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5 May, 2000
Police arrest 4 faculty, 9 students
By Kyle Hopkins
Staff Writer
[St Cloud Times]

Students marched on St. Cloud State University's Administrative Services building Thursday, following the early morning arrest of four faculty and nine student demonstrators.

At a noon rally Thursday, before 100 to 200 students on Atwood Mall, protesters again called for the reinstatement of American Indian scholar Nancy Harles as student services coordinator of the campus American Indian Center.

The trespassing arrests Thursday morning came after protesters demanding a meeting with interim president Suzie Williams refused to leave. About 50 police officers arrived at the president's conference room at 12:30 a.m.

"We knew they were coming. We didn't know they were going to be in riot gear. We didn't know there would be so many," said Semya Hakim, a human relations professor and one of the faculty members who was arrested.

It is university protocol to call police if protesters refuse to vacate closed public buildings. The procedure was approved earlier this year by Williams.

Protesters asked why the officers wore riot gear.

"Full riot gear -- like we were in there trying to cause trouble, when all we want to do is talk," said speech communications major Dino Diaz, a member of the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA.

Officers were not dressed in full riot gear, but were wearing helmets with plastic shields and carrying gas masks, said Police Sgt. Brian