KENT, Ohio – Hundreds of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators clashed in a tense march at Kent State University on Saturday; however, Kent State’s “gun girl” says she’ll be back to promote campus carry.
The march was organized by Kent graduate Kaitlin Bennett as a pro-second amendment demonstration and was met by counter demonstrators.
Bennett is best known for a photograph taken following her graduation that shows her posing with an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle on campus.
Bennett said the walk was first scheduled as a low-key open-carry rally on campus to try and inform students of their rights, but the plans were countered with reservations from the university that asked for $14,000, in part, to reimburse the school for security during the event.
“I don’t think they are respecting the law by trying to restrict our right to carry,” said Bennett on Saturday, “When we wanted to do the rally they said we couldn’t have guns on the outside public land, which I don’t even consider that lawful, and I don’t know how any police department can uphold that and I think that’s ridiculous and disgusting.”
“Kent State University has a policy adopted by our board of trustees in which students, faculty, staff and people doing business with the university community are not permitted to bring weapons onto campus. No one is allowed to bring weapons into university buildings.” said Karen Clarke, Kent State University Vice President of Strategic Communication.
Bennett blamed the university for causing the tense clash between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, saying it was because of their reluctance to welcome her and her supporters on campus that the event erupted.
Standing between Bennett and angry counter-demonstrators were hundreds of law enforcement officers, many of them in riot gear.
Kent State police asked for, and got, mutual support from state troopers who came to campus from Toledo, Columbus, Warren and other posts from across the state.
Kent State President Dr. Beverly Warren said in a statement late Saturday that the university anticipated some challenges, adding that the school did not sponsor or endorse any of the groups that were represented on campus for the march.
She was unapologetic about having the very large police there for the event.
“We are open to all who want to come here to express their views but we will always do everything necessary to safeguard our university community and those who visit us,” said Warren.
Supporters of Bennett also came from as far away as Columbus insisting that the university needs to change its policy and allow students and employees to carry weapons on campus.
“For colleges not to let law-abiding citizens to carry just because they are students kind of doesn’t really make sense to us,” said Tyler Shaffer, a former U.S. Army M.P. from Columbus.
“God forbid there are shootings all the time, you know, in different colleges and schools, and, you know, bars and public places. Some of these can be cut short if someone there is armed,” said Brad Stephens of Ravenna.
Counter-demonstrators shouted anti-Trump chants and called the gun rights marchers “fascists.” Some counter-demonstrators even came wearing bandannas over their faces.
“We don’t cover our faces; we are polite. We are shaking hands with each other. Those people up there are covering their faces and that’s what they do. They go around to these cities trying to intimidate people and it’s not going to work,” said Bennett.
The walk resulted in four arrests, all for disorderly conduct. One of those who was arrested was also charged with assaulting an officer.
“While there was some heated challenges and exchanges today I am pleased to say that today’s events concluded with minimal violence and injury and no damage to university property,” said Warren.
Bennett, meanwhile, vowed afterward that she would be back.
“My message has been clear this entire time; I don’t know how anybody can confuse it. It’s been clear— gun rights, campus-carry gun rights on college campuses; it’s not that hard,” said Bennett.