Metropolitan Police arrested 11 area students, including two Georgetown University students, last Monday, March 29, after protesting labor conditions at George Washington University.
The two arrested Georgetown students, who were arrested with nine GW students, were Michael Wilson (COL ’05) and Ev Yankey (COL ’06). Both are members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.
The students were taking part in a demonstration on the GW campus to rally for labor rights at the university.
The students want the university to join the Workers’ Rights Consortium, an independent group that monitors factories producing university apparel.
Georgetown University joined the WRC in 2000 after the Georgetown Solidarity Committee staged a sit-in at the office of then-University President Leo O’Donovan, S.J.
A coalition of labor activist groups, including United Students Against Sweatshops and the George Washington University Progressive Student Union, are also demanding that GW adopt a code of conduct covering workers’ rights, enter into fair contract negotiations with all unions representing direct employees and provide employees with a living wage.
At 1 p.m. on Monday, protestors wearing shirts saying “tent city resident” entered the Marvin Center and demanded that the university recognize their requests. They also asked to meet with university administrative officials including GW University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
The protesters started to set up a tent city within the lobby of the Marvin Center.
A few minutes after they entered the building, police and administrators arrived and asked the participants to disperse. Most did, but a group of 11 remained. They were threatened with arrest but refused to move.
Shortly afterward the Metropolitan Police were dispatched to the scene. At about 1:30 p.m., the students were placed in handcuffs and arrested while they chanted, “No justice, no peace.”
They were charged with unlawful entry and will hear their case in court on April 21.
Yankey declined to comment, but Wilson said he was proud of the actions he and Yankey took.
“When they asked us to leave, Ev and I decided we wouldn’t leave no matter what,” he said. “I’d definitely do it again because I think our actions on Monday have drawn attention to this cause. The student body now knows what these people have been doing for years now.”
In a prepared statement released after the arrests were made, GW spokesman Matt Lindsay said, “The university is strongly committed to conducting its business affairs with employees, contractors, unions and vendors in a socially responsible manner.”
Lindsay later said that the two arrested Georgetown students have been indefinitely banned from the GW campus.
“Anyone who is barred from campus and wishes to have that bar rescinded must submit a letter to the university chief of police, ” he said.
Lindsay also said that the GW students were “warned about their behavior but no further sanctions are placed on them at this time.”
It is unclear whether Georgetown University will place sanctions upon the Georgetown students.
“As far as Georgetown sanctions are concerned, they’d be handled by the student code of conduct which is a confidential process,” Georgetown spokeswoman Laura Cavender said.
On Friday, Wilson and Yankey met with Jeanne Lord, interim associate vice president for student affairs, but Wilson said the meeting was confidential. Lord also declined comment.
In a press release, GSC expressed support for the arrested students and said that they “fully support the ideals and goals of the Progressive Coalition and students at GW working for social justice.”
They also called on Georgetown to “publicly disapprove of GW’s extreme response to the students’ peaceful demonstration in support of workers’ rights.”