Seventeen sit-in participants arrested for trespassing
SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 2006, 1:10 A.M. -- Seventeen student protesters inside Madison Hall were arrested by University Police at 7 p.m. Saturday evening on the fourth day of a sit-in conducted by members of the Living Wage Campaign. The students will be held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail until Monday, according to organizers with the campaign.
Originally, University President John T. Casteen, III gave the 17 students until 2 p.m. Saturday to organize a counterproposal to the one issued by Casteen earlier that morning, which the students were not able to meet, according to Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president for student affairs.
The original deadline was extended by one hour to 3 p.m., Lampkin added. Casteen met with the students conducting the sit-in at about 4 p.m.
By late afternoon, it seemed as if discussion had reached a stalemate. At about 6:30 p.m., Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, told the 17 students that they had the option of leaving Madison Hall, being issued a summons or being arrested, University spokesperson Carol Wood said.
The arrests were prompted by the 17 students indicating that they were not going to leave Madison Hall when faced with that ultimatum, Wood said.
‚??It was clear that things were not moving forward and the students felt like they were going to stay in Madison Hall,‚?Ě Wood said.
Campaign organizer Benjamin Van Dyne said the arrests were prompted because there was not substantive movement towards achieving their goal and they would not leave unless removed by force.
Another factor contributing to the arrest was the fact that the students occupying Madison Hall were inconveniencing the police and administration during a holiday weekend, Wood said.
To protesters outside Madison Hall, the arrests seemed abrupt. Living Wage Campaign organizers said at the time they did not know what particular incident prompted the arrests.
‚??We engaged in civil disobedience with awareness of the legal consequences,‚?Ě said Living Wage Campaign organizer Abby Bellows, following the arrests of the 17 students. ‚??Yet still we are very disappointed that this is how the University has chosen to respond to the critical thinking and constructive compromises of students standing with workers.‚?Ě
Wood indicated that the only criminal charges against the students being brought by the University were charges of trespassing. Wood would not comment on the possibility of University Judiciary Committee charges against the 17 students for violations of the University's Standards of Conduct because of the confidentiality of UJC proceedings.
‚??We take no pleasure in arresting our own students. That was not something we wanted to do or ever intended to do. It was unfortunate and sad that we had to come to closure on this,‚?Ě Wood said.
The 17 students were taken to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. On the first day of the sit-in, Anthropology Prof. Wende Marshall was arrested and charged with trespassing. She was released after about one hour and issued a summons. Van Dyne said shortly after the arrests that he expected similar treatment of the 17 sit-in participants.
However, Todd Rosenbaum, a Living Wage Campaign organizer, said after discussing the issue with a lawyer for the campaign, it became evident that the students would not be released until Monday morning. Organizers encouraged students who had moved to protest outside the jail to return to Madison Hall.
The Living Wage Campaign has arranged for pro-bono legal counsel to represent the students. That attorney was present at the jail after the arrests. Van Dyne said his main concern was the safety of the 17 that have been taken into custody.
Van Dyne said the students were involved in what they believed to be good-faith negotiations with the administration and after making a counter offer to Casteen‚??s offer the students were arrested. The final decision to arrest the students was Casteen‚??s, Wood said.
According to campaign organizers, the Living Wage Campaign did not present a counterproposal by the 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. deadlines based on several terms they insisted upon for negotiation. Campaign organizers on the outside wanted to meet with those protesters inside Madison Hall, an attorney present at future talks with Casteen and the ability to pass food into the building unobstructed, according to Van Dyne.
According to organizers, Casteen wanted to set a future meeting date in about three weeks. After the two deadlines had passed, the Living Wage Campaign issued a counter-offer, Van Dyne said.
Several of the 17 students refused to move voluntarily and were physically removed from Madison Hall and lifted into police vans. The arrests took about 10 minutes to complete.
Approximately 50 students surrounded the vans and chanted, but did not otherwise interrupt the arrests.
The 17 students arrested are: Zack Fields, Sean Butterfield, Khalial Withen, Katrina Salmons, Lauren Cruickshank, Carmen Comsti, Jillian Villars, Seth Croft, Kevin Simowitz, Sam Kroiz, Teresa Daniels, John Salidis, Lauren Jones, Shawn Casey, Hannah Rubenstein, Nina Camille Robbins and Andrew Mausert-Mooney.
--Updated Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 5:45 p.m.