By Casey Clapper and Mae Kowalke
March 20, 2003
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
[Editor’s note, 2/23/13 — Readers of my site will surely see that I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing The Post. However, I’m also happy to point out when the Ohio University student newspaper is at its best — as was certainly the case in its March 20, 2003 edition. That day, The Post followed a front page headline announcing the U.S. attack on Iraq with four separate stories on different aspects of local anti-war activities, one on protests in Washington, D.C., an article on OU professors’ opinions of the war, a piece on students whose opinions on the war were either supportive or conflicted, an article presenting the positions of Ohio Congressional representatives on the war and more. All things considered, The Post did an excellent job providing relatively in-depth local context to a story of international importance. It is likely that some prior and subsequent editors and writers of the newspaper would not have handled the matter so well. However, in terms of its handling of this issue, The Post’s staff in the spring of 2003 gave an exemplary performance.]
An anti-war protest yesterday ended in the arrest of 39 students and Athens residents after demonstrators sat in the intersection of Court and Union Streets, chanting and singing for peace.
The protest was organized by People for Peace & Justice, a local branch of the Appalachian Peace & Justice Network and followed an anti-war rally at noon on College Green, sponsored by The Pledge of Resistance.
‘Today’s Athens rally, march and sit-down in protest against the impending war on Iraq express our outrage at the Bush administration’s disregard for Iraqi citizens and international law,” said Helen Horn, spokeswoman for People for Peace & Justice.
The rally ended at about 12:45 p.m., according to a press release from Athens Police Departnent. At1 p.m., protesters began performing civil disobedience by sitting in circles
in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic.
Athens resident Trisha Lachman, who participated in the sit-down, and was among those arrested and charged with civil disobedience, said she was not worried about being arrested.
“It is very clear that our country is taking a course that isn’t going to be stopped without determined effort,” she said. “I believe in nonviolence, and this is a nonviolent effort.”
After protesters had been blocking traffic for about 30 minutes, APD Chief Richard Mayer gave a five-minute warning for those in the street to stop blocking traffic.
Mayer said it took APD officials some time to get organized and begin making arrests, which may have given the false impression that protesters were not breaking any laws by stopping traffic.
When protesters remained in the streets, APD officers began arresting and loading the protesters onto a bus on Court Street.
All but two of those arrested went peacefully, and were charged only with disorderly conduct. Two people received charges of resisting arrest, according to the APD release.
Kathy Galt, one of the protest organizers and among those arrested, said she wanted to make a statement by not going peacefully, but was deterred by more serious charges.
“If I didn’t still have a child at home, I would have gone limp, because I feel so strog that this administration does not reflect millions of people’s thoughts about the ar,” she said. “I wanted to make a stronger statement.”
Despite wanting to do more, Galt said she is puzzled why more Americans who are opposed to a war in Iraq seem unwilling to take any kind of action against the Bush Administration.
“The complacency and apathy of the American public is of real (concern),” she said.
The protesters who were arrested were taken to the old State Highway Patrol post building on Columbus Avenue for processing, Mayer said.
Before being released, those arrested were given tickets for civil disobedience and orders to appear in court a week from Friday, Galt said. Most of those arrested will likely declare no contest to the charges.
After the sit-down ended, protesters continued to march across the crosswalks at the intersection.
“We’re here to show that we’re really serious and that just because the rally is over doesn’t mean our feelings have changed,” said OU freshman Tom Simon. “(The rally) was a success. There was definitely a message sent, especially because it’s happening in cities all over the United States.”
Mayer said he brought extra officers out to ensure peace at the events.
OU Police Department Chief Tony Camechis said six or seven regular duty officers assisted APD with the demonstration.