GW students arrested while protesting workers’ rights

A group of GW students Tuesday called on the University to drop charges against 11 demonstrators who were arrested while trying to occupy the Marvin Center earlier in the week.

In a rally outside Rice Hall, about 30 students also urged GW to increase its employees’ salaries and health benefits and join the Workers’ Rights Consortium, an oversight group that ensures companies aren’t violating labor laws.

“We’re here today to support our students and demand that the University drop its charges,” said junior Timothy Kaldas as he stood in front of the building that houses the office of GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

The arrest of nine GW and two Georgetown students and would not deter activists from demonstrating for greater worker compensation, junior Alex Freedman, who was not detained in Monday’s protest.

“We will continue to carry out our campaign with an even louder voice,” she said.

University officials reached for comment Wednesday afternoon said they were unsure whether GW would agree to drop unlawful entry charges against the students.

While the Marvin Center is a public venue, refusing to vacate any piece of University property constitutes unlawful entry, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

At 1 p.m. Monday, students gathered in the Marvin Center Great Hall and set up tents, saying they would occupy the space until the University met their demands. About 45 minutes later, MPD arrested 11 students, including two from Georgetown University, for refusing to comply with GW’s order to leave the building.

The students, who wore shirts that read “tent city resident,” were handcuffed and put in an MPD van on 21st Street.

“We knew we were breaking the rules, that was apparent,” said

Freedman, who helped organize the event but was not arrested. “But I expected Trachtenberg and the Board of Trustees to be consoling to our cause.”

Senior Allie Robbins, who cheered “No justice, no peace!” 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.

Robbins and freshman Cheryl Deutsch 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.

GW 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.”

Lindsay said the students received a citation for unlawful entry and received a letter of warning from Student Judicial Services.

“SJS cites the fact that they didn’t comply with an order from UPD, the Student Code of Conduct, or the University Demonstration Policy,” he said.

Before the arrests, demonstrators participated in a rally in front of Rice Hall to protest what they called exorbitant healthcare costs for GW workers and the outsourcing of University jobs to non-union contractors.

“First, we want the University in writing to create a standard for workers by giving them a living wage and affordable healthcare,” said junior Beth Pellettieri, who was arrested Monday.

“Second, we want entry into the WRC,” continued Pellettieri, referring to the acronym for the Workers’ Rights Consortium.

Donald Gibson, a University maintenance worker who has spent 28 years at GW, said he was in support of the students.

“I think they (the administration) should listen to some of these proposals the students are asking for,” he said.

“I think the administration should take into account that we make this university,” Gibson added.

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