Kent ordered to pay $130,000 for arrests Lawsuit stems from detained protesters in May 4, 2003 demonstration
By Dave O'Brien
Record-Courier staff writer
The City of Kent has been ordered by to pay $130,000 to 11 people arrested May 4, 2003 during a protest against the Iraq War, based on a federal court's decision that the city violated protesters' rights.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the protesters by Akron attorneys Bill Whitaker, his daughter Andrea Whitaker and Kent attorney Nancy Grim alleged the city and the Kent Police Department targeted leaders of the anti-war demonstration without regard to whether they violated any laws or city ordinances.
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Boyko, sitting in U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio in Cleveland, agreed saying no probable cause existed to make the arrests.
Kent city officials confirmed the court-ordered settlement amount of $130,000 but declined further comment. Arizona-based Scottsdale Insurance Company represented the city in the case, but an agent with the firm would not release details of the settlement. It is unclear if the city will appeal the ruling.
On May 4, 2003, hundreds of protestors left Manchester Field at Kent State University and began a march toward East Main Street. Once there, they were ordered to disperse by dozens of police officers who lined the street. Approximately 12 people were then arrested for disorderly conduct after refusing to disperse and marching on a public roadway. Though the protesters also were involved in the annual commemmoration of the May 4, 1970 deaths of four Kent State University students, none were KSU students at the time of their arrests.
Grim said two lawsuits were joined in U.S. District Court -- one filed by Whitaker May 4, 2004 on behalf of Mike Pacifico of Kent and Arthur McKoy of Cleveland and another filed by Grim on behalf of Linda Beeler, Daniel Bell, Don Bryant, Oren Casdi, Brian Fry, Troy Gregorino, Roger Hill, Damon Krane and Quinn O'Malley, all of whom were arrested May 4, 2003.
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"(The police) arrested based on their perception that people were leaders, and people who were outspoken and protesting war were the people who got arrested," Grim said.
The disorderly conduct charges against a number of the plaintiffs in the civil suit eventually were dismissed, Grim said. The monetary award, she said, combines compensation, attorney fees, court costs and will result in a payment of approximately $6,000 to each individual plaintiff.
"I certainly hope the city of Kent gives some thought and is more careful in how they react to political gatherings in the future. This was a gross overreaction in 2003," Grim said.
"Kent law enforcement exercised a disheartening abuse of power, particularly for a city remembered as a site of egregious suppression of political demonstration. We are pleased with the outcome of this important lawsuit. We hope the Kent Police Department has learned that the First Amendment does not permit it to arrest people for engaging in legal dissent," plaintiff Troy Gregorino said in a statement released by Bill Whitaker.
Staff writer Matt Fredmonsky contributed to this story.
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