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UNC Students Convicted!

Press from the Independent Weekly: UNC protesters guilty, but sweat-free: UNC still fails to adequately address whether its apparel is made in sweatshops

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The No. 1 reason why UNC sucks (Duke Chronicle)

By James Tager, Issue Date: 8/27/08
The average Duke student has many reasons to feel poorly disposed towards his Tar Heel neighbors: their uncomfortably competitive basketball team, their lackluster shade of blue and the fact that Tyler Hansbrough killed a man in cold blood in 2004 (no, I can’t prove that).

But to me there’s a far more compelling reason to be disappointed in our rivals, and it has nothing to do with the students at UNC, at all, but everything to do with UNC’s administration. The number one reason that UNC sucks: They eat their own young.

Let me explain. This past May, UNC students staged a two-week sit-in in one of the campus buildings. They were protesting UNC Chancellor James Moeser’s decision not to endorse the Designated Suppliers Program, which is designed to make sure that university apparel isn’t made in sweatshops. The sit-in was broken up when the chancellor ordered the UNC police to arrest the protesters. Five of the protesters were convicted this month in Chapel Hill District Court, for “failure to disperse.”

So let me recap: The UNC administration, instead of supporting its student’s activism and high ethical standards, had them arrested. They pressed charges, even after the sit-in was over. Why? To send a message to other students not to threaten the approximately $3 million per year that UNC makes from selling Tar Heel-licensed clothes? Universities are supposed to demonstrate to their students the importance of principles over profit. In a shameful betrayal, Chancellor Moeser instead decided to sacrifice his own students so that the college would still be able to exploit sweatshop conditions for those producing their clothes.

It’s worth pointing out that Duke, along with 43 other schools, has adopted the DSP. In fact, Duke was at the forefront of the anti-sweatshop movement on university campuses. In 1999, Duke students had a sit-in to protest sweatshop policies, as well. What did the Duke administration do? They agreed to an anti-sweatshop code of conduct!

Duke’s record for supporting student activism isn’t perfect. In 1968, student protesters sat in the Allen Building to protest Duke’s racial inequality. Then-President Douglas Knight sent the police in to break up the protests. But that was forty years ago, and history has remembered the students, not the administration, as the heroes.

Chancellor Moeser hasn’t learned that lesson, it seems. In fact, Moeser’s tenure as Chancellor ended this June, meaning that his legacy will be tainted by his dictatorial disregard for the welfare of his wards. Perhaps he believes that history and the UNC student body will vindicate him, for arresting his own students and, worse yet, going on to prosecute them. The actions of UNC’s administration make a mockery of any university’s ideals. These were motivated, ethically aware students, who were determined to use their education for noble ends, who dared to hold their University to a high moral standard. Any Duke professor would have been proud to have them in his or her class. I would have been proud to take a class with them.

Of course, in the whirlwind of righteous indignation surrounding the students’ arrests, it’s easy to forget what started this whole ordeal in the first place. These students were working for an end to UNC’s profiting from sweatshop labor. There are some who argue that UNC’s punishment of its protesters is more symbolic than actual; that the protesters received little more than an elaborate slap on the wrist. But if that’s the case, what do the administration’s actions symbolize? That UNC refuses to end its participation in a sweatshop system, even if its students and faculty find it to be morally repulsive.

The UNC administration has refused to take a principled stand against sweatshop labor, and have crushed peaceful dissent and meaningful student activism on their campus, in one blow. Our disgust at Chancellor Moeser’s actions should have nothing to do with the Duke-UNC rivalry, and everything to do with right for students to meaningfully impact the decisions of their own university. UNC has a lot of well-meaning students and faculty, who happen to wear the wrong shade of blue. But it’s Chancellor Moeser’s twin decisions to refuse adopting the DSP, and to sacrifice his own students, that are truly embarrassing for UNC. We should hold them to account, not because they’re our rivals, but because they are our neighbors and our fellow students and faculty.

Go to Hell, Carolina! But first, stop sacrificing your students, who merely had the courage to stand up for what is right, and to hold their University to the same high standards that any University expects of its students. Maybe Tar Heel basketball will do well this year. But that doesn’t erase the stain of a University administration that has selfishly attacked those they should be supporting.

James Tager is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Wednesday.

Support UNC Students Arrested During Anti-Sweatshop Sit-in!

