EDITORIAL: Airhart protest a cheap stunt

Freshman anthropology major David Airhart has been getting massive airtime after he staged a controversial peace demonstration on top of a military recruitment climbing wall. This editorial board is not arguing an individual’s right to protest because First Amendment rights grant students the opportunity to express their political views. What we are arguing is that Airhart’s decision was irrational, and he doesn’t deserve any more airtime.

As reported in the Stater, 24-year-old Airhart is a former Marine. On Oct. 19, while military recruiters were on campus, Airhart climbed up the Army’s climbing wall and caused controversy by removing his harness and unraveling a banner proclaiming “Kent Ohio 4 Peace.”

Johnnie Slayton, a sergeant in charge of the military recruiting that day, stated he tried to pull Airhart down by the foot after Airhart decided to climb down the hydraulic side of the climbing wall.

“I don’t have a problem with the banner,” Slayton said. “But the other students on the wall at the time were in harm. He was putting pressure on the hydraulic side of the wall that can’t hold a 160-pound person. If he had broken that, it would have been an issue.”

Slayton added that after Airhart came down, he acted “belligerent.” Airhart responded accordingly.

“I can see how they could consider what I did as a danger to myself and possibly others,” Airhart said. “But having the military on campus is putting the entire campus in danger.”

The result of Airhart’s stunt has turned into a he-said/she-said debate with no definitive outside source that can vouch for either side.

However, after speaking directly with both Airhart and Sgt. Slayton, this editorial board believes Airhart’s decision was a stupid stunt that could have harmed others.

“I don’t care if people protest,” Slayton said. “It’s a part of First Amendment rights that the Army defends. Just don’t endanger other persons while doing it.”

Airhart says he climbed down the back of the wall out of defense.

“Safety was my biggest concern too,” Airhart said. “That’s why I climbed down the back.”

Airhart and the Kent State Anti-War Committee need to get the facts straight. KSAWC’s Nicole Robinson has written an article that has been circulating on Web, which states Sgt. Slayton assaulted Airhart, and she sarcastically states “somehow an Iraq War veteran hanging a banner, which called for peace, was disorderly.”

There is a difference between pulling someone off a climbing wall and assaulting someone, but the editorial board acknowledges there is no definitive outside source on this matter that we know of who can prove assault here either way. However, Airhart was charged by city police for abusing the climbing wall.

We believe what Airhart did is not a First Amendment issue. If students are going to be staging any type of demonstration, then they need to do so safely the next time they decide to pull a cheap publicity stunt.

The above editorial is the consensus of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.

Editor’s note: A member of the editorial board who reported on this issue did not write this editorial.