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[Leroy Satrum]: I am distressed and appalled at the destruction within the city during the past 8 hours. As mayor, I have declared an emergency exists and a curfew will be in effect at 8:00 pm on Saturday, May 2, 1970. We ask for the cooperation of all Kent citizens during this period. The Kent police department is on duty and along with the other local departments, particularly the Portage County Sheriff's Department, we’ll continue to maintain order.
[Greg Benedetti]: That was Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom announcing curfew plans for tonight following a major disturbance in downtown Kent early this morning. This is Greg Benedetti, and Bill Eames and myself will attempt to describe last night’s incident and today’s aftermath.
It was a stormy night of violence in downtown Kent late Friday night and early this morning. 400 to 500 persons, mostly students, erupted late Friday night causing havoc and damage throughout downtown Kent. Among the onlookers in the downtown area was WKSU managing editor Bill Eames.
[Bill Eames]: WKSU News received our first report of the action in downtown Kent a few minutes after midnight last evening. A WKSU mobile unit was responding to the call almost immediately. As we approached downtown Kent on Main St. from the east–that’s from the University towards the center of town–we turned on to South Depeyster Street to get around and outside of the crowd. We entered North Water Street at Portage Street–that’s across from one of the student hangout or bars in the center of town–and what we saw really shocked us. It was a sight that is not seen very often in this area.
To our right on N. Main St. we saw a bonfire burning in the middle of the road. We couldn’t tell whether it was furniture or simply garbage but there was a bonfire, fairly large, flames shooting about 5 feet into the air and spreading across, maybe, the same 5 feet in width. To our left and directly in front of us there was a large unruly crowd of perhaps 200, 300 people. Crowds like that are very hard to estimate the number of people, but around 200 to 300. In front of us and off to the right we saw looting of a hardware store. We saw a student walking across from us with a Scotts lawn spreader, right across the road. It shocked us to see the windows broken. We saw a shoe store get hit by several bottles, the windows completely destroyed, students going in and grabbing shoes. We saw students swarming across North Water Street, some students were yelling, “Down with Nixon,” evidently in response to Nixon’s Cambodia attack. We watched a bank get stoned. The students evidently weren’t that interested in looting, most of the students simply went on after they’d broken the windows.
Someone who appeared to be a student–a tall person, light colored hair, long hair–shouted, “Let’s head for the University!” and the crowd started running. They ran towards the west, right into a bunch of police from the Portage County Sheriff's Office, then they turned left on Main Street and headed towards the University. WKSU’s mobile unit at this point was surrounded by students. We were not in the mood to ask questions or show our press cards at that time. We tried to get out of the action as soon as possible so that we wouldn’t be involved in it.
As we fought to get out of the traffic jam, daring again not to show our press signs, students were swarming across the street. We had to fight to get through them and around them. Cars were ignoring the traffic signals and traffic was jammed up in the center of town. It was a very serious situation at this point. The Portage County Sheriff's men were coming down past the drugstores, past Hahn’s, en force. There were about 30 of the officers. They were in riot gear, they had riot helmets on and riot sticks. At this time there was no confrontation. The police held their ground approximately opposite of Main Street and the students turned left towards the University.
We went on then and we turned down Main Street. We went up to about where Firestone is, and then turned right onto Vine Street and headed for the police station. But in the course of our travel on Main Street, just that one block, we heard a crash of glass. Hickman’s Jewelers’ front window had been broken. We heard the alarm go off immediately afterwards.
When we got to the Kent Police Headquarters, we checked in with the Kent Police Department. At that time they couldn’t release any information. They had not had enough time to assess the damage, and the intent of the students. They were rather underhanded at that time.
Police evidently moved to cut off the crowd at this point. The student reports have it that the police cut them off approximately where the Captain Brady restaurant is. This is where the main confrontation came. Tear gas, when it was used, was used across from the main entrance gate of the University, approximately where Lincoln Street meets Main Street. There was a large crowd, perhaps 100 to 150 students on the Kent State Campus corner there. Perhaps 70 students or so across from the Robinhood, and police on the town side of Lincoln Street. The hecklers or students were there shouting things at the police, as generally happens in cases like this, and the police responded–they started towards the students and tear gas was shot. Some students were hit with the tear gas and the police took immediate care of them–custody and health care–and the students began to break up at that time.
WSKU at this time was not in the vicinity and we’re going by reports we received from other people, some of whom work at the station.
