Occupy Kent takes to the streets

Rachel Jones

It’s not Halloween yet, but the sidewalks of Main Street are getting full — of tents.

Students for the Occupy Kent State movement set up bright teal, neon orange and tan tents in front of the local businesses in downtown Kent.

“The reason for the tents specifically is for a spectacle,” said Karch Marhofer, organizer of Occupy Kent State. “You have to notice a tent. It would kind of make you question the reason why a little bit more.”

The junior general studies major said that reason is to support the occupy movement that began in New York City on Sept. 17 and has since gained followers across the nation.

But Marhofer said he wanted to make a more positive, constructive message than previous occupy movements. The Occupy Kent State demonstration is more focused on supporting local businesses and holding cardboard signs that reflect that view.

“Nothing like, ‘Down with the man.’ ‘Down with the one percent.’ ‘End the fed,’” Marhofer explained. “It’s all positive, working to construct and build something. We’re really putting three words on our signs: community based economics.”

Joseph Reino, junior political science major, sat in front of Kent Natural Foods Co-op, holding a sign that read, “Screw Wall Street. Support Main Street.” Reino said he joined the movement after seeing the Occupy Kent State group on Facebook.

“They were talking about coming downtown and local economics, and I thought it sounded like a really good idea,” he said. “I don’t like giving my money to the corporations. I like to support locals.”

Reino said he planned on staying until Thursday night, but his fellow student supporter, Laurie Beekman, said she planned on staying a little longer.


“Absolutely,” the junior conservation major said with a smile. “I’m probably going to sleep outside of Skullz (Salon) tonight. I’m excited actually.”

To avoid any legal backlash for the movement, the group’s organizers approached Heidi Shaffer, Ward 5 councilwoman, to see if they needed a permit to conduct this peaceful protest.

Shaffer suggested the group talk to city officials and get the demonstration approved by the police department and safety officials. Because it was approved, city council did not have to vote on the matter.

“I’m glad they did that,” Shaffer explained. “I think the subject is really valuable for people to understand where we put our money and where we put our resources really determines the kind of society we have. There are a lot of people in this community — not just students — who would like to be a part of something larger.”

Jason Merlene, owner of Last Exit Books, decided to be a part of it by letting Occupy Kent State set up a tent in front of his store.

He said he agreed because this movement took a different angle and chose to support local businesses.


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“I think they’re going about it in a mature way and not just being young and full of angst,” Merlene said. “The youth are the ones who are going to have to pick up the pieces. They’re going to be more affected by what’s going on now than the older generations, which created the problems that exist.”

Kent resident Louis DelBene saw the tents being put up Wednesday and said he was glad to see students starting a movement in Kent.

“I advocate any popular movement that makes the establishment nervous,” DelBene said with a laugh. “It’s always encouraging when young people are politically active and exercise their right to free assembly and address grievances with the government.”

Beekman said she felt like she needed to get involved because she is a youth.

“I feel like it’s our responsibility as the youth to change certain things, especially like respect your elders,” Beekman said. “They can’t really stand up for themselves, so I feel like it’s our responsibility to do that.”

But the youth weren’t the only demonstrators Wednesday morning.

Lisa Petrosky, who attended Kent State in the 1970s, helped Beekman hang signs above the Kent Natural Foods Co-op and asked if she could hold any extra signs with her friends on the corner of Main Street.

Petrosky joined fellow former Kent State students Joan Bellis, Barbara Breiding and Donna Snowberger in holding signs for the occupy movement as “an independent party.”

“Here, our sign says, ‘Do you want to be don’t worry be happy and la-te-da or step up to the plate?’” Snowberger said.

Bellis answered, “Step up to the freaking plate!”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].