| That was
the hard sell. For those who didn't buy it, there were other tactics. There were letter
writing campaigns to Congress, the state legislature, the Board of Trustees. There was
door to door canvassing in Kent and
petitioning, speaking troupes, appearances on radio and television, and lobbying in
Washington and Columbus.
In Washington, Presidential Aide Midge
Costanza invited the Coalition and
parents of the slain students to the White House. At that time Senator Metzenbaum (D.-OH.)
had a press conference with Congressman Seiberling (D.-OH.) to condemn the gym site. In
Columbus we learned that the Democratic leadership of the State Legislature had offered to
seek the needed money to move the gym, but the
Trustees had refused to even request it.
Regardless, our flexible strategy was working. People were
participating in tactics they were comfortable with and we were getting a response-even
from the White House.
Unfortunately, our responses and sympathy seemed to come from
everyone but the Board of Trustees. They had taken a final vote on July 26. George Janik
had stated that they were going to build their mistake-a monument to repression and
injustice-a mockery of the events of 1970.
We had tried everything from writing letters to breaking the law
in acts of civil disobedience and we would continue to do so. Coalition members had
hand-delivered individual packets of gym information to the homes of each Trustee. We were
dealing, however, with classic examples of the power elite. George Janik was an executive
with IBM, another Trustee was with Pepsi Cola, another with Goodyear. Others were
newspaper publishers or had lucrative law practices and lived in the plush suburbs of
northeastern Ohio. Few had ever attended KSU and none lived in the city of Kent.
Ironically, only one was an educator. She was Joyce Quirk and she sympathized with the
Coalition all along.
Perhaps because of machismo, because of the class they
represented, because they really did want to bury away the memory once and for all, the
Trustees voted finally to build the gym.
There seemed to be nothing in the way of the
bulldozers, buzz saws, and earth movers now. We could use our bodies again, but we could
not physically stop them. We could draw attention to the problem and catalyze the
courts and legislature with our protests-or we could make it so politically expensive that
the University would be forced to back down. But we couldn't physically stop bulldozers
guarded by scores of armed cops. We had realized that all along.
All of those tactics were used. On July 29, after the 62 had been
arrested and destruction of the site had begun, Chic Canfora, a member of the Coalition,
got a phone call from New York. It was William Kunstler. He had an idea for a brief in
Federal Court. Chic knew shorthand and got
the brief down in a matter of minutes. It was 4:00 p.m. and Chic drove to Cleveland with
Tony Walsh, a Cleveland version of Kunstler. Tony, like our brilliant defense attorney,
Bill Whittaker, had worked with the Guild team on this case
||from the beginning-for free.
Usually we weren't even able to pay their expenses. When Tony or Bill Whittaker
or Alice Rickel or Chris Stanley or Chris Koneybeare or Ted Mechler did a case for us in
Cleveland or Cincinnati or even in Washington, they drove their own beat up jalopies,
crashed on friends' couches, and ate in
greasy spoons. By contrast, University lawyers were paid $70 to $80 per hour, stayed at
the plushest hotels they could find, and went into court with their $25 dry-look haircuts.
Attorney William Kunstler speaking to the
crowd at the September 24, 1977 Rally at Kent State
Now Tony and Chic were on the way
to Federal Court in Cleveland and had to catch a judge before the 5: 00 p.m. closing. It
was Friday, so if they didn't fuid one who would listen, the bulldozers and buzz saws
would eat away into the hill over the weekend. At five minutes before five, Tony and Chic
entered Judge Thomas Lambros' courtroom. Lambros listened carefully, staying until 6:30.
Then, a miracle! Lambros agreed with the plaintiffs and issued a temporary restraining
order to stop construction.
I was in the Portage County jag with the 27 when I heard the
news. Radical Professor Jerry Carr announced the restraining order outside with a group of
supporters. Inside, the jail rocked with approval from protestors and inmates alike. We
may not have stopped construction with our bodies, but it was our bodies that forced the
courts to do it for us.
Appeals and resulting restraining orders worked their way through
August and early September. In the meantime, we continued our "keep the pressure
on" strategy with more rallies, pickets, and marches. Some were as small as 5 or 6
people picketing the Trustees at home to 1,500 people showing up at a Joan Baez led rally.
Our tenacity surprised even ourselves. We were relearning some of the
old-fashioned values of hard work perseverance, and sacrifice.
I had given up my teaching job to work full time on the struggle.
Chic Canfora had quit her teaching job in Connecticut. Her brother, Alan, and John Rowe
had fallen behind in their work toward Master's degrees. Mim Jackson, a KSU graduate, had
taken a leave of absence from grad school at Purdue. Rev. John Adams, a Methodist minister
from Washington, came to Kent to work full-time to help mediate a settlement in favor of
the Coalition. My parents,
who could ill afford it, put up $1,000 to bail out of jail a friend of mine, whom they had