We got back to the area of town about 2:45, once again, after we’d begun a base of operations and began sorting operation. At this time we had a staff of perhaps 5 reporters trying to check out information and gather it for you.
Around 2:45 we again toured the town. At this time there was an accident on Main Street, approximately where Hilltop meets Main. A group of electricians were working on the traffic signal at that area. Evidently a car struck the truck and the men were knocked off the scaffold. One report has it that one man held on to the traffic light so that he wouldn’t be injured. There are no confirmed reports of that and the police have not yet issued the damage reports or injury reports, and the person who was injured has not ok’d the release of his name, so we cannot, at this time, release the facts concerning the accident.
The students were gathered around watching this. There were perhaps 30, again, state sheriffs–not state sheriffs–Portage County sheriffs guarding the area. They stopped the crowd from saying anything. The crowd at this time was quite silent. There were security officers cutting traffic off so that they could remove the accident vehicle.
Shortly afterwards they removed the vehicle, the police headed back towards the Robinhood area and towards the Captain Brady restaurant. Almost immediately after the police left the area the students began heckling. The police turned around and looked, but at this time there were no confrontations and the police kept walking. Evidently the police stopped at the Captain Brady restaurant, that’s where they held off for perhaps 30 minutes more at that point.
The students who were left on the campus at this time were the ones that had come from town. There were only about 150, maybe 200 students left of the original crowd. The rest of the onlookers or spectators or whatever had returned to their rooms or houses.
The hecklers were causing sheriffs men to get aggravated. There was no reaction. The sheriffs men kept their heads and maintained a certain distance from the hecklers. The town at this time after we had traveled into it was completely clear of students. The streets were deserted. There were a few store owners, perhaps 10, 15 men, inside the town. The town maintenance department had two trucks out and there were huge 55-gallon drums filled with glass. The town maintenance department was going around with brooms and large cleaning equipment breaking the glass that was shattered out of windows and cleaning it up to prevent further damage. They did a fairly good job and quick job of boarding up the buildings. The store owners who found out about the disturbance were down checking on what had happened and overlooking the scene. Several owners at the stores were in having coffee and talking about it. They had no reaction at that time. They declined to speak to WKSU radio about their feelings.
Later police reports brought in the fact that the students had gone on campus when the police headed back towards the Captain Brady, several students headed out towards the ROTC buildings, and 4 or 5 small windows in the ROTC buildings were then broken.
Store owners once again declined comment this afternoon as a WKSU news team went into town trying to find out their feelings of the happening or disturbance last night. All the stores in town right now are presently boarded up. We counted 14 stores were hit or had broken windows. Some 47 separate windows, most of them large 10x10 or so picture windows, were completely destroyed.
As to other actions or actions that could have led up to today’s or yesterday’s evening’s disturbance, other actions during Friday or yesterday included two BUS–Black United Students–rallies on the KSU campus. Also, a demonstration of the dissatisfaction with President Nixon’s sending of troops into Cambodia. Students buried a copy of the United States Constitution on the main commons of Kent State University. This also made the top headlines.
Well the Black United Students in their rallies were active on the Kent State Campus. They listed their demands once again that Kent State University should provide Black students with a new cultural center on the KSU campus, that there should be an all-Black faculty in the Afro-American Institute, which was just started last year, and that Kent State should enroll some 5000 Black students by next September.
WKSU news reporter Saul Daniels was at the second rally yesterday afternoon, and he heard Bill Blount, the president of the Black United Students, make these statements:
[Erwind (Bill) Blount]: “But I think you should realize that there are–what’s happening in Columbus ain’t no incidental thing. Like [quiet as it’s kept?], it’s going to start in the middle of the state and it’s going to spread. It’s going to spread. Now if you think shutting up “O” State is something, just wait ‘till they get here. In fact they’re here now. They’re here now. So many pigs, see I’m getting tired of them. [Unintelligible] I’m getting tired of them. So like, one thing should be known. It’s already known, but we’re going to make it clear right here and now. Last year we walked off the campus. We’re not walking off this year. We’re not walking off, and ain’t nobody walking on.”
[Bill Eames]: And that was Bill Blount, the president of the Black United Students speaking at a rally at Kent State Friday afternoon. There were about 500 spectators listening to that speech and that speaker, and the crowd was predominantly white. Blount said that the Black United Students are through talking. That they’ve talked and gotten no action, and that from now on it will be action instead of talk. But there was no reason to believe that the Black United Students had any connection with last night’s demonstration. There were no Blacks to be seen, at least the WKSU mobile unit saw none. And there’s no connection that can be drawn from that unless further developments should prove it.
