The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News April 21, 2006

This Week in Oberlin History

On April 13 and 14, 1990, Oberlin College and the surrounding community were shaken by a student protest against perceived institutional bigotry. It ended in charges against six students and allegations of police brutality. The event was considered so drastic at the time that the Review dedicated a special nine-page section to investigating all facets of the protest-turned-conflict. We can’t re-print the entire complexity of the issue here, but this excerpt from the headline article provides the basics of the story.

–The News Team

Oberlin in History
April 21, 1990

A student protest against bigotry became a violent confrontation with police on President S. Frederick Starr’s lawn Friday night. Outraged students alleged police brutality; police brought charges against six students.

The March Against Bigotry began at about 11:20 p.m. at Wilder Hall, and headed toward Starr’s house at 154 Forest Street.

Upon arrival there, at about 11:30 p.m., almost 200 slogan-chanting students — including some from other colleges and Oberlin High School — encountered Director of Residential Life and Services Ellis Delphin, Assistant Dean of Residential Life Rebecca Woodrick, and Oberlin Security Chief Richard McDaniel and some of his officers. Two city police officers were also present.

The Starrs were not at home.

McDaniel told some students not to go on the lawn, but they did so anyway, McDaniel said. A security officer then warned students that the police meant business, whereupon a few students left. The rest linked arms and sat in a tight circle on the lawn.

Speakers from the crowd addressed the students for about 15 minutes amidst intermittent warnings from authorities, which were unintelligible to most, and chanting...

Three city police officers moved into the crowd, and as they tried to apprehend [a student] — with excessive force, said some students; with resistance from students, say others — violence broke out.

During the five to ten minute clash, students chanted “No violence!”Three students were forcibly detained in police cars; two others, unsolicited by the police, also entered the vehicles.

A stalemate ensued which lasted at least an hour during which [several College administrators] and Chief of Police Robert Jones arrived on the scene.

At about 1:20 a.m., [Provost Sam] Carrier and [Dean of Student Life and Services Patrick] Penn negotiated an agreement with Jones. Students detained by police were released; police cars were allowed to leave.


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