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!

Tent City and Pancake Breakfast for Thursday night

Our friends from outside are inviting you to a picnic, rally and campout on May 1st at 7:00 pm to support the student sit-in currently underway in the South Building. The tent city and rally will mark the SECOND week of the anniversary and will coincide with International May Day events.

What to bring: yourself, a picnic and a tent (If you don’t have a tent we will have extra. Just let us know)

What they will bring: Awesome people, Campfire Songs and Pancakes on Friday Morning.
Breakfast will be ready at 8 am; then we’ll cheer on the students before their meeting with the chancellor.

The end of the semester is nearing and it is vital that we get Chancellor Moeser to see just how many students and community members support the DSP. So come join the tent city and be there at 8 am and show Moeser that students want to wear Sweatfree Carolina gear with pride!

More Signs that Moeser’s Feeling the Pressure

We’ve pulled out some banners that are unfortunately still relevant after three years to this university : “UNC: Clean up your act” and “UNC: Sweatshops and Slavery since 1789”. As you can see above, we duct-taped those banners across the poles on South Building three years ago when fighting in solidarity with UNC housekeepers on a particular campaign for greater voice on the job, despite the fact that they are denied their human right to collectively bargain by a Jim Crow-era statute. No one took down the signs or had the UNC police remove them or requested that we take them down.

Last Thursday during our speakout, we again affixed those signs to the poles. We were told on Friday that affixing signs were in violation of facilities use policy (they really don’t want people to know we’re still here). We complied by taking them down and our lovely outside organizers created a freestanding pole to prop up the signs, which we put up yesterday.

Yesterday, we saw Chancellor Moeser several times that day, and he refused to respond to us except to speak about his orchids to one member of the group. As yall know, we’ve done some redecorating in the lobby, propping up pictures of workers’ struggles for the past 60 years around the room and DSP stickers pretty much everywhere.

Last night, Barack Obama came to the UNC campus for a rally. At 9:47 pm, during his speech, two officers from the UNC police came in and told us that all signs that we had must be taken down, including everything we had propped around the lobby explaining who we are and pictures of workers. All of those have been up since the start of the sit-in, thirteen days ago. We requested to speak to their chief of police to ask why that order had been given, since they don’t have authority to change the orders themselves and the order must come from the Chancellor’s office. They told us that we could not speak to the chief of police because all the rest of the UNC police was tied up in security for the Obama rally.

The UNC police told us that either we could take down the signs or they would forcibly remove them. We tried to get in touch with various UNC administrators who had given us their personal numbers for assistance, and as we were not able to contact anyone, we decided that rather than having the signs ripped down we would take them down for the time being until matters could be clarified. We called the Department of Public Safety and asked to speak with the Chief of Police, who had given the direct order. DPS informed us that at approximately 9:30 pm last night, Chancellor Moeser directly gave an order to the Chief of Police to have our signs taken down. This is after stating repeatedly and publicly that he supports our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly, but apparently not during an Obama rally when other people know we have been in the administration building for 13 days.

This morning, we put the signs and worker exhibit back up. As Chancellor Moeser walked into a meeting in the conference room in the lobby with various other administrators, we asked:

SAW member: Chancellor Moeser, why did you ask the UNC police to take down our signs? Especially since you’ve stated you support our first amendment rights of freedom of speech?

Chancellor Moeser: You didn’t have a permit for the signs.

SAW member: According to the facilities use policy, we don’t need one.

Chancellor Moeser: (walks into meeting, ignores us)

Later, a SAW member explained the facilities use policy to Chancellor Moeser, who said oh, ok as long as you don’t need a permit (we don’t). We inquired as to why he instructed the UNC police to remove our signs. He asked what time the order came down. We told him that we were told by DPS officers that the order came from the Chief of Police, who was directly instructed by the Chancellor himself. Chancellor Moeser stated that after 8 pm he was at the Obama rally and thus could not have called DPS at 9:30 pm instructing them to remove our signs.

So the mystery remains: who impersonated Chancellor Moeser to the Chief of Police of the DPS? We have been trying to get them to talk to us, but haven’t heard back from them yet today.

Stay tuned to see if we can solve the mystery!

______________________________________________

Update:
After a number of phone calls and an extended conversation with the Chief of Police, we discovered that there was not a directive from the Chancellor’s office to take down our signs. The UNC police misunderstood the previous directive of removing the outside signs that were affixed to the building, and didn’t realize we had taken them down and put them back up with freestanding poles. The directive had nothing to do with our inside signs, however, and so someway along the chain of command someone took the opportunity to mess with us. The signs are back up now though.

We were told this morning, however, that as it gets closer to commencement and parents, families, donors, and visitors in general flock to campus and the Old Well and South Building, the administration is going to have problems with our visible presence — namely our signs outside and it looking like a sit-in on the inside. We don’t know exactly when these “problems” will occur or how they will be dealt with, but the administration is definitely concerned about our visibility and how that will look as it gets closer to the announcement of the new Chancellor and commencement ceremonies…

day 13 of the south building sit-in…

And day 1 of our virtual sit-in in UNC’s virtual South Building in Second Life!

live from Chancellor Moeser’s (virtual) office

Side note: UNC spends $5560 a year on this virtual property, and yet cannot ensure that the human rights of workers are respected in its supply chain?

CHANCELLOR MOESER REVERSED HIS PREVIOUS DECISION TO TAKE THE DSP OFF THE TABLE BECAUSE OF OUR SIT-IN!

After the video broadcast yall saw of the administration forcing us to remove the minifridge that Duke SAS people brought us last Wednesday, we had a brief meeting with Dean Winston Crisp.

The administration is feeling the pressure, and has already caved by reversing Chancellor Moeser’s August 2007 decision to take the DSP off of the table completely. He has called a special meeting of the licensing committee for May 2nd (our last meeting of the year was already held April 15th), which never would have happened without our presence here. This is a victory already– but we will continue our campaign until UNC adopts the DSP and there is justice for all workers in the Carolina community!

Check out our updated demand letter to Chancellor Moeser that we’re delivering today, stating that though we are glad progress has been made and he is no longer just ignoring us, we will not stop until UNC adopts the DSP!