Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot by a Cleveland policeman in 2014 after the youth brandished a toy gun in a public park, gave the keynote address at an event at Kent State University on Wednesday. The annual May 4 event commemorates the tragic shooting deaths of four students by National Guardsmen in 1970 after a clash during a Vietnam War protest. The May 4 Task Force invited Rice to speak at the ceremony, which was themed: “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Spirit of Kent and Jackson State.”
Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, stood in solidarity with Kent State University Wednesday to speak out against police-involved shootings and to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The ceremony tied the May 4, 1970 killings of four students by members of the Ohio National Guard with to the national movement to recognize and end police brutality against black people.
Hundreds gathered at Kent State Commons, including a large crowd of black students — some who were members of the Black United Students group — clad in black clothing and holding signs with photos of Tamir.
“We came together not to protest, but to stand in solidarity with [Samaria Rice],” student Kahzar Powell said.
Kent State holds an event each year to mark the anniversary of the day in 1970 when the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Vietnam War demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine.
Ms. Rice said the 1970 shootings were an attack on First Amendment rights.
“What do we have the First Amendment rights for if we can’t exercise them, and who is the law enforcement to kind of knock that down, let alone put their hands on you?” she said.
“I believe that’s the only way change will occur,” Rice said. “All of us standing together and unifying, that would set an example for the government to say listen, look, we’re not going to take this anymore. You can’t just keep killing unarmed Americans.”
According to Kentwired.com, Rice called on “white privilege” Americans to get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s almost like they got somewhat of a power, and if we can get to them, we can all come together — white privilege Americans, Black Lives Matter, all lives matter — we can come together and have some change across this nation. It’s gonna take all of us to change this.”
Chynna Baldwin, a student at Kent state and president of Black United Students, was pleased with Rice’s speech.
“I thought it was really relevant; I thought it was really real,” said Baldwin, who addressed the crowd during the ceremony. “It brought home the point that I was trying to make in my speech too.”
Her group passed out fliers at the event that read “Justice for Tamir Rice.”
“Understand that by us saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it’s not detaching ourselves from any other group,” she said. “It’s just highlighting the fact that our lives do matter. There’s been so many instances that our lives don’t matter, so it’s just us showing that we do.”
But not everyone was happy with the Black Lives Matter movement co-opting the annual event honoring the victims of the 1970 shooting.
Next page: See how students and the community responded.
Kentwired.com reports that throughout the day a rock on campus was “repainted several times, with messages ranging from ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘all lives matter’ and ‘cops lives matter.'”
“I just think it was kind of a petty move, I think, personally,” said Baldwin. “Whenever we have a comment, this is how we respond: we paint rocks.”
— Byron (@TheSimbaPikachu) May 4, 2016
— Ryllie Danylko (@RyllieDanylko) May 4, 2016
Some members of the community made their feelings known on the Akron Beacon Journal’s Facebook page:
Ann Pachasa: “One date…one memorial….please. Today is about the tragic events at Kent State in 1970. Let the families of that day have their time….”
Kimberly Clark: “I agree, I couldn’t believe when I heard that they were adding the “all lives matter” to this event, This is about the Kent Students that lost there [sic] lives. Let them have their day.”
Janet Morrison: “If they’re going to start adding people, or groups, to the Kent State memorial services..then it should be all inclusive ..ALL LIVES MATTER! Many innocent people have wrongly died since 1970″