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Student protesters arrested at Baruch College

STEPHON JOHNSTON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/23/2011, 2:55 p.m.
Student protesters arrested at Baruch College

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Student protesters arrested at Baruch College

Monday at Baruch College didn't exactly look like the UC Davis confrontation that occurred in California last weekend-but it was pretty close.

Fifteen people were arrested by public safety officers while protesting the recently proposed tuition hikes by the City University of New York inside the William & Anita Newman Vertical Campus Conference Center at 55 Lexington Ave. (two blocks east of Madison Square Park).

A YouTube video shows the group meeting, where public safety officers had prevented students from entering a Board of Trustees public hearing on tuition hikes. Protesting groups collectively decided that if they could not get into the hearing room, they would have their own hearing in the lobby.

As some the students sat down, one officer could be heard telling the crowd to disperse. In response, the group used a microphone announce that they were CUNY students in a CUNY school and had a right to assemble. Less than half a minute later, officers rushed the protesters and screamed "move!" while shoving them with their batons. Protesters shouted "shame!" while pushing back and throwing various items at the police.

Amsterdam News spoke with Lamont Wale, one of the students pushed by cops in the video, and got his side of the story.

"We marched from [Madison Square Park] to the Board of Trustees hearing," said Wale. "After a mic check, half of the people from the rally decided to stay outside and the others wanted to go into the hearing." According to Wale, when the group of around 60 people tried to gain access to the hearing, they were initially given the wrong directions and then told to head to the overflow room.

"They made it seem as if the overflow room was where the hearing was being held," said Wale. Once the group found out that the meeting was on the 14th floor, they decided to head to the staircases, but were blocked by a school safety officer, who told them the meeting was at capacity. That's when the group decided to have their own hearing and the scuffle eventually broke out.

"[The officers] told us we were going to get arrested and expelled from school if we resisted," said Wale. He also noted that when the protesters outside noticed what was going on, they tried to get inside and help their brethren, but were denied entry by officers in front of the building.

But the official statement by the City University of New York told a different story. University officials said that the students were the ones who caused a commotion and forced public safety to quell the alleged chaos.

"While a public hearing was being conducted by the CUNY Board of Trustees at Baruch College, at which more than 95 speakers had signed up to present their views, a group of protesters entered the first-floor lobby," read CUNY's statement. "Because the hearing room was filled to capacity, some of the protesters were directed to an overflow room equipped with the live video of the ongoing hearing. Some of the protesters refused to proceed to the overflow room and instead surged forward toward the college's identification turnstiles, where they were met by CUNY Public Safety officers and Baruch College officials. The protesters were asked twice to exit the lobby or return to the overflow room. They refused, creating a public safety hazard."