Posted 10:09 p.m., Monday, March 29 — Metropolitan Police arrested nine GW students who occupied the Marvin Center’s Great Hall Monday afternoon to drum up support for workers’ rights.
At 1 p.m., demonstrators began setting up tents and announced that they would occupy the lobby until GW administrators adopted a new code of conduct for worker contract negotiations. They also called on the University to join the Workers’ Rights Consortium, a watchdog group that ensures business aren’t using sweatshop-made products.
About 45 minutes later, MPD arrested 11 students, including two from Georgetown University, who refused to vacate the Marvin Center. The students, who wore shirts that read “tent city resident,” were handcuffed and put in an MPD van on 21st Street.
Students said they were arrested for unlawfully entering the Marvin Center. MPD and UPD officials could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
“We knew we were breaking the rules, that was apparent,” said junior Alex Freedman, who helped organize the event but was not arrested. “But I expected (University President Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg and the Board of Trustees to be consoling to our cause.”
Senior Allie Robbins, who cheered “No justice, no peace!” with her fellow demonstrators while being put in handcuffs, said she was wrongfully detained and that she was participating in a peaceful protest.
“It’s obviously scary knowing that we were doing the right thing … but the fact that 10 other students were with me was absolutely empowering,” she said.
Freshman Cheryl Deutsch, the first of the students to be released after the arrests, said that her group’s demands fell on deaf ears.
“They had no intention of negotiating with us,” she said in an interview following her release. “They wouldn’t even answer questions.”
The demonstration in the Marvin Center was part of a day-long protest for workers’ rights. Earlier in the afternoon, about 50 students and workers and a giant inflatable rat assembled outside of Rice Hall to urge GW to adopt guidelines for its ongoing contract negotiations with workers.
Deutsch and Robbins said they were taken to MPD’s 2nd District headquarters and kept in holding cells until about 8 p.m. They said all the demonstrators were fingerprinted, photographed, and asked for personal information before being released Monday night.
Robbins said all 11 activists would be officially charged with a high misdemeanor in court on April 21.
“We’re demanding that the University drop the charges and give us an apology,” she said.
In a statement released after the arrests, University media relations specialist Matt Lindsay said that GW supported workers’ rights but “has a responsibility to maintain a safe and peaceful environment within which students, faculty and staff can live, study and work.”
“GW applauds the tireless work being done by the many watchdog organizations that monitor workers’ rights,” said Lindsay, who gave no indication whether the University would adopt the protestors’ demands.