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.

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One Response

  1. […] a statement posted on its web site, UNC Sweatfree responded to the arrests: “Chancellor Moeser […]

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