Journalist, others arrested during nationwide anti-war protests
A newspaper photographer was among several people arrested yesterday at a University of Arizona sit-in while across the country thousands of students left classrooms to declare their opposition to a possible war in Iraq.
About 30 people entered the University of Arizona Administration Building yesterday for a sit-in protesting possible military action in Iraq and a proposed tuition increase.
Campus police ordered the people to leave and eventually arrested several protesters and a Tucson Citizen photographer who was covering the incident.
“If you’ve been asked to leave an area and you don’t, that’s trespassing,” university spokeswoman Sharon Kha said.
University of Arizona students Yusuke J. Banno, 19, Laura Showalter, 18, and Shawn Nock, 19, and research technician Rachel Wilson were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing, as well as other charges. They were later booked and released.
Citizen photographer Gary Gaynor was “doing his job” when he was arrested and charged with trespassing, Citizen Senior News Editor Ann-Eve Pedersen said.
Pederson said she was concerned about free-speech issues surrounding the arrest and wants to get the trespassing charge dismissed.
The Arizona demonstration was one of hundreds that took place at high schools, colleges and universities across the country yesterday as a part of a movement known as “Books not Bombs.”
It could not be determined how many students participated across the nation, and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition did not have an estimate. The group had said earlier that tens of thousands of students at more than 350 high schools, colleges and universities had pledged to join.
Thousands of students also rallied for peace in Britain, Sweden, Spain, Australia and other countries. The U.S. protests were also geared toward calling attention to the effects of war on education, health care and the economy.
Students attended some demonstrations by the hundreds, while turnouts were light at others. Some anti-war protesters were met by groups calling for support of the Bush administration.
Protesters at a rally at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro claimed a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent was wandering through the crowd of about 300 asking for people’s names.
TBI spokesman T.J. Jordon today declined to comment on the allegations.
“The director (Larry Wallace) is going to address this matter later this afternoon,” he said.
TBI Deputy Director Rob Reeves confirmed the allegations, The Tennessean reported. Reeves told the newspaper the agent “went beyond what he should have done; there’s no question.”
The TBI commonly sends agents to places where large crowds gather, but their role is to watch for criminal activity and threats to the crowd’s safety, Reeves said.
“These are the exact kind of situations the ACLU is concerned about,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, told The Tennessean. “It’s very troubling that law enforcement would participate in the surveillance of pro-peace protesters who are merely expressing their First Amendment rights by assembling.
“The ACLU believes we can have a safe and free society without intruding on the First Amendment protections guaranteed to its residents,” she said. “The question is, ‘What are they doing with this information?’ ”
Reeves said the information gathered by the agent would not be used.
Meanwhile, three people were arrested yesterday during an anti-war protest at the University of New Mexico.
Police said about 100 people from a crowd of about 500 blocked Central Avenue, Albuquerque’s main street that runs in front of the campus, for about half an hour.
Two men and a woman were charged with obstruction and failure to obey officers, police said. Albuquerque police spokesman, Det. Jeff Arbogast said the woman suffered from a medical condition and rescue personnel were dispatched to the scene.
Arbogast said the three were cited and released.
In Madison, Wis., organizers estimated 5,000 students rallied, though police put that figure at 2,000. In Milwaukee, 40 students lined the sidewalk in front of the Marquette University student union during an hour-long protest.
“It’s good to let people know students have a say in what happens in the world,” said Abir Chaudhry, 19, who carried a sign at Marquette that read “God Does Not Bless America Only.”
Dozens of Stanford University professors endorsed the rally there, either by telling students there would be no penalties for leaving class or by canceling classes. At least three people were arrested at a demonstration in nearby Oakland.
In Los Angeles, 19 people were arrested for failure to disperse and other misdemeanors as several hundred people cheered. Hundreds of students at Santa Monica City College rallied and about 500 Venice High School students left class for a protest on the school’s front lawn, waving signs and chanting “No more war.”
“As a 16-year-old student, I have little license to do anything, but I reserve my right to be idealistic, to see the good in the future and to see the evil of war,” said Margot Goldberg at a rally in Pittsburgh. High schoolers there cheered when one protester said they likely would be suspended for cutting class.
At the University at Buffalo in Amherst, N.Y., a group calling itself the Radical Cheerleaders led raucous anti-war chants. In Washington, peace activists clad in pink and bearing flowers held quiet rallies at the embassies of France, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and Chile to thank them for opposing a U.S. war with Iraq.
At San Antonio College, Melissa St. John, who favors an Iraq invasion, got into a nose-to-nose shouting match with a young man who argued that no positive link has been made between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
St. John later said she doesn’t like the idea of war, but diplomatic efforts to rein in Saddam have failed. “None of us like it, but it’s time,” she said. “Our country is under attack.”
At Penn State University, sporadic rain fell on hundreds of anti-war protesters and a small number of Bush administration supporters. The protesters later presented the mayor with petitions asking the borough council to oppose war with Iraq and resist elements of the USA Patriot and the Homeland Security acts.
Two sisters, Kate and Allie Dunn, traveled to a New York City anti-war rally from suburban Westchester County to express their support of the Bush administration. “Remember 9/11?” asked a sign carried by 18-year-old Kate.
Another anti-war group, Not in Our Name, called on workers to call out sick and business owners to close up shop yesterday to protest a war with Iraq. It was unclear whether such sickouts occurred.