Peace march in downtown Kent

Emily Nordquist

A band plays on a stage step up on Blanket Hill a few yards away from the Victory Bell before calling for everyone to gather in preparation for the march.

The diverse crowd, a mix of students and war protesters of all ages, begin chanting “Get up, get down, there’s an anti-war movement in this town!” as they passed a field of plywood markers representing the fallen soldiers of the war in Iraq.

Then they ended Kent State’s 36th annual May 4 Commemoration, “The Cost of War: Then and Now,” with a peace march to downtown.

Mike Walton, a retired Vietnam Veteran living in East Liverpool, took part in the event. His daughter is a freshman at Kent State and this was his first time coming to Kent State on May 4.

Walton quietly walked in the middle of the pack, proudly showing a “Vets for Peace” button on his tan baseball cap.

“I am frightened by the similarities between the Vietnam War and this one,” Walton said. He recalled going to the grave markers of his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War. “They were so young and these kids, they are so young. I just want to let everyone know I am against this. I think it is important that people like this send the message that we think this war is ridiculous.”

The event had an upbeat nature, with many chanting and playing bongo drums or plastic paint barrels to keep a beat. Before reaching Main Street, the crowd stopped in front of the ROTC building and called for recruiters to be removed from the campus.

Sue Jeffers, a member of Portage Community Peace Coalition, coordinated with the Kent police for the walk. She has been involved with May 4 celebrations off and on for the past 15 years. The march had representation from the Kent State Anti-War Committee and the International Socialist Organization on campus, among other groups.

As patrons walked the sidewalks of Main Street, many cars honked and held peace signs from their windows in approval of their cause. Some waved flags and signs of anti-establishment nature while one simply carried a flag with a photo of the earth. Conversation about the war in Iraq and other issues facing the United States could be heard between small groups as they walked.

Some participating in the march were simply curious as to what was going to happen and followed to take in the atmosphere.

“We just wanted to see where it was going,” said Lesley Files, freshman fashion merchandising major. Files and Claire Hoyet, sophomore fashion merchandising major, were attending the May 4 ceremony for the first time and decided to join the march.

The march ended at the gazebo downtown, on the corner of Main and Franklin Streets. The crowd gathered at the corner and spilled into the street while some danced to the drum beat. The crowd erupted in cheers as a Kent City grade school bus drove by honking with students waving and holding peace signs as well.

Contact student life reporter Emily Nordquist at [email protected]