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Student anti-war activist nabbed after 28 years

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 15, 2000
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ST. LOUIS, Mo.-After 28 years of evading a five-year sentence for slinging cherry bombs at firefighters and policemen during the 1970 anti-war riots at Washington University, Howard Mechanic was arrested Thursday afternoon in Phoenix.

Mechanic had been known in Arizona until this week as Gary Tredway, a false name he assumed to avoid a U.S. Marshals Service manhunt. He had recently been a candidate for a seat on the Scottsdale City Council, but dropped out, saying he had been diagnosed with leukemia. He later admitted that this was a lie and also conceded that he fabricated his identity.

The May 5, 1970 riots had been staged with four days of class remaining in the spring semester, a day after the notorious shooting of four students by the National Guard during a protest at Kent State University in Ohio.

After a strike rally in the Quad and a march around the dormitories, approximately 50 students converged on the campus Air Force ROTC building, and after smashing windows with rocks, broke into the building, cheered by a crowd of onlookers. Many subsequently lighted torches and the building were soon engulfed in flames. Fire trucks arrived ten minutes later.

As the Clayton fire trucks left that night to be replaced by County firefighters, protesters saw them off with chants of "Burn, Baby, Burn" and "Kent State, Kent State." After club-wielding policemen quickly stormed the scene, the crowd thinned.

The Army ROTC building had suffered a similar fate in February of 1970, and students suspected in that fire had been issued restraining orders that prohibited them from nearing the ROTC buildings.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mechanic, a senior at the time of the riots, convicted on Oct. 22 that same year, was the first person charged with a violation of the 1968 federal anti-riot law that outlawed the obstruction of official responses to local disturbances. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Mechanic was convicted along with Larry Kogan for hurling the small explosives. None of the policemen or firefighters targeted had been hurt.

According to witnesses of the riot, after the sentencing, Mechanic was freed on bond by current WU Emeritus Professor of English and then Professor of English Carter Revard, who put up his home as bond money. After Mechanic fled, jumping bail, members of the WU faculty pitched in to raise the money for Revard to keep his house.

After being brought into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service, who had described him as an "extremist" armed and dangerous fugitive, Mechanic is being held at the U.S. District Courthouse in Phoenix, awaiting a Friday appearance before a federal magistrate.

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