|psychologically preparing ourselves for a struggle that
might last all summer-even longer. The chants outside the jail from our supporters,
"The People united, will never be defeated," were real.
The struggle did go on all summer-and longer. Because of our constant
political pressure, the door was opened for a series of brilliant courtroom maneuvers by
Tony Walsh and our team of National Lawyers Guild members. With
some timely advice from William Kunstler and unlimited work and brainpower on their part,
they postponed construction all summer. This was clearly our victory. Any delay, any snag
slowing up or halting construction was
advantageous for the Coalition-and any publicity, whether it came in the form of a
demonstration or not, aided our cause. Publicity kept our issue alive. For the University,
it continued to expose the very thing they were trying to hide.
A view from the pagoda on the top of Blanket Hill. The student
is pointing in the direction of the line of fire of some of the guradsmen
But that was gone now, and deliberately
so. Not only did the police confiscate our tents (and to date have not returned them), but
their restraining order made any tents, temporary structures or sleeping bags illegal
campus. They knew what they were doing. They were not only taking away our free rent, but
our organizing base as well.
Now our eclectic strategy switched into second gear. The heat. It was
July and we'd keep the heat on them all summer. Almost daily there were pickets, rallies,
marches, or civil disobedience. On July 22, twenty-seven more were arrested for briefly
re-occupying the site. On July 29, sixty-two more dramatically took, the hill by night,
set up tents for several hours, and were finally dragged off by police.
On July 26, 1977, the Trustees met for a final debate on the gym. Since
early June two of the nine Trustees, Joyce Quirk and David Dix, had courageously opposed
the gym. The others had clung stubbornly to their decision. (Later,one of them admitted
that it was a "mistake," but it was "too late now, so we must build our
mistake.") They met in a tense, closed session
||inside a building of the KSU Branch campus in Canton.
Outside, 150 picketeers reminded them how bad their mistake was.
Our argument was strong. The land was part of the legal evidence
and should be preserved pending any trials. It was a beautiful site and building upon it
would entail destroying
two hills and cutting down 3545 trees. The structure was excessively large: it was
designed for 30,000 students and KSU was now 18,000 and slipping. Because of excessive
size and poor design, maintenance and heating costs would
be four times the current expense of Physical Education Buildings. According to polls
seventy percent of the students opposed the gym and many more Americans were revolted by
the insensitivity of the KSU Board of Trustees.
Most importantly, Kent State is an historical site; the place where
public opinion was turned around on the most divisive foreign war in history; the place
where the government got away with killing peaceful protestors. The site had to remain
intact as a constant reminder so thatsuch an event could never happen again. Because of
all this, the Department of Interior had been pressured to study whether or not KSU should
be officially designated as an historical site.
Despite the barrage of good reasons, the Trustees
sat icily in their meeting wiith little intention of acquiescing to the demands of the
Finally, the Trustees left their meeting and assembled at a
large table in the lobby. Chairman of the Board, George Janik, read their statement:
"The construction of the proposed HPER facility will proceed as soon as
The word gym now had too much sting to it.
Our strategy all summer had been eclectic . Tent City had not
just been a free place to live, a microcosm of a socialist alternative, but a tactic. It
gave us a 24-hour a day visibility to the people and the press. It was an open, loving,
communal place that embodied the best values of the
counterculture. It also served as a base of operation, a place of organizing and