Demonstrators from Baker sit-in plead not guilty at first arraignment

CARL FONTICELLA Protesters were arrested on Wednesday in Baker Center by members of local law enforcement. The protesters congregated on the fourth floor after an anti-Trump rally at the Athens County Courthouse. (Photo by Carl Fonticella)

Fourteen of the 70 arrested Ohio University students and Athens residents pled not guilty at the first round of arraignments Monday morning regarding a sit-in at Baker Center on Wednesday.

All protesters arrested were charged with criminal trespassing for what the Ohio University Police Department called creating an “unsafe condition” in a news release on Twitter.

Those arrested under the charge were scheduled to appear in court for arraignment Feb. 6 or Feb. 9.

The 14 who appeared at the Athens Municipal Court, 8 E. Washington St., pled not guilty to the charges. Criminal trespassing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $250 and a maximum jail sentence of 30 days. The demonstrators who pled not guilty are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16.

Among the 14 who appeared in court Monday was a Post designer, who was waiting nearby on the fourth floor of Baker and not protesting during the sit-in. She pled not guilty.

More than a dozen supporters entered the courtroom at 8:30 a.m. when the arraignment was scheduled to begin but were then asked to leave due to overcrowding. An official then requested they exit the building. Hannah Koerner, a senior studying English, called the court’s request “bulls—.”

“It’s not standard court procedure,” she said. “It seemed to have an anti-protest sentiment.”

The group of “court support”, as Claire Seid, a member of F–kRapeCulture, called them, stood outside the courthouse and said they planned to remain until everyone is released from the building.

“We are here to physically hold space and let them know they have support,” Bobby Walker, a senior studying African American studies and women, gender and sexuality studies, said.

Walker was arrested Wednesday for criminal trespassing, but she did not appear in court today.

Walker said she wants the university to drop the charges and apologize for arresting 70 protesters.

“This is a meaningless farce put on by the OU administration to punish peaceful protests,” Seid said.

The demonstrators were sitting in to call for OU officials to declare the university a “sanctuary campus,” which limits their cooperation with federal immigration services. After about two hours in Baker Center, OUPD issued a warning to demonstrators and then began arresting those who would not leave the fourth floor.

“It is horrific the president would rather arrest students than have a dialogue with us about how to keep students on campus safe,” Koerner said.

Walker said the arrests threatened students’ freedom of speech and the right to protest.

“I would like to see the university apologize and address our demands for a sanctuary campus because that’s still our priority,” Walker said.


Originally published in The Post on Feb. 6, 2017.


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