Attorney Niki Schwartz gives legal perspective on the March on Washington, the Kent State shootings and the Lucasville prison riot

Annalexis Davis, Reporter

Kent State University hosted an event called “Dates with History, A Talk by Attorney Niki Schwartz,” about his perspective on the March on Washington, the Kent State shootings and the Lucasville prison riot last week.

Schwartz went to Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law and is known as Ohio’s Super Lawyer. Schwartz has been in the practice of law since 1964. He has been known for his versatility, having prosecuted many civil and criminal cases.

“The only thing that ties these three things together is me,” Schwartz said. “I was involved in all, so I am going to talk about them so you can evaluate what I have to say.”

The March On Washington happened on Aug. 28, 1963, for jobs and freedom. The March was to advocate for African Americans’ civil and economic rights.

Schwartz started by discussing his experiences with being at the March on Washington. He talked about how he arrived at the event because his brother invited him down, so he took a bus from Cleveland. He arrived in Washington on the morning of Aug. 28, 1963.

“In Washington in 1963, what went on there was black and white together. A spirit of brotherhood,” said Schwartz. “It was incredibly impressive and inspirational, from the March to Washington, the Washington Monument, to the Lincoln Memorial. The best estimate is that two hundred fifty thousand people attended. We held hands, sang and believed.”

Schwartz then goes on to discuss the events that happened at Kent State University in May of 1970.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of unarmed students protesting the war in Vietnam, killing four students and injuring nine others.

Schwartz said that the students deserved this. That they were the cause of what happened on May 4th, 1970.

“Those students involved in the demonstration who did something they shouldn’t have done threw rocks back at the guard or gas and shoes back at the guard,” said Schwartz. “Those aren’t capital offenses for which they deserve to be killed.”

Schwartz said a couple of individuals involved in the shooting were peace officers in the riot and got shot by the National Guard.

The Lucasville prison riot took place April 11, 1993, on Easter Sunday in in Scioto County, Ohio. It was caused due to the prisoners’ needs not being met. As a result, one guard and nine inmates died.

Schwartz got a call from the Chief Council of the Ohio Department when they told him there was a prison riot and that they needed his help with the prisoners. They negotiated with the prisoners but needed them to meet safely.

“The law enforcement side chose me, so my first task was going to be to gain their confidence,” said Schwartz.

He had to explain this to the cops; he would need to build a connection and trust to do his job. He eventually got the guards to find a way to make it look like he was talking across a big table with a fence in between them.

The guards gave Schwartz a set of guidelines that they updated to convince the prisoners to agree to.

“They did not reject it out of hand, which pleased me. We ended the meetings with the three version negotiators going back to the cell block, which they described as looking like Vietnam. They had all kinds of weapons, without water and electricity and not much food,” said Schwartz. “So they had to go back and discuss it with their constituents, 450 people and 130 people in each cell block, so that they would get back to me the next day.”

Though the law enforcement was impatient, they eventually released the hostages and came out.

One of the Top Five from the Lucasville riot, Carlos Sanders, now known as Siddique Abdullah Hasan, called in for comment from the audience.

Annalexis Davis is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]