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The Blue & Gray Press | October 23, 2017

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State police arrest three Divest UMW members after 21-day sit-in

State police arrest three Divest UMW members after 21-day sit-in

By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS STAFF

Virginia state police arrested three members of Divest UMW inside George Washington Hall at the University of Mary Washington Wednesday night after UMW administration issued the group a warning to vacate the premises.

The three individuals arrested were released on a $1,500 bond that is to be paid when they appear at court on April 30 at 8:30 a.m.

“All participants in the ‘sit-in’ taking place on the first floor of George Washington Hall are directed to depart and remove all belongings no later than 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, 2015,” read the statement from university administration sent to Divest UMW members. “Those who persist in the location will be considered trespassing and subject to applicable law and police intervention.”

The administration warning cited the school’s expression clause as motivation for the removal. The clause allows students to protest peacefully, but states, “persons or their belongings may not block or otherwise unreasonably interfere with ingress and egress into and out of campus buildings.”

Rationale for the removal was due to “escalating safety concerns” and the “increasing volume of material possessions in the hallway.”

Members of Divest UMW prepared themselves in the moments leading up to 6:30, when campus police and state troopers entered GW to threaten the arrests of students that remained in the building.

Zakaria Kronemer, a senior philosophy major, led the group in directions for handling the police prior to their arrival. Those who were willing to risk arrest planned to stay in the building, while a majority of Divest UMW members intended to leave the building to congregate on the steps facing Campus Walk.

Chants filled the hallway of GW as Kronemer and Rabib Hassan, a junior sociology major, spoke to their team. Kronemer warned against speaking to police and mentioned that only he and sophomore environmental science major Beatrice Ohene-Okae were designated to speak to police.

“We’ve been doing nothing but peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience, and we’ve been practicing our first amendment rights,” said Kronemer to the group prior to the arrival of police.

“Let’s show them that students will remain united in the face of intimidation.”

“At the end of the day, they are going to be on the wrong side of history,” added Hasan.

Approximately 15 state troopers and campus police officers parked outside of GW Hall on Double Drive at about 6:40 p.m. and proceeded to enter the building. Everyone in the building was told by Campus Police Chief Michael Hall to leave the premises after he issued his warning, or they would be arrested.

“You are in violation of the university policy. You were told that at 6:30 this evening, you were to vacate the premises. It is now past 6:30. Anyone staying in this building after I finish talking will be arrested for trespassing. You may have your moment to leave now. Once I finish talking, everyone in this building will be arrested,” said Hall.

All but three members of Divest UMW remained, two male students and a female member from the Fredericksburg community. The male students include freshman performing arts and French double major Noah Goodwin and sophomore environmental science major Adam Wander. Nina Young, a citizen of Fredericksburg and creator of the “Food not Bombs” program, was the third person arrested. She lives with her husband and two children. Young’s husband, Justin Young, was also at the Divest UMW sit-in on April 15.

State troopers arrested the three individuals and placed them into a prison transport van. Their wrists were zip tied together, and all three were also put in ankle restraints and connecting belly restraints before being put in the vehicle.

“All but three individuals complied, vacated the building. The three that were arrested for trespassing were taken to the regional jail and will be processed for trespassing, which is a class one misdemeanor, and barring anything unusual, a bond will be posted if not a personal bond, [which is] being a promise that you will be in court,” said Hall. “Unless there is something else that we are not aware of, they will be released.”

According to Kronemer, the police did not read Miranda Rights to the three individuals arrested.

According to Hall, in situations where advanced warning is given and police have no questions to ask those being arrested, Miranda Rights are not required.

Divest UMW has “legal fees prepared to bail students out,” according to Kronemer. At the time of publication, Divest UMW raised $500 through GoFundMe, requesting donations for more legal funds.

“The administration decided that they had the opportunity to express their concerns, and they decided that with the increased amount of people that were in the building and the contents that were building up,” said Hall. “Everything was moving to a point that the safety of the individuals in the building and those occupying the building was compromised.”