Link to press release in plain text format, image below

New Date for Trial for UNC Students Arrested in Anti-Sweatshop Sit-in

We requested a continuance for our trial, given that several of us are scattered across the globe during the summer. Our new trial date is August 18th at 9 am in the Chapel Hill Court House/Post Office. Thank you for all of your support! Please continue to keep in touch with us, as we will need your organizing efforts as we prepare our defense.

UNC-CH Behind the Scenes: Still Refusing to Discuss Human Rights in Good Faith

As promised, the campaign is continuing. Our court date is set for June 23rd– we’ll keep you posted on the organizing for that. In the meantime, check out our press page for ongoing stories about the campaign.

We have filed a public records request with the University, as it has been demonstrated to us again and again that the university refuses to act in good faith about these issues.

While students around the country were campaigning for actual enforcement of our labor codes so that workers’ human rights are actually respected, our university was involved in discussions with other universities to develop a new labor code program through the Collegiate Licensing Company (a for-profit organization that has absolutely no experience in workers rights) that they plan to present as an “alternative” to the DSP.

For three years we have been asking for open and transparent dialogue and have been denied. Although our Director of Licensing did report back to the LLCAC about a “university discussion group,” his reports did not include the extent to which the CLC was involved and indeed any substantive description of what the university task force was doing. University administrators have a responsibility to articulate the goals of university participation in any such task force in the interests of remaining transparent.

As we’ve seen again and again, UNC-Chapel Hill would prefer to remain a sweatshop university built on the abuses of workers throughout its supply chain because exploring alternatives that would protect human dignity is “idealistic,” in the words of Chancellor James Moeser, and tantamount to trying to “bail” the ocean out with a “teaspoon.”

See the full text of our response to these developments here, as well as a copy of the draft proposal.

Derek Lochbaum, UNC Director of Licensing has to these day not answered these questions posed to him by members of the LLCAC:

1. Was he asked by the Chancellor to be involved in this discussion group or did he take on this initiative by himself as the Director of Trademarks and Licensing?

2.To what extent does this initiative involves the CLC?

3. To what extent does this initiative involve the FLA?

4. Has the University committed to remaining involved in this? Where did this directive come from? (Certainly not the LLCAC, since there was never a vote on participation in this group.)

5. To what extent is this initiative characterized as a “new” licensing program (e.g., would it displace anything we are currently doing, either in terms of substantive provisions in our labor code or procedurally in terms of our use of FLA (or WRC)?

6. Was Derek approached by members of the FLA/CLC in order to be involved in this? Was this fully disclosed to the committee?

E-mail the Director of Licensing at derek_lochbaum@unc.edu, call him at (919) 962-2403, and e-mail Chancellor James Moeser at James_Moeser@unc.edu and call him at (919) 962-1365 to demand that they and the entire UNC administration be transparent about this process!

We will NOT allow the real decisions to be made behind-the-scenes with a sham committee process giving them legitimacy. We want real participation, and we want real enforcement of our labor codes in order to uphold the human dignity of workers in our supply chain!

UNC, take notice: you can arrest us, but neither we nor the workers will end the campaign for human rights

University of Southern California becomes 45th school to sign onto the DSP!!!!!

From Teresa Cheng, whose LTE was published in the DTH in support of our actions

USC is now the 45th school to sign onto the DSP Working Group! After a 8 year campaign for WRC and DSP – which included 2 sit ins, rallies, protests, and being defamed and beaten to a pulp by our fascist administration- we pushed them to adopt the DSP and finally won – with all your help!

We continue to lend all of our support to students and friends at UNC, Montana, Penn State, and Appalachian State. With enough student pressure and all of your brilliance, you will succeed!

There is hope!

A note for everyone: USC’s sit-in last year ended the first day after administrators threatened to suspend students, revoke their scholarships, and kick them out of campus housing. AND NOW THEY WON.

So, UNC, take notice: you can arrest us, but we WILL win.

For a list of all the schools currently signed onto the DSP, see here

North Carolina AFL-CIO action alert in support of us:

UNC Chapel Hill Arrests Students at Sit-in

May 8, 2008 – 5:51 pm UNC Chapel Hill Apparel is Sweatshop ApprovedThe peaceful protest of students at UNC Chapel Hill engaged in a sit-in outside Chancellor Moeser’s office to demand an end to university apparel being made in sweatshops itself ended when the Chancellor ordered their arrest.

