All I could think about was May 4. The tear gas. The rubber bullets. The police. The angry students.
The Kent State shootings happened 18 years before I was born, but as I watched the Saturday-night riot on College Avenue, May 4 was all I could think about. But Saturday's riot wasn't fueled by politics or a generation gap. It was fueled by drunk college students with an urge to light things on fire and police who refused to let students gain control.
For the past five years, College Fest has been part of the spring semester. And each year, the heat and an abundance of cheap beer leads to an out-of-control crowd, forcing the police to break up the block party. So everyone assumed this year's festival would be the same.
After a day of drinking and gorgeous weather, things started to go awry at 8:40 p.m. According to the Daily Kent Stater, police attempted to disperse the crowd, and protesters began to throw glass bottles at officers. Police responded by firing non-lethal ammunition from paintball guns. Ten minutes later, a fire was started at the end of the street. I've never seen a fire that high. Everything went in, from couches to textbook-size pieces of wood. From rooftops, porches and sidewalks, students watched the fire, cheering it on.
By 9:05 p.m., police were in full riot gear at the end of the street, arresting anyone who wouldn't leave the area. As police began to march down College Avenue, the excitement escalated to tension and fear. Suddenly, the mass of people turned and started running down the street, away from the cops. My friend Ray grabbed my hand and pulled me down the street, warning me to watch out for the shattered beer bottles covering the ground.
Once the crowd made it to the end of the street, everyone assumed the worst was over. But the festivalgoers weren't ready to give in yet. They started three more fires. At the intersection of College Avenue and Lincoln Street, a few men pulled several street signs out of the ground, throwing them into the growing pyre. People were still running. The air smelt smoky. Finally, Ray and I decided we had to leave. I was sweaty, muddy and shaken. I wildly texted everyone in the newsroom as Ray continued to pull me by the hand away from the scene. Then I heard several popping noises.
"What's that noise?" I asked Ray, looking up mid-text.
"Answer me!" I said, hitting him. "What is that noise?"
"It's the rubber bullets," he said, speeding up. It was definitely time to leave.
Sunday morning, College Avenue residents began to clean up the mess from the night before. Video, pictures and first-hand accounts flooded the converged website for Kent State's student newspaper, television and radio station. Fifty people had been arrested for failure to disperse. The university issued a statement saying it was "disappointed in the events that have occurred and finds the behavior inexcusable."
Kent State was once again in the news.
— Brittany Moseley
ADD SOME VARIETY
Buildings like the Capitol Theater on Detroit Avenue are giving neighborhoods something to brag about again. And as the Northeast Shores Development Corp. tries to turn around others, like the old LaSalle on East 185th in North Collinwood, the Westown Community Development Corp. is closer to that goal. The group will soon buy the decrepit Variety Theater at 11815 Lorain Avenue for a complete makeover into a renovated theater, seven storefronts and 13 apartments upstairs.
Ward 19 councilwoman Dona Brady was successful on Monday in convincing Cleveland City Council's finance committee to pitch in $211,000 in redevelopment funding toward the 80-year-old building's purchase. A group, Friends of the Variety Theater (varietytheatrecleveland.com), has already raised the remainder of the $1 million asking price through loan promises, and has purchased a new marquee — currently in storage — to return the tired-looking block to an earlier, prouder time.
"They can't put the sign up without owning the building," Brady told her colleagues. "So when we do, it's going to be something. The decline of the Variety, especially the marquee going into such drastic decline, has been sort of a symbol of decline for this neighborhood. So now we're going to be able to install this marquee, and it's going to be a beacon for the area again."
The Westown CDC has been championing the effort for nearly four years, for obvious reasons, says Brady. Last year, Brady was instrumental in having the area — from 110th to 123rd streets — declared a historic district.
"If you don't act proactively to control what's torn down or put up, you're going to lose the neighborhood's whole sense of identity," she says.
And she's happy that the godforsaken "headbanger" music — played there by a slew of big metal and punk acts until a judge shut it down in 1986 — won't be emanating from the rafters again.
Renovations, expected to last as long as a half-decade, will begin once the sign goes up and the building is firmly under the Friends' control, says Brady — and as soon as the remaining $6 million-plus in restoration costs can be raised. — Dan Harkins
CLEAR CHANNEL "SECOND WAVE" DROWNS AT LEAST FOUR
Two weeks after a national meeting that mandated a "second wave" of cutbacks, Clear Channel has slashed drive-time lineups from WTAM 1100 AM and WMVX 106.5 FM.
WTAM's Mike Trivisonno is now flying solo. Mike Trivisonno Show wingmen Phil Rado and Marty "Big Daddy" Allen, both native Clevelanders, were cut Monday. Rado got his gig when the Browns bounced to Baltimore, and his dead-on Art Modell impression proved popular. He's been full-time with the show since 2000. Allen, a 27-year radio veteran, has been with Triv for 15 years.
"You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with," notes media analyst John Gorman. "And Marty Allen has been with him for most of his career. It's safe to say that Allen has a lot to do with Trivosonno's success."
Mix 106.5 has canceled The Brian & Joe Radio Show and the namesakes behind it. Brian Cronauer and Joe Fowler first teamed up at Akron's WONE 97.5 FM in the late '80s. During the '90s, they became top draws at WMMS and WENZ.
Clear Channel — which owns 1,200 stations nationwide, including 10 in Northeast Ohio and six in Cleveland — cut nearly 2,000 employees in January. This round of cuts came two weeks after local executives were summoned to a national meeting in Texas.
