Kent State:Destrution of Civil Liberties  

                                                                                                                                  by BILL ARTHRELL

"Kent State is the white man's Wounded Knee, "
                                                             Vernon Belecourt,
                                           American Indian Movement

   I had heard the other analogies: It would be like putting a bowling alley at Gettysburg, a Pizza Hut at Bunker Hill, or a K-Mart at Valley Forge. But this one fit the best: "the white man's Wounded Knee."
   I was crying as I left Blanket Hill. Seven years of injustice flashed before me-. Seven years of murder, court cases, appeals, insensitivity and now the ultimate injustice of putting a building over it all. I was leaving Tent City behind me, too. It was a place where we had lived together
for 62 days. Instead of letting them build a gym on that site, we simply occupied the land for two months with our tents and our bodies.
   Now that was all behind me. The State had issued a Restraining order making our encampment illegal. But, instead of going obediently and meekly-turning the other
cheek-we were going to make a stand, with arms and legs locked in an act of defiant civil disobedience.
   I was crying uncontrollably now. I sat with 193 other protestors on the edge of Tent City. In front of me sat Albert and Ann Canfora, whose son, Alan, was wounded in 1970 and Martin and Sarah Scheuer, whose daughter, Sandy, was killed. Behind me sat the May 4th Coalition-193 of the hundreds of people-some of whom
had given up jobs, school, and now their legal record to preserve this site. Among them were two paraplegics in wheel chairs, Ron Kovic and Bill Schultz. In their vulnerability was manifested the fear and the courage to overcome that fear that we all shared.

   I was going to jail for the right to remember- the drive to preserve my own history, the Gettysburg of the student movement, the white man's Wounded Knee. There was a
note of finality as the police disentangled us to drag us off to jail. The courts had acted against us-ironically making the land we had fought so hard for, illegal for us to occupy. This seemed our finest hour, the climax of our resistance.
There seemed no recourse after our Civil Disobedience. We had fought the good fight but were beaten by a system that wanted to literally cover up its crimes. If Nixon had
covered up with lies, then Kent State was covering up with a building and we were the final victims of that cover up.

The 194 arrests of July 12, 1977, were not the first time Kent State was a battlefield. Seven years earlier Kent State gained infamy as the place

where it happened: The place
where America turned its guns on its own children, the place where the war came home.

This time, the war came home not as it usually did, to the black, the poor, the disenfranchised, but to its own children-white, middle class college students.
   Despite the heinous results of 1970, it was a more
innocent time than 1977. On July 12, 1977, we knew what the result would be and we were going to jail for our beliefs. In 1970 we couldn't predict the results-we didn't even know the guns were loaded.
   Never to be forgotten is the mood on campus after Nixon announced his "incursion" into Cambodia. The moment when all hell would break loose hung only by a string. On May 1, 1970, the string broke. Protests swept the campus for four days. Despite the anger and destruction there was a prevailing innocence, a lack of sophistication in gut-level rebellion. If the May 4th Coalition was as organized and disciplined protest movement, May 4th, 1970, was a disorganized outpouring of human emotion. Either way, things pointed to a noon rally on the Commons on May 4th.
  I went to that first rally with the same innocence, or perhaps naivete, that most students had. I was angry about the "incursion" of Cambodia, angry about the invasion of KSU by the Ohio National Guard, angry about the bayoneting of II students the night before. Two or three thousand other students seemed to share my anger as they assembled on the Commons.
   Although it was Governor Rhodes who sent in the National Guard and approved of their live ammunition, it was the University that ordered the rally to be broke up-peacefully or otherwise. The rally was peaceful; but the Guard acted otherwise. They moved on the crowd with tear gas and fixed bayonets. We were forced over Blanket Hill onto the practice football field. The Guard followed. They huddled on the football field (where the proposed gym would be). When they broke the huddle, they went back up Blanket Hill and, reaching the crest, they turned in unison and poured their bullets into the crowd for 13 seconds.
When the smoke cleared, four lay dead and 9 were wounded .
These painful memories had pretty well faded by July 12, 1977, and our group was overwhelmed with high spirits as the police booked 194 of us in the Portage County jail. It was beginning to look like a moral victory; political commitment and nonviolence pitted against gross insensitivity and a lack of respect for history. Perhaps the finality I felt earlier in the day wasn't so final. The decision to stay at Tent City and force our arrest had been the right one. Our morale had never been higher. We were

Bill Arthrell was shot at while a student at Kent State in 1970 and is now taking graduate studies at KSU while fighting the gym as a member of the May 4 Coalition.

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