned onto the main road outside campus, police bullhorns were met with a louder cry from the crowd: "Whose streets? Our streets." And for a brief time they were. Far more than on campus, the march was greeted by waves, peace signs and smiles from fast food workers and people on their front porches. The police waited behind vans on the side streets and assembled a line in riot gear ahead of the march.

The crowd veered left, towards campus, as they approached the police line, coming filling in on the sidewalk as if to outflank. But then the first snatch occurred. Police ran in and grabbed an African American man known for anti-police brutality work in Cleveland. With everyone on sidewalks or the campus lawn, and cries of "shame" in the air, arbitrary arrests continued on the sides of the group. Scores of police pressed in from two sides.

An uneven retreat coalesced into a march back to the site of the May 4 killings. There the police helicopter flew low and buzzed the crowd, sending dirt flying our way as we gathered to regroup. Even there, in the middle of campus a dispersal order was issued. Two marches led to the edge of campus, escape, and waiting buses, cars and homes. Some joined Jello Biafra's gathering audience, while packs of riot police roved campus.

All tolled at least six people were arrested perhaps more. The words of protesters on the once-bloodied ground sum it up best: "May 4, 2003: Still killing democracy."

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