Forty-one Antioch College students were among more than a hundred persons arrested March 14 in a civil rights demonstration in downtown Yellow Springs.
Most of the others arrested were students from Central State College is nearby Wilberforce.
Law enforcement officers from the village, from Greene County, and from neighboring cities and counties, used fire hoses, tear gas, and clubs to break up the demonstration.
Focal point of the civil rights action was Gegner's Barber Shop, which has refused to serve Negroes.
The demonstration took place the day after Greene County Common Pleas Court had issued a temporary restraining order, limiting the number of pickets in front of the shop to three. Students poured into the downtown area, sat in a row on the sidewalk, and then moved to the street, where they sat en masse across Xenia Ave., the village's main thoroughfare.
At first the demonstration was peaceful. Students sang and joked with each other and with bystanders. The police read the court order to the group and asked the students to leave: when they refused, some of the student leaders were arrested. The police then warned that fire hoses would be used. When the demonstrators remained seated, a stream was aimed high in the air. Its rusty color drew a laugh from those familiar with the village's iron-laden water.
Suddenly. without advance warning. tear gas grenades were tossed into the mass of students. Some thought the noise was from firecrackers; others thought flares were being set of. The acrid gas rolled across the demonstrators and a crowd of hundreds standing by. Demonstrators and bystanders scrambled away. When they returned. some, who originally had no intention of violating the court order, angrily joined the demonstration. Tear gas was used a second time, this time after a warning.
Police grappled with students who refused to move, and who had locked arms. Some officers used clubs. Students were dragged into waiting police cruisers. Other persons were arrested for protesting police tactics-even some who strongly opposed the violation of the court order.
The demonstration came to an end when a phalanx of sheriff's deputies from neighboring Montgomery County swept down Xenia Ave., clubs held at chest level, and pushing everyone out of its way. A heavy rain also forced many to seek shelter, and washed the smell of tear gas from the street. A few days later the court rescinded the restraining order at the request of both the barber and the village. (Many village residents felt that the violence would not have occurred if the injunction had not been granted.)
Student and community action against Gegner's policy went into high gear in 1960. when civil rights groups successfully integrated the other barber and beauty shops in town. Last year, 17 students were arrested for trespassing during a sit-in at the shop. the last business place in Yellow Springs to refuse service to Negroes. The sit-in occurred after the state public accommodations law had been declared unconstitutional; they were convicted, but their sentences were suspended.
Earlier this year, however, the Second District Court of Appeals, ruling in a case filed by Paul Graham. '52. upset the lower court's decision, and declared the state law constitutional. An appeal by Gegner is now pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. Gegner said he plans to remain closed until after the Supreme Court decision.
Following the demonstration and arrests, Antioch President James P. Dixon, '39. explained the college's position:
"Antioch's view of education is one that encompasses all of the circumstances of life; it looks upon student participation in social and political action as having educational potential. The college does not therefore make a practice of forbidding participation. But before undertaking such action, students are required to consult with college officials, who advise them of the possible consequences of their plans, and counsel with them on procedures for evaluating planned action. The college does not pre-judge the cases of students arrested, although it does weigh carefully the actions of civil authorities and the courts."
On the day following the demonstration, some 1,500 persons, most of them students from Central State, marched through downtown Xenia to protest the alleged police brutality of March 14. Among the marchers were some clergymen, including Rev. William Cole, a Catholic priest and member of the staff of the University of Dayton.