The Chancellor’s order to arrest the students came on day 16 of the sit-in and only hours after NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan appeared and spoke in solidarity with the students at a rally outside the South Building.

UNC Chapel Hill makes considerable profits from the sale of apparel branded with its name and logo – apparel stiched with abuse of workers toiling in sweatshops. Arresting students that rightly take a stand against such injustices through peaceful, civil disobedience is an outrage. Such a heavy handed response may be typical of the authorities in countries where UNC-CH apparel is made, but it has no place at the flagship institution for higher education in North Carolina.

The NC State AFL-CIO calls on Chancellor Moeser and others in the administration of the University of North Carolina to immediately drop all charges against the students and adopt the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) so that students, faculty and Tar Heel fans everywhere can wear UNC apparel with pride.

Letter from Congressman Raul Grijalva, Statement from Progressive Faculty Network in support of arrested students

Check out our endorsement page for the full text

16 Day Sit-In Ends with Student Arrests

Take action in support of arrested students here!

Our statement on the arrests and why we chose to occupy Chancellor Moeser’s office at 11 am on May 2, 2008:

Chancellor Moeser explicitly stated at the May 2 Labor Licensing Code Advisory Committee meeting that he, after eight years of being UNC Chancellor, was just there to “listen” and had no intention of taking any moral leadership on the fact that our apparel is manufactured under sweatshop conditions. He would prefer to pass this responsibility on to the next Chancellor.

We wanted to send a message to Chancellor Moeser and the new Chancellor: as long as our education continues to run on the backs of workers who are abused and denied their basic human rights, until there is justice for ALL workers in the Carolina community, we would not voluntarily leave the administration building, and we would NOT allow business as usual to be conducted within its doors.

Chancellor Moeser characterized our actions as illegal, demonstrated by his order to arrest us– but let us ask, which is more criminal, taking a stand for the human rights of workers by peacefully occupying an office of a public institution that our tuition pays for, or allowing our Carolina apparel to be made under sweatshop conditions that violate international and domestic law?

Chancellor Moeser expressed regret in our decision to occupy his office. We cannot begin to express our disappointment in the Chancellor of a University that calls itself the “university of the people,” who would prefer to arrest peaceful student protesters instead of ensuring that there is justice for the workers who make this university run.

Details of the arrests:

1. We were taken to the magistrate in Orange County, not the UNC Department of Public Safety, where we were all charged with “failure to disperse on command” and one of us was additionally charged with “resisting a public officer” because she went limp upon being arrested.

2. None of us were charged with disorderly conduct. Despite what the Chancellor characterizes our actions as, we were, in fact, peaceful, when engaging in this civil disobedience, as evidenced by our charges. Yall should file an information request from UNC to the UNC detective who filmed our arrests, so you can see for yourselves.

3. One of us, Linda Gomaa, a UNC junior, was arrested before any formal warning or announcement from the Chancellor’s office that we would be arrested for occupying the Chancellor’s office, in clear violation of standard procedure for the statute “failure to disperse upon command” (there was no command before she was arrested). At least four others were standing in a similar situation (see picture). She was picked “randomly” from the crowd that was engaging in similar activity, though the rest of the crowd was permitted time to leave after the warning and was not arrested. She was handcuffed with metal handcuffs.

4. Four of us remained in the Chancellor’s office as the police called for backups and a van to take us away. We sat on the floor, linking arms. We were asked to unlink our arms so that our arrests would not be more painful than necessary. We agreed. Thomas Mattera, a UNC sophomore, was the first to be arrested from our group. We were all handcuffed with plastic zip strips that cut off our circulation. Tim Stallman, a UNC graduate student, was the next to be arrested. Sarah Hirsch, a part-time UNC student, was then arrested and carried out of the actual office when she went limp. Salma Mirza, a UNC senior, was the last to be arrested, and went limp from the start. Her zip strip was tightened and she was dragged by her arms to the anteroom of the office. The outside doors of the office were closed so that the press could not see how much pain she was in. The officers debated about bringing in a stretcher to carry her out, decided against it, and dragged her into a rolling chair in the office. She was still carried by her arms instead of the chair she was in out of the building, then dragged into the van. As a result of being dragged by the police with the zip strips constraining her arms behind her back, rather than carried, she has bruising on her upper arms, wrists, and potentially permanent nerve damage to her right hand (partially numb because the zip strips stunned a nerve), though she retains all motor skills according to Orange County EMS and UNC ER physicians.

