Arrests made in NYC school protest

April 10, 2009 6:41:30 PM PDT
Protesters calling for the resignation of New School University president Bob Kerrey broke into a campus building and occupied it for about five hours Friday before police arrested 22 people. The protesters kicked out a maintenance man and locked themselves into the building in the Union Square area of Manhattan around 5:30 a.m. demanding the removal of the former Nebraska governor and senator. The protesters, who said they were students, had a laundry list of other reasons for their actions, including budget and management issues and a desire for more study space.

Police were summoned by school officials and responded around 11 a.m., said Paul Browne, the New York Police Department's deputy commissioner for public information. They cut the lock and went inside in riot gear. Video shows officers peacefully arresting the 19 people inside. Negotiations took about 20 minutes, Browne said.

"There was great cooperation on both sides," Browne said.

The ragtag bunch had sleeping bags and bags of food as though they planned to stay a while. "Guys, just open the door and step back," one officer is heard on the video, calmly speaking through a bullhorn. "Thanks," he says, as people line up to be arrested.

The scene outside was more chaotic, as protesters clashed with officers and broke through metal barriers. Three people were arrested outside the building.

Rumors flew around the Internet that police had used tear gas and were attacking students inside, but police said the claims were false. Amateur video shows two officers spraying pepper spray into a side door of the building as someone is pushing it out from the inside, but it's not clear whether anyone was hit. The same video, posted on the Web site of The New York Times, also shows an officer elbowing a man who falls to the ground and is arrested.

The protesters who were arrested inside face trespassing charges, and the three people arrested outside were facing disorderly conduct charges. Three who were arrested inside were charged with assault after they slammed a door on the maintenance man's leg, police said. One of those three was charged with assault and grand larceny after he stole the maintenance man's radio, police said.

Kerrey's lack of a doctoral degree has raised the ire of many at the left-leaning university, and his support for overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein spurred a bitter 2002 debate with students.

In December, a 30-hour cafeteria sit-in was staged to protest the embattled president. It's not only students with the problem: Full-time faculty members overwhelmingly expressed no confidence in his leadership in a series of votes last year. They claim academic planning has been chaotic, with five provosts, or chief academic officers, in seven years.

Kerrey, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who lost part of his right leg in combat, was named president in 2001. Since then, enrollment has swelled and an ambitious expansion was also planned.

The private university has more than 9,800 degree-seeking students in programs ranging from public policy to performing arts, including the acclaimed Parsons design school.


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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