Anti-war demonstrators toting signs and chanting peace slogans reminiscent of another generation marched through downtown Kent Saturday night where they were met by police in gas masks.
But unlike the historic protests of May 4, 1970, these protesters ended their demonstration peacefully, congratulating themselves as they returned to the Kent State University campus.
About 7:45 p.m., the group of about 150 congregated at Main and Water Streets where they were met by about 30 uniformed police officers, who had strapped on gas masks and stood shoulder to shoulder with their weapons secured and not drawn.
The demonstrators were confined to a grassy area on the northwest corner of Main and Water Streets as the officers restricted their movement from across the street.
Within 10 minutes the demonstration ended peacefully when one protester relayed a police message saying they would not interfere with the protest but that those involved “should wrap it up.”
The group obliged, and took their signs and chants back onto the Kent State campus.
Moments earlier, the group had marched to downtown from the college campus where they attended services held to memorialize the events of May 4, 1970, when four students were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war demonstration.
As sunset approached Saturday night, demonstrators beat plastic pails with wooden sticks and chanted, “We have a right to peacefully assemble,” “Who are the violent ones? We have banners, they have guns.”
Some demonstrators were armed with jars of vinegar, a trick of former anti-war protesters who used it to fend off the effects of tear gas.
“The police were trying to intimidate us,” said a 22-year-old New York City woman who attended the May 4 commemoration and joined in the march. She would not give her name.
“I think that on this occasion, this anniversary, it was outrageous to treat people the way they did,” the woman said.
The demonstrators said they were speaking out for Palestinians, who have been locked in a territorial dispute with Israel, and against the U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.
One protester carried a sign reading “War will not end terrorism.”
Some demonstrators wore bandannas, while others bore red, white and blue top hats similar to that worn by Uncle Sam.
Police had braced themselves for possible anti-war demonstrations as well as continued May Day celebrations that began around the KSU campus Friday night.
According to police, the anticipated rowdiness that failed to arise Friday also had passed last night as darkness fell in the college town.
At 7 p.m., the area around the campus was typical: students drinking outside their apartments on lawns and stoops, guys with spiked hairdos playing catch, a couple making out on a love seat and two women rolling down a hill while lying on skateboards.
The serenity mirrored the peaceful revelry of Friday night when more than 200 police officers quashed any hopes of bravado at the University Townhomes complex and University Drive.
A year ago, peace was absent until officers broke out their rifles and marched down University Drive to calm drunken rioters.
Kent Police Lt. John Altomare said several citations had been issued Saturday for open containers, but there was only one arrest. A 20-year-old man was taken away in handcuffs from the University Townhomes apartment complex and charged with underage drinking.
At the time, police held the advantage on the students. They warned students to keep their alcohol on private property.
“We’re taking a very proactive stance so it doesn’t get to the point where the number of people and activities overwhelm us,” Altomare said. “Strict enforcement is our guideline. Hopefully, we can keep people to where they’re having a nice time and don’t get to where the rowdy people take over.”
To junior Mike Lane, police became the “Grinches who Ruined May Day Weekend.”
“I understand the police will be here. They have to enforce things in case a riot situation happens. But the way they’re doing it is so strict. We pay rent here and we can’t even drink in our own yards.”