Comparing last night’s disturbance with last year’s SDS disturbances during April of last year, the problems last year stemmed mainly from 5 demands, or 4 demands that were brought upon the University. The disturbances completely were contained within the University and no damaging problems came up off campus. The main problem last year was a breaking and entering of the Music and Speech Building and problems legally involved with a trial or pretrial hearing.
This evening or yesterday evening’s disturbance in the town of Kent was very serious and damaging. It involved the townspeople of Kent and not the campus itself, with the exception of the few windows in the ROTC buildings which were broken. Estimating a guess at the cost of windows in downtown to be an average of, say, $200 each for a 10x10 plate glass window, there’s going to be rather serious repercussions from the damage that was done. Whether it was organized or spontaneous, it’s almost impossible to answer except that from sight it appeared to be quite spontaneous. There did not seem to be any organization to the crowd last night. There seemed to be maybe 10, 15, perhaps 20 at the very most, people actually stoning the stores. Very few of the crowd were actually involved in the looting or in the damage that was done to the stores. Most were probably people who had been in the bars and were just trying to get out of the area once the damages started. When the shoe store was broken into it reached its height and it sort of stayed at that point for about 20 to 30 minutes.
There’re questions as to whether the cause of it was a spring energy or the fact that the students were trying to feel their oats since it’s spring. This cannot be told. There are other theories saying that it was an organized approach. This cannot be said either. Further results and investigations by the police units involved will show what happens.
There are reports of a bag of stones–burlap bag of stones–that were dumped on the sidewalk. This cannot be proven at this point. None of our reporters saw it. There are also reports of sniper fire, gunfire, being fired. This has been proven erroneous. There were not sniper shots, there were firecrackers set off. And several police guards were involved in the firecrackers but there was no damage done by snipers whatsoever.
So that’s what it looked like to the WKSU mobile unit. WKSU news is still gathering facts and we’ll cover the situation as it arises with momentary news reports as developments happen. So that’s the way it was, Greg.
[Greg Benedetti]: Ok, thank you very much Bill. Continuing with our report on last night’s disturbance, more than a dozen arrests on charges of disorderly conduct were reported by Kent City Police and the security office at Kent State. Students arrested were Kevin Gregory, 19, of 1478 Sandhill Drive, Akron; Thomas Wilson, 23, of 413 Sout Chestnut, Ravenna; Ronald Hammond, 18, of 2027 High Street, Cuyahoga Falls; Charles H. James, 18, 2860 Hudson Drive, Solon; Michael Lombard, 18, of 813 8th Street, Ashtabula; Barry [Nittles?], 23, of 6816 Greenridge, Solon; George [Geitrick?] , 23, of 2930 E 123rd Street, Cleveland; Roger Hedges, 18, of 223 Brad Street, Centerville; Edward Monsale, 19, of 6321 Water Street, Kent; Ronald Holiday, 22, of 352 W Elm Street, Kent; Carl [Fleeter?], 22, of 28716 Burkhardt, North Olmstead; Wayne Fisher, 22, of 1934 East Summit Street, Kent; Mike [Weeley?], 19, of University Terrace, Kent; and Vincent Linger, 18, of Ravenna.
Buildings where windows were broken included the City Bank of Kent, the Portage National Bank, and the Captain Brady Restaurant just opposite the KSU campus, at south–at Route 5 and Lincoln Street.
During the wild melee last night, four Portage County deputy sheriffs were injured in the disturbances. They are Sergeant Ross Jamerson, Sergeant Tony [unintelligible] , secretary Special Deputy Jack Rose, and Major Roy [Femberton?].
That’s just about the story on the way things had happened leading to the disturbance and the activities during the day. The 8-9-7 report will follow this special report with details up to the minute.
This is Greg Benedetti along with Bill Eames and that concludes this special edition of News Perspective for this week. ×
WKSU News Perspective show of May 2, 1970 including 15 minutes of information concerning the events of Friday, May 1, 1970.
Kent State University
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|Format of Original||
Kent State University. WKSU
|Subcollection||John C. Weiser papers|
Kent State University. Black United Students
SDS (Students for a Democratic Society)
Speeches, Lectures, Forums
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection