Four political activists arrested on the steps of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in November pled guilty to trespassing charges last week in Charlottesville General District Court. All four participants are from Louisa County, Virginia.
Paxus Calta, Sapphyre Miria, Edmund Frost and Caroline Berner gathered at the fraternity house on Nov. 22 in the wake of a Rolling Stone article describing an alleged gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Charlottesville Police arrived and asked the protesters to leave, but they remained seated on the fraternity steps and were soon arrested.
The four arrestees plead guilty to trespassing Feb. 20, and each received the same sentence of 44 hours of community service. They will begin serving the hours in the next 60 days at The Haven, a homeless shelter in Charlottesville.
Previously arrested approximately 50 times for nonviolent protests, Calta said he is usually involved in anti-nuclear protests and has only been arrested once previously in Charlottesville with the Occupy Charlottesville protest.
Miria and Berner both released a joint statement before sentencing.
"We chose to remain seated to give a visible example of the absurdity of our culture where we can so swiftly have the law brought down on us for trespassing while nothing happens to perpetrators of sexual violence,” the statement read.
Calta and Frost gave separate statements at trial.
“For our non-violent protest against rapes at U.Va., we were swiftly arrested,” Calta said in his statement. “Yet repeated reports of sexual assaults on campus are ignored by the University and Charlottesville police department. I plan to do my community service for an organization which is working to address this injustice.”
According to his statement, Frost also said he objects to the priorities of institutions that arrest and prosecute trespassers during a protest but fail to hold rapists accountable for their actions.
“We are guilty of trespassing on the property of Phi Kappa Psi,” Frost said in his statement. “I want to know when and how the rapists, and the institutions that shelter them, that enable them, that marginalize the survivors, and that fail to protect women from violence will be held accountable.”
Calta said he hopes members of the University community will continue to speak out for change toward a heavily consent-based culture and address the larger issue of sexual assault running rampant through all universities.
“I have never gotten as much publicity as at this unplanned arrest at U.Va.,” Calta said. “Now is the historical time to change the nature of sexual assault at universities. It has been too silent for too long.”