Sunday, 19 April 2015 00:00

UPDATE: 3 arrested during Divest UMW sit-in released (with videos)

Written by Lindley Estes |

UPDATE, 11:39 a.m.: All three protesters arrested at the University of Mary Washington on Wednesday evening were released, each on a $1,500 bond.

UMW students Noah Goodwin and Adam Wander, along with Fredericksburg resident Nina Angelini, were released from Rappahannock Regional Jail around midnight to members of the Divest UMW organization.

They have each been charged with a class-one misdemeanor for trespassing and have a hearing scheduled for 8:30 a..m on April 30 at the Fredericksburg General District Court.

ORIGINAL STORY: Two students and a Fredericksburg resident were arrested at the University of Mary Washington Wednesday evening by Virginia State Police following a 21-day sit-in by the Divest UMW group.

Students Noah Goodwin and Adam Wander, as well as local woman Nina Angelini, were taken away from George Washington Hall just after 6:30 p.m. in handcuffs and body chains for refusing to leave a protest in support of divesting the school’s endowment from fossil fuels.

Goodwin, a freshman, has also been outspoken about rising tuition rates at the school.

As he was led away Wednesday, Wander remarked that it was his birthday and he would be spending the remainder of the day in jail.

Angelini, a member of the local Food Not Bombs chapter who helped feed the protesters during the nearly three-week sit-in, is an artist with two young children.

At 5 p.m., a letter signed by vice president for student affairs Doug Searcy and vice president for administration and finance Rick Pearce alerted the protesters to leave and remove all belongings or be considered trespassing and subject to police intervention.

The school cited safety concerns from personal possessions crowding the hallway where the students sat and slept.

At 6:30 p.m., UMW Police Chief Michael Hall entered the corridor where about 40 students were chanting, and gave the first warning.

He said protesters who did not begin to leave in the next minute would be subject to arrest.

Goodwin, Wander and Angelini remained while the rest of the group left, still chanting.

The three are being held at Rappahannock Regional Jail.

“After 21 days of nonviolent protest, students are being arrested,” said Divest UMW co-founder Zakaria Kronemer to a crowd that gathered outside of George Washington Hall during the arrests. “These are your students being arrested by your administration. We have a statue of James Farmer right here on our campus, a leader of the civil rights movement. We must unite as students to have our voices heard.”

The protest began March 26 with 20 people sitting outside Hurley’s office. About 160 people circulated in and out during the sit-in.

Divest UMW club members want the school’s board of visitors to create a subcommittee to study divestment of university investments in the coal industry by 2016. The board decided earlier in March not to create the subcommittee.

Nate Levine, a member of Divest UMW and outgoing student government association vice president, missed an event Wednesday to be at the protest.

He said the administration was clearly on the wrong side of history and acted hastily in arresting students.

“Honestly, what went on tonight was aggressive,” said Rabib Hasan, another leader of the Divest UMW group. “It proves that there’s really a façade of community here, that the school is scared of bad publicity.”

After the protest, members of the group assembled on George Washington Hall’s stairs to sing, chant and plan their next move at the upcoming board of visitors meeting Thursday and Friday.

Kronemer said a funding page has been set up for legal fees for the three arrested and an attorney has already been retained.

He said the result of the sit-in “proves not just that students are silenced, they enter this university without a voice.”

A statement from the university said that while the school upholds the right for students to assemble, escalating health and safety concerns pushed it to act:

“Since the Divest UMW student sit-in began on March 26, the University has been as accommodating as possible ... 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.”

UMW kept George Washington Hall, the main administration building, open around the clock and hired a private security firm to monitor the building and protesters.

“The increasing volume of material possessions in the hallway—food, clothing, electronics, etc.—as well as ongoing encroachment upon the public walk space and freedom of ingress and egress created a safety hazard and unreasonably interfered with the functions of George Washington Hall,” the statement continued.

University of Mary Washington Divestment Letter

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