Activists protest recruiters

Sara Macho

Dave Airhart, freshman anthropology major and member of the Kent State Anti-War Committee, climbs a rock wall sponsored by U.S. Army recruiters to put a peace banner reading “Kent, Ohio 4 Peace” atop the structure Oct. 19. Airhart was charged with dis

Credit: Steve Schirra

Members from the Kent State Anti-War Committee and the Kent State International Socialist Organization held a press conference yesterday to discuss disorderly conduct charges against David Airhart, an Iraq war veteran and freshman anthropology major.

Airhart was charged with disorderly conduct and fined $105 on Oct. 19 for endangering himself and the lives of others after he unharnessed himself at the top of a 30-foot army recruitment rock wall outside the M.A.C. Center, said Johnnie Slayton, a sergeant first class at the United States Army recruitment base in Ravenna.

According to the university police report, Airhart was charged with disorderly conduct after he “knowingly caused inconvenience, annoyance and alarm by creating a condition that presented a risk of physical harm to himself and on others with no lawful purpose.”

Once on top of the wall, Airhart posted a banner proclaiming, “Kent, Ohio For Peace.”

At the press conference, the Anti-War Committee and the International Socialist Organization said Airhart was exercising his right of speech in a peaceful way.

Before Airhart climbed the wall, he signed a form stating participants are responsible for their own actions. But Slayton said when Airhart released his harness, he endangered not only his own life but the lives of other students and Slayton, who also was on the wall at the time.

Hydraulic pressure lines run throughout the rock climbing wall. Slayton said when Airhart stood on top of the wall he could have broken one of the lines, which would have affected other climbers’ ropes and harnesses.

Airhart said if the wall is that unstable, it shouldn’t be on campus in the first place. He said he feels he did not put anyone in danger except himself. He said he felt displaying the banner was a good way to advertise the anti-war statement.

Airhart also claimed that on his way down the wall, army recruiters grabbed the back of his shirt and “tried to grab me off the tower.”

Nicole Robinson, member of the Anti-War Committee, said Airhart was simply exercising his right of free speech.

Robinson said another student passing by shouting profanities and ripping down signs did not draw any police attention.

“I am beginning to see all the hypocrisy here,” Robinson said. “It seems the administration doesn’t want students to exercise free speech.”

At the conference, the organizations also announced plans for a walk-out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and army recruitment. The walkout will start at noon today in Risman Plaza.

Airhart, who said he feels there is no legitimate reason why the United States is in Iraq, wants to let students know what the military is really like.

“I feel it’s my duty to inform people,” he said. “Kent State should protect students from recruiters.”

Airhart argues against recruiters on campus.

“Recruiters should not take fresh bodies from Kent State University and send them off to help Bush,” he said.

Some may wonder why Airhart joined the military.

Airhart, who played with G.I. Joe dolls while growing up, said he had an overly romanticized view of combat.

“I wondered what it would be like to fight,” he said. “I guess it was my own selfish quest for romanticism.”

Contact student politics reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].