The University stated it had kept the building open 24/7 and hired a private security guard to monitor and protect the student protestors. The statement issued by UMW administration also said, “The University continues to support the right of students to advocate for issues of concern, but they must first meet health and safety standards and expectations.”

At 6:45 p.m., members and supporters of Divest UMW congregated on the front steps outside GW Hall and continued their chanting.

“The students, united, will never be divided,” chanted the student group as the arrests occurred on the side of the building.

“After more than 165 students, faculty members and members of our community joined this action of civil disobedience, the administration informed us that we are no longer allowed to peacefully assemble in the administrative building, and they gave us one and a half hours notice, saying that we would be arrested by the authority of our administration and our Board of Visitors if we did not leave that space,” said Kronemer after the arrests.

“We made it clear that we are not going to leave, and we are going to advocate and uphold our first amendment rights to peacefully assemble in the space and advocate for the voices of more than a quarter of our student body who are concerned about our future, who are concerned about fossil fuel industry, which is directly driving climate change, an issue that would affect each and every one of us,” he continued.

Students and UMW community members looked on from Campus Walk, many filming the events on their cell phones.

Sydney Allen, a senior English major, watched as the three Divest UMW members were arrested.

“I completely support police officers,” said Allen. “I believe students were breaking the law, and this is their consequence. I am hearing a lot of people saying things to the police like ‘all they do is kill people.’ I’ve made sure to go up to as many officers and tell them I support them.”

Assistant Professor of Sociology Eric Bonds attended the event and expressed support for the group.

“I’m an advocate of divestment in general and definitely concerned about students’ well being, so I wanted to come out and see what was happening and make sure that students were being treated appropriately, especially for what I consider to be expressing fundamental right to free speech and something that I think should be promoted,” said Bonds.

According to Kronemer, Divest UMW will assemble at Friday’s BOV meeting to “show the community that has been formed by the sit-in and the collection of faculty, students of alumni, other community members who are outraged by the neglect that we’ve seen from this administration and this board of visitors.”

“This is a clear indication that the administration and the Board of Visitors has no interest in hearing the voices of the students,” continued Kronemer. “They’ve arrested students for doing the very thing I learned in the James Farmer seminar of upholding our rights to peacefully and honorably fight for our voices.”

Comments

  1. Ms. Allen

    From Ms. Allen:

    “I would like to make a statement about what occurred on my campus this evening.
    I COMPLETELY SUPPORT both the University of Mary Washington and the police officers who arrested several Divest students on campus today for ILLEGALLY protesting in a building on campus (this protest has been going on for days.) While I appreciate the cause behind the protest, I do not support how divest students went about it.

    It is important to note: ALL DIVEST STUDENTS received notification to leave the building by 6:30 pm tonight, or police intervention would occur. I quote from the letter from VP of student affairs, Doug Searcy, & President of admin and finance, Richard Pearce, “Those who persist in the location will be considered trespassing and subject to applicable law and police intervention.”

    Right now, I am EMBARRASSED to be a student of UMW. I am embarrassed to be associated with the IGNORANT students who began a rally today against the police officers arresting the illegally trespassing students.

    I am ashamed by the disrespect and IGNORANCE (I cannot say this word enough!) students demonstrated as they shouted obscenities at the police officers such as:

    “ALL THEY DO IS KILL PEOPLE.”
    Reality: All they do is protect lives.

    “WHY DO THEY HAVE ALL THESE DEADLY WEAPONS ON THEM? THIS IS WHAT OUR TAX DOLLARS GO TOWARD?!?!?”
    Reality: Yes, thankfully we have police officers. I can’t imagine how society would function without them. Also…the weapons are for our PROTECTION, in case your riot broke out into unnecessary violence. Did you notice no weapons were used or even threatened to be used?

    Silly protestors, you have it all wrong! Quit you’re whining.

    “ALL THESE STUDENTS ARE BEING PUNISHED FOR PEACEFULLY PROTESTING. THEY AREN’T DOING ANYTHING WRONG.”
    reality: Actually, the protesting students were trespassing illegally. AKA breaking a law. Breaking a law results in being arrested. Non-law-abiding citizens must face their legal consequences.

    I am appalled at the degree of disrespect used by the students to voice their opinions to the police men. I support my university’s decision to involve the police. In fact, some of the students leading the rally were acting so ignorant and immature, I am surprised they were even admitted to UMW in the first place.

    I stand behind the administration at UMW. I stand behind the police men who were respectfully and professionally doing their job. I am ashamed of many students at my school who feel the need to take out their own personal issues on the people who are trying to protect them, and on the people who gave them the privilege to attend this school in the first place.
    Lastly, I would like everyone to know that I PERSONALLY WENT UP TO EACH POLICE OFFICER AND EXPRESSED MY GRATITUDE. I told them all I SUPPORT what they are doing, and apologized for the disrespectful behavior exhibited by my fellow students.
    ‪#‎arrestDivest‬”

  2. Anonymous

    As is typical in these situations, the yakkers will yak, and those who want to stay comfortably ignorant will do exactly that. Divestment is a complex issue, and one that must be addressed now.
    As a student, what this group has done is what “honor” means to me. Honor is not arresting your own students for sitting in a hallway. Honor is not ignoring a problem because it won’t affect you (just your children). Honor does not go along with complacency.
    I’m disappointed in our administration, but I’m proud that these students are standing for what they believe in.

  3. Anonymous

    This was your solution, UMW? Arresting your students who were peacefully speaking their minds? You really couldn’t come up with a better solution to shut them up? Why don’t you try to live up to the fact that you have a statue of activist James Farmer on your campus? You have one ashamed alumnus here.

  4. Jessica Burgan

    First of all in matters regarding human rights and first amendment rights Health and Safety codes are ill-relevant. They do not come into play in such matters. As long as you do not wrongfully detain anybody against their will, you can legally block any and all exits as long as you move for people who wish to traverse though said entrances and exits upon request. Failing to do so would be a felony and would be classified as false imprisonment. And Second of all Campus Police Chief Hall’s statement in regards to miranda rights is a lie, to cover his own ass. There is only one situation in which miranda rights are not immediately mandatory. If an individual or group of individuals who are being arrested are under the influence of a mind altering substance to an extent that impairs their judgement or their capacity to understand whats being said or their ability to remember or retain said rights then and only then may miranda rights be temporarily delayed just long enough for the arrestees to sober up, at that point miranda rights must be read to the arrestees or the arresting officers are in violation of the law and must release the arrestees. And last but not least the use of ankle and waist restraints is illegal in the US except during transport to court from jail and Vise-Versa, and then only after the arraignment of the arrestees unless it is a high profile case such as rape, murder or armed robbery, etc. In cases like that then they are also required for the arraignment. Other than that the only other time ankle and waist restraints are permitted is for prisoners being transported between separate s
    State and/or Federal Institutions or Corrections Facilities. But for First Time Offenders, especially those charged with class one misdemeanors, Which is the most minor form of crime a person can be charged with in this country, it is an abuse of power on the part of law enforcement.

  5. Alum

    The police were extremely professional in this. Good on them.

    The administration handled this unruly protest well.

  6. Alum

    Jessica, you’re incorrect. Miranda rights are only required if the police intend to question you about it. The video shows the police not questioning these individuals. Had there been questioning in the van, then the Miranda rights are required.

    It looks like UMW wasn’t looking to press charges and questioning likely wasn’t on the table.

