May 4, 2005

May 4 marchers sue KSU, Kent

Nine in 2003 protest accuse police of violations of rights after demonstrators entered city street
By Stephen Dyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

Nine people who say they were unfairly arrested during a 2003 march commemorating the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the city, its police chief and 18 of its officers, as well as the university, its assistant police chief, Daniel Fitzpatrick, and four university officers.

The plaintiffs seek at least $50,000 each for what they allege were the authorities' violations of their rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The rally was held May 4, 2003, following the May 4, 1970, ceremony remembering the four Kent State students killed on campus by Ohio National Guardsmen during a protest against the Vietnam War. Nine others were wounded in the shootings.

The rally began around 3 p.m. After nearly two hours on the college's Manchester Field, the crowd -- which at its peak numbered about 300 -- took its protest from campus onto a city street, where the arrests were made. A group of protesters marched along East Main Street, police said, ignoring several warnings to disperse.

Upwards of 200 officers were there that day, and a helicopter was overhead, according to reports at the time. In the lawsuit, the nine allege that noise prevented them from hearing the dispersal order.

In addition, the suit alleges that ``after marchers demonstrably complied with the police demand to return to the campus, police officers began arresting people who appeared to be leaders... without regard to whether such people had engaged in criminal conduct.''

Several of those arrested had their cases dropped by prosecutors. One protester -- Troy Gregorino -- had his conviction overturned by Ohio's 11th District Court of Appeals. The court ruled not that the police had trampled on his rights, but that he couldn't have been guilty of disrupting traffic because police had blocked off traffic.

The state court found that police acted appropriately in closing the street as protesters approached downtown from the campus. The court found that everything about Gregorino's arrest was constitutional.

Stephen Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3523 or