5. We were then taken to Orange County to be booked and processed. Immediately upon arriving, we requested that our zip strips be loosened if not taken off, as we were in pain and had been cooperative throughout the booking process. The officers refused. The zip strips were not removed until our lawyer, Al McSurely of the NAACP arrived, and requested the magistrate order that they be removed, nearly two hours after they were placed on us.

Details of the charges:

The Hillsborough magistrate of Orange County, Loy F. Long found in response to the sworn testimony of the arresting officer that defendants Linda Gomaa, Sarah Hirsch, Thomas Mattera, Tim Stallmann and Salma Mirza were arrested without a warrant and the defendant’s detention was justified because there was probable cause to believe that on May 2, 2008 the defendants unlawfully and willfully did assemblage of at least three or more persons engaged in conduct creating:

A FORMATION THAT BLOCKED, OR INTERFERED WITH THE OPERATION OR FUNCTIONING OF SOUTH BUILDING OF THE CAMPUS OF UNC, CHAPEL HILL, NC, upon the command to disperse BY OFC. J.S. CARROLL OF THE UNC POLICE DEPARTMENT, A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING THE PEACE AND GIVEN IN A MANNER REASONABLY CALCULATED TO BE HEARD BY THOSE ASSEMBLED.

(Except Linda didn’t get that command, and was unlawfully arrested and picked out at random before the command and formal warning was issued.)

The additional charge of resisting a public officer was tacked on to Salma Mirza’s charge of failure to disperse because she went limp and had to be dragged out:

The Hillsborough magistrate of Orange County, Loy F. Long found that the defendant Salma Mirza was arrested without a warrant and the defendant’s detention is justified because there is probable cause to believe that on May 2, 2008 the defendant unlawfully and willfully did resist, delay, and obstruct J.T. HEINRICH, a public officer holding the office of UNC PUBLIC POLICE OFFICER, by REFUSING TO LEAVE THE SCENE OF A DISTURBANCE AT SOUTH BUILDING ON THE CAMPUS OF UNC, CHAPEL HILL, NC. At the time, the officer was discharging and attempting to discharge a duty of his office, ATTEMPTING TO DISPERSE A CROWD. (considering that she was the last to be arrested, does one person really count as a crowd?)

The sit-in ends with our arrests; but the campaign for justice for all workers will continue.

Chancellor Moeser: We meant it when we said you’d see us every day

Yesterday, Chancellor Moeser left South Building early to take a trip to DC. Some former UNC USAS people and some other lovely USASers (former and current national staff) discovered that there was a huge conference going on about higher education and global development at the Department of State and figured that’s probably where Chancellor Moeser would be at. This conference invited 110 public universities, 40 private institutions, and 90 foreign university delegates, with Condoleezza Rice to host the proceedings.

Our wonderful allies gathered up the USAS alum in the area and some current Georgetown USASers and high school activists to flyer outside of the event. They got moved pretty quickly away from the front of the building, but they got moved to exactly where the bus was letting off delegates to go to the conference, and, as you can see, they had a lovely banner prepared for Chancellor Moeser’s reception.

As Chancellor Moeser walked into the state department they chanted “CHANCELLOR MOESER SWEATSHOP LABOR HAS GOT TO GO!” as they continued leafletting.

We are here physically in South Building, we are in DC, and we are virtually occupying the administration building. There is no escape. We will be here until there is justice for workers in our entire Carolina community.

Back to the old days of sit-ins before webcams and wireless internet…

Mysteriously, the wireless internet cut out a few days ago as our website has been getting more and more views. We initially attributed it to the flakiness of the UNC-1 network in general, but we’ve been here two weeks and soon realized that some router must have been turned off or been having some kind of “technical difficulty.” As this is really problematic for our studying during finals week (and to keep yall updated on what’s going on in here), we called ITS and asked administrators what was going on. A tech guy came by yesterday to check the wiring, confirmed everything was ok, and left.

We still don’t have wireless, but we are currently sharing one ethernet cord between us. Beyond being here and organizing for the past two weeks, this makes it difficult to get our work done for finals and remain focused on our education. Indeed, we don’t want to end up former UNC students who flunked out as a result of a faulty internet connection… but alas.

Please send good internet vibes to us and hope that the mysterious wireless problems are solved soon!