Mike Kinney, marketing manager of Clear Channel's Cleveland cluster, said he couldn't discuss the local cuts and pointed Scene at the national office. He said the total number of jobs lost was "just a few," under 10, on-air and off-air.
Trivisonno didn't return Scene's e-mail by press time. Even reliable moles in the Clear Channel cluster had clammed up. The corporate behemoth has issued a don't-talk-to-the-press mandate — but it's clear the company is looking for an excuse to trim its payroll — and its overhead — by any means necessary. — D.X. Ferris
THE PEOPLE ... UNITED ...
WILL NEVER ... UM, WHAT?
Everybody knows that marijuana has long roots that stretch straight to hell. Just ask Daddy Reagan: It's weed, not grass. Yes, it's a fiery danger to us all.
That's why alcohol and cigarettes are the legal elixirs, people — the good drugs, taxed to the hilt and available at a corner near you. Don't even bother finding out for yourselves about marijuana's worth. Would the government really lie?
And medical benefits, our ass. Surely the dozen states that have legalized medical cannabis are just in it for the money. Huh? The American Medical Association signed on? What do physicians know?
We still don't know why anybody would show up for the surely illicit Cleveland Marijuana March at "high" noon, Saturday, May 2. The decade-old march, in conjunction with festivities taking place in about 300 other cities across the globe, will begin at Public Square with the Weed Olympics, pagan-sounding though it is.
Some of the events: the Cottonmouth Challenge, in which contestants shove as many cotton balls as they can in their mouths; the Munchies, a race to see who can eat a bowl of Funions the fastest; and a bong relay that will have competitors putting their heads on a bat, spinning around and then seeing who can roll the fastest joint (with simulated ingredients, of course). Silly stoners, spinning makes you dizzy!
But the event isn't all merriment and silliness, apparently. After gathering reinforcements (last year's rain-stymied event drew 500), the revelers will head out on a march around the Justice Center, then end up, sometime around 2 p.m., at a party in Huntington Park, with activists, party games and music from Zoo Station, the Groove Prophets and Jim & E Roc.
Laura Kosa-Thomas, a 36-year-old from Lorain, is in her second year organizing the event as president of the Ohio Cannabis Society. She's also founder of Pot TV.
"As soon as you mention I smoke it, people instantly think you're stupid," says Kosa-Thomas, who notes how, with her medical problems, she could move to a state like Michigan that's legalized medical cannabis. But what good would that do for Ohio? "I want to stay here and fight. It's ridiculous. Alcohol can ruin a marriage, a life, somebody else's life, but I can smoke an ounce and not do that. I might eat up everything in the house and go to sleep, but that's it."
Go to clevelandohiomarijuanamarch.ning.com for more information and to tap into the local activist scene. And if you go to Saturday's march, be careful — weed's still illegal. And thank goodness. Who needs all those taxes? — Dan Harkins
Stand down, amateur apparition hunters: Cleveland just got its very own Ghostbusters. The nonprofit Munroe Falls Paranormal Society, at your service.
The seven-member crew includes a historian, an electrical engineer, a psychic and a fear counselor boasting 40-plus years of investigative know-how. And it just announced in a professional-enough release that it's expanding its turf to include all of Northeast, Northwest and Central Ohio. And just in time: Chief among our area's most pressing woes is this glut of do-nothing ghosts watching all of us fuck.
"While MFPS offers its services free of charge, we are still able to provide a professional quality investigative service utilizing the latest technologies and practices in the paranormal research and investigation field," reads the statement. "The MFPS team provides community support for home owners, property owners, business owners, historical sites or anywhere this phenomena may be reported to exist."
Though he's been looking into paranormal activity for two decades — the result, he says, of experiencing a "dark mass, or shadow person," in a house in Bratenahl — Eric Haney (programmer and engineer by day, MFPS founder and lead investigator by night) didn't start the group until about two years ago in his sleepy little town of Munroe Falls. Population: about 5,000. Total stoplights: two. Most famous resident: murderer Richard Cooey, chief contributor to the psychic malaise.
"This is obviously self-boasting, but we're one of the better paranormal organizations," he says. They make a decent case, with histories, legends and a long list of important-sounding equipment at their disposal.
"There's people who're terrified in their homes, wanting to sell their homes," says Haney, "This investigation we had in Massillon, these people were going to sell their home and leave because they didn't understand what was going on. But over the course of a few months, we were able to pinpoint that what they had going on was paranormal, but it wasn't anything that was going to hurt them. We did counseling through the process, and now they're much more comfortable in their home. To us, it's satisfying to help these individuals."
And other times, he says, a perfectly good explanation is to be had. In an alleged case (they conveniently can't reveal their clients) out of Cuyahoga Falls, a woman thought she was seeing ghosts, and it was really just that she was sensitive to the high electromagnetic field being put off by her old-ass alarm clock. They switched it out. Problem solved.
"We have a scientific approach toward this," he says. "We don't go in 100 percent sure that there is paranormal activity. We look at all the possibilities of natural phenomena before we even take something as paranormal."
So, what? They go in 95 percent sure? That's the way we want our Ghostbusters, though. Right?
E-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330.328.1215. Or you can just channel some fresh brainwaves to their psychic, Ava: She'll feel your vibe and return the message by the end of the next business day. — Dan Harkins