COLUMN: Verbal assault good, free speech not

Allen Hines

Freshman anthropology major Dave Airhart is a hero. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and the war in Iraq. Now back home, Airhart is still fighting, this time against the Army.

The Army recruiters set up their rock wall in front of the M.A.C. Center Oct. 19 as a way to draw in more victims. Around 11:30 a.m., Airhart got in line to climb the wall. He signed the waiver that said he was responsible for his own safety, put on the safety harness, and began his climb up the wall. When he reached the top, he detached himself from the safety harness and unfurled an anti-war banner, which he had hidden under his shirt.

After Airhart hung the banner on the back of the wall, one of the recruiters climbed up after him. Airhart, not knowing what the recruiter had in mind, climbed down the back. This proved to be a good decision because when the recruiter caught up to him, the recruiter allegedly pushed him. The recruiter claimed that Airhart had come close to touching some of the hydraulics used to control the wall.

Minutes later, four police cars, city police among them, showed up. The police detained Airhart, at one point putting him in a cruiser. After a while, the police wrote Airhart a ticket for disorderly conduct and released him.

All this time, the Kent State Anti-War Committee, of which Airhart is a member, was picketing the recruiters and their wall. Airhart went back to the front of the M.A.C. Center and participated in a peaceful protest.

Peaceful, that is, until a passer-by decided he didn’t like KSAWC’s message. At 1 p.m., a still-unidentified man allegedly walked up to a member of KSAWC, ripped the sign from her hand, spat on it, and told the KSAWC member that he was going to “knock (her) teeth out.”

According to Nolo, a company that publishes books and software about legal issues, assault occurs when “one person tries to physically harm another in a way that makes the person under attack feel immediately threatened. Actual physical contact is not necessary; threatening gestures that would alarm any reasonable person can constitute an assault.”

While the assault was happening, other members of KSAWC called for the police, who were still shuffling around the M.A.C. Center after the incident with Airhart.

I don’t want to say the cops didn’t do their jobs, but the cops didn’t do their jobs. They ambled over to the protesters, and by the time they got there, the assailant was long gone. The man got away with assault.

Police are part of the executive branch of government. They are supposed to protect us and our freedoms. But instead, they hand out fines for exercising the right to freedom of expression and do nothing when a protester is assaulted.

Allen Hines is a freshman pre-journalism and mass communication major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].