The title of this article is what the notice read on the morning of May 4, 1970 – it sat largely unread in the mail boxes of Kent State University students. Later that day, four students were murdered when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a hillside filled with students – some protesting, some watching, others merely changing classes.
Whether or not you are old enough to remember the tragedy at Kent State, please pay attention to this history. As we head into the age of aggressive protests, the police response is becoming more violent, such as in Saturday’s actions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Salt Lake City, Utah. In Pittsburgh, protestors marched the wrong way up a one-way street to close down an army recruiting office. Police used both tear gas and tasers to subdue the protestors, and one 68-year-old woman was even bitten by a police dog – she was also arrested. In Salt Lake City, a crowd of 1,500 was tear gassed from helicopters.
This is a war against war. This is a war to end all wars – as the saying goes. We are on the side that is not armed. But just like the students at Kent State a few short years ago, if our right to protest is denied we have little choice other than to assert ourselves. If we are brutalized, we must fight it in the courts, call Congress, and insist that the brutality come to light in the media before it is allowed to progress to even more severe levels.
Many people in Kent, Ohio want everyone to remember what happened there in 1970 so it will never be allowed to happen again. When political spoken-word artist Chris Chandler and I went to Kent to recruit volunteers for an anti-war music video for Chris’ song "Something’s In the Air / But It’s Not on the Airwaves," we found plenty of people willing to volunteer so long as they were cast as demonstrators – we had NO volunteers for "counter-demonstrators" so we eliminated the scene.
We cast one young woman, Sarah Rolan, into a role where she would dance while listening to her iPod, to the sound of various 60’s protest songs. We would mix this dancing with modern protest footage, which includes footage from Kent, Ohio on May 4, 2003 when the police brutalized and arrested numerous people during a peaceful protest.
On the afternoon of Monday, August 1, I kept envisioning a scene with a tri-fold U.S. flag, like the one my family has for my father who was a U.S. Marine. In response, Chris wrote a graveyard scene in which Sarah was cast as a modern war widow, and would place the flag on a headstone and mourn.
On Tuesday morning, Sarah showed up to film the scene – she was pale and trembling. Sarah had just learned that her close friend, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Daniel "Nate" Deyarmin had been killed in active duty in Iraq on Monday. At Sarah’s request, the film is dedicated to Nate.
Sarah filmed the graveyard scene despite her grief. As you might imagine, the result is quite moving. Watch the video here.
A total of 14 U.S. soldiers from Ohio were killed in our 3 days of casting and filming, and at least one more was severely maimed.
Nate Deyarmin’s mother Edie stood at last week’s "Cindy Sheehan Vigil" in downtown Akron, Ohio, wearing a badge bearing her handsome and well-liked son’s picture. I wept when I saw her – for her child and for all our lost children – Nate had just turned 22 a day before he was killed. How remarkably brave this woman is to be coming out to a public gathering when her grief must be so deep. The sight of her filled me with the hope that the "Cindy Sheehan’s" of this nation will be coming forth to demand that President Bush stop killing our children.
Each one of us must come forward and do something to bring a stop to this war. Call your Congressperson, attend a peace vigil, show your support by making a contribution to your favorite anti-war organization. Speak out. You ARE the grassroots, you CAN make a difference.
August 24, 2005