  7. anon

    has umw made any attempt to just talk to the group and try and work out a solution?

    they are really going overboard with this “right vs. wrong side of history” a huge ego stroke to compare themselves to civil right activists

  8. Anonymous

    Good for these students, shame on the administration for doing this

  9. Ilya Muromets

    Shame on these protesters, you got what you wanted being martyred for a small cause. Time to evaluate what is really meaningful, making a statement or working for a cause? Acts like this rarely win a small cause, and often raise more indifference than awareness.

  10. Thank you administration and police officers

    Zakaria has no business referring to first amendment rights when he took those rights away from a group at a private home off campus last year. He had no problem hurting a group of people. Also how really is he into the divest movement being that he was not willing to be arrested and truly stand up for what he believes in. I understand he has a couple other arrests so this one along with the others would not work out so well for him. So I guess getting arrested for a noise ordinance violation and shoplifting at Wegmans are better causes. If you see the videos and pictures they have brought so much crap into GW and I am sure with that trash and filth into the hallways of GW that it was time for them to go. Yale University only put up with that divestment group for 9 hours before they started going after them for trespassing. UMW gave these morons 21 days. I can’t imagine their parents would be proud to walk into GW and see a group of students laying in the hallway sleeping at night and not attending classes that money is being spent on. If they did then they should of been there right along with them. The videos on You Tube are so hard to watch because the chanting is so stupid. Then you have Asenai yelling at the police just ridiculous garbage. What was he trying to accomplish? Sorry Zakaria you can’t claim using your first amendment rights one day but then taking them away from others on another day.

  11. an alum

    I cant tell you how dissapointed I am by the behavior of the divest movement. The campus authorities tolerated their protest for almost a month and gave them ample time to disperse. Rather than doing that, and in doing so demonstrating that they were reasonable people who could be negotiated with, the divest movement chose to instead manufacture outrage. This will undermine their cause far more than anything the administration could ever do.

  12. Another Alum

    Just wanted to voice more support for the administration and the police on this issue. Thank you for taking care of this in the way that you did – a 21 day grace period for the protest was more than enough time for the students to make their points and at some point it had to end. This mentality of “I’ll just sit here until I get my way” is so juvenile and an embarrassment to the UMW community.

  13. Alumni

    In answer to anon: I was told by UMW administration that this group was given ample opportunity to talk to the admin and the BOV, even so far as presenting at a meeting of the BOV. The BOV determined that they disagreed with the Divest students and that’s when the students started their 21 day sit in. They also made it known to the administration that they had a goal to be/would be okay with being arrested as it would bring more media coverage to their cause.

    Article on their BOV time: http://blueandgraypress.com/2015/01/29/student-voices-earn-divest-umw-time-before-bov/

  14. Counter productive

    This whole thing is ridiculous. Why would you work so hard to be “heard” just to make fools of yourselves? The one guy screaming all the profanities and nonsensical jibberish just to hear himself speak..really!? This is what you do to bring awareness to your “cause”? The police officers handled themselves wonderfully. They were respectful and professional. They didn’t react to the distractions and they did their JOB. When people are breaking the law, AKA Trespassing, the mindset of “they’re not doing anything wrong” is…well, wrong. If you want to make a difference then MAKE A DIFFERENCE! What difference can you make sitting around for 21 days? Well, we see it plainly here..zero. The administration humored the divest group, and allowed them to speak their minds and even to assemble for almost a month. Grow up. If you want change, don’t talk about it, be about it. There were so many people that “believe” in this movement, just not enough to be arrested for it apparently. They only believe enough to chant and shout aimlessly about it. I agree that we need to do something about global warming and other issues, but there are other ways to go about things. If you want people to treat you like adults and take you seriously, then these students need to mature…quickly. The world outside of your college bubble will be a RUDE awakening for some of these guys. The guy shouting all of the nonsense embarrassed himself, his school, and his associates. For the sake of the divest group, I hope he was not actually a part of it.

  15. Just another alumni

    I’ve been watching this unfold from afar over the last few weeks, and can’t believe that UMW decided the best resolution to a student sit-in was to call the state police – in the shadow of the James Farmer statue, no less. Surely there were many proper citizens clucking their tongues at Dr. Farmer and clapping the police on their backs for being professional when they hauled the Freedom Riders off to jail. What pests!

    And in hindsight, heroes.

    Ignore those who enjoy punching down, Divest. You’re on the right side.

  16. Adam Wander

    Hi, I’m the guy in the photo up top. I want to make some clarifications that ought to prove much of the negative backlash against he protesters unfounded. First, Divest UMW is absolutely not a police-hating organization, and we pledge non-violence. There have been no violent incidents among any of the protesters so it would be disingenuous to characterize the protesters as “unruly”. Sure there was one student that was shouting some offensive things about the police, but no one person is representative of the entire organization. In fact, if you play the clip you can hear that that person is drowned out by the other protesters present. Still, is it not understandable that one might say something ill-advised while witnessing a friend be shackled and in the passion of the moment? I do not hate the institution of law enforcement, though I was grabbed and arrested while attempting to comply with law enforcement. It is perfectly fine to be supportive of officers following orders. The question you ask yourself is do you agree with those orders? Is it agreeable that a public university should order the arrest of peaceful student demonstrators suddenly after a commitment of several weeks, during which time the students have received commendation from faculty and organizations across the country? None of the demonstrators would seek to be disobedient or disruptive if it were not from a sense of moral obligation and for the sake of a higher cause. Climate change is no “small cause”. It is a global crisis that will affect everyone on earth to some extent, some more than others. Have we ever claimed to be the equals of Civil Rights Leader James Farmer? We haven’t, that isn’t our message. That said, James Farmer is an inspiration to all of us here at Mary Washington, and we at Divest seek to follow his ideals, including a willingness to sacrifice in the fight against injustice. In this sense we are counterparts to Mr.Farmer, and it diminishes neither of us to say this. The senseless investment in an unsustainable and destructive industry that jeopardizes the well-being of current and unborn generations is an injustice to all humanity and the planet itself.

    There is no controversy within the legitimate scientific community on this matter. We are dooming ourselves in persisting our reliance on fossil fuels. To believe otherwise is to delude oneself. As citizens who ostensibly possess freedom of speech, and as inhabitants of the bounteous but fragile Earth, it is our moral obligation to act in what ways we can.

  17. Anonymous

    I think “escalating safety concerns” were more accurately “clearing the area ahead of the Board of Visitors arrival”. Can’t have peaceful students protesting in front of the Board. Looks bad. Way to go UMW! Putting students and student concerns first.

  18. Andrew

    awesome

  19. boy Adam

    so Adam, by your logic, just because you think your cause is just you are entitled to stay there as long as you like because you don’t agree with the way the school invests its money? Because you are peaceful? I am going to camp out in Seacobeck because I don’t like meal prices?

    Best I can tell is that the lot of you are common criminals. Your “leader” ran because he was facing his 3rd arrest this year – the first two having nothing to do with your mission. The kid yelling obscenities at the police has been arrested 3 times. Grow up and if you want the school to invest their assets differently raise the $ for a scholarship and dictate how they invest it.

    Also, JEAN SHORTS ARE NOT COOL.

  20. Boy Boy Adam

    Stop talking down to people because you have anonymity. Be sound and polite in your reasoning, otherwise you and the other anti-divest individuals who follow suit come off with a rude demeanor and your argument loses any real value.

    Don’t judge a person based on what they’re wearing, because they obviously don’t care about the clothes when there are bigger things to talk about.

  21. Nancy Robinson Sheridan, Class of '74

    Hooray for you, Divest MWC! Thank you for standing up for more responsible investment and a more ethical policy on the part of my beloved Mary Wash. Many MWC students were protesting the Vietnam War when I was a student there, and the proud heritage of standing up for what you believe in continues. I stand with you and will do whatever I can to lend my voice to justice and reason in the face of official unwillingness to change with the times. Keep up your courageous work and know that many are with you.