Two Arrested as CUNY Scuffle With Activists at Brooklyn CollegeStudents outraged by use of force against protesters
Kimberly Devi Milner
Associate News Editor
Additional reporting by
News Editor On May 2 student activists rallying outside the Brooklyn College president’s office scuffled with campus and university Public Safety officers as two students were arrested, and tensions between the CUNY administration and the emerging Occupy-style student unions approached a simmering point.
Focusing on tuition hikes but also decrying the surveillance of college Muslim student groups and increased campus securitization, around 100 students from all over CUNY gathered on Brooklyn College’s East Quad to participate in a protest sponsored by the Brooklyn College Student Union and co- sponsored by Brooklyn College’s NYPIRG chapter.
After a banner reading “1-2-3-4 tuition fees are class war, 5-6-7-8 students will retaliate” was dropped from a third-floor window of Boylan Hall, chanting student protesters entered the building and congregated in front of Brooklyn College President Karen Gould’s office as several students linked arms and refused to leave until they were given an opportunity to meet with her.
According to Brooklyn College’s Director of Communications and Marketing Jeffery Thompson, roughly 17 security personnel that included security from Brooklyn College and other CUNY campuses were stationed on the second floor of Boylan Hall to monitor the demonstration.
Thompson said the rally continued for twenty minutes until campus security began to disperse protesters.
Video footage currently circulated on the Internet shows campus Public Safety officers systematically breaking the chain of linked Brooklyn College Student Union activists one by one, and forcing the crowd of roughly 50 to 60 students gathered around them to disperse. Public Safety officers can be seen shoving students, at times grabbing individuals by their backpacks to push them down the hall, and in one instance dragging a student to restrain him.
Deputy University Director John McKee and Director Wenz, who were both present on the second floor of Boylan hall during the rally, declined to comment.
Visiting CUNY student Cecelia Adams who had participated in the sit-in had her cane – which she uses because of permanent damage to her feet received at the Nov. 21 Baruch lobby protest – taken from her by a Public Safety officer. According to Thompson, it was in Public Safety’s training to remove the cane and other items that can potentially be used as weapons from protesters.
Adams, who has asthma, said she was subsequently restrained by a security officer who “did some karate moves so I was off my feet the entire time” and forced her into the crowd. Adams said she began to have an asthma attack and her friend Eric Carlsen, a junior at Brooklyn College, began searching for her asthma medication.
Within minutes of the security dispersal, multiple video accounts of the rally show Carlsen lying on the floor being handcuffed by a Public Safety officer as a female officer is seen lying on her back several feet away. As the crowd repeatedly yelled “shame” at the officers, Carlsen shouted, “she fell” to the officer who proceeded to remove him.
The 35-year-old Rosen Fellowship recipient, who was recently profiled in CUNY’s April newswire for his work in urban farming, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault. The charges may since have been reduced to misdemeanor charges, Thompson said, although Carlsen could not be reached to confirm the status of his charges.
Thompson said that the injured officer, Sergeant Denise Gallegos was “picked up and pushed to the floor” and was sent to the hospital with an “injured clavicle and hip.” According to Thompson, she missed several days of work and returned to duty on May 8.
But Carlsen wasn’t the only student arrested. Brooklyn College junior, 26, Julieta Salgado also spent the night in Brooklyn’s Central Bookings. She told the Envoy she was charged with harassment, obstruction of public administration and disorderly conduct, but later received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
Shortly after Public Safety officers removed Carlsen from the hallway, Salgado said she exercised civil disobedience and threw herself on the ground refusing to move.
Multiple video accounts show Salgado being carried by several security officials, including an EMT from CUNY’s SAFE team – University Public Safety’s emergency response team – to an NYPD van waiting outside campus gates on Bedford Avenue. The video shows CUNY security personnel forcing their way through a chain of protesters pushing back against the officers crying “let her go.”
“They didn’t know what to do with my body,” said Salgado. “They knew they couldn’t mistreat me because there were so many witnesses.” But being dragged and twisted left her with bruises by her armpits and wrists, and black and blue marks which covered her left shin, she said.
One man at the precinct also having criminal charges processed “asked me why are you here,” said Salgado. The activist replied, “we dropped a banner from a college – I just wanted free printing, I just wanted library hours.”
When Salgado arrived at Brooklyn’s 70th precinct a representative from the National Lawyers Guild who attended the event as a legal observer had already contacted the NYPD on her behalf, said Salgado. Comrades flocked to her court hearing the next morning “waiting in sweatpants with food and cigarettes and love,” she said. “It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
In a letter to the Brooklyn College community released yesterday, President Gould said the University Public Safety acted appropriately as they escorted students out of the building. She denied that NYPD officers were situated inside the college and justified the increased Public Safety presence on the campus claiming that the college was not notified in advance about the demonstration, but learned about the plan on the Internet and did not know what to expect.
Thompson told the Envoy that “CUNY Central had spoken to the president’s office a day in advanced, and it was their recommendation that the SAFE team go to the campus, and the president’s office concurred.”
Subsequent rallies have been organized by CUNY student unions responding to what protesters see as a pattern of abuse at the hands of campus police. A consistent demand made is for administration to drop the pending charges for all CUNY student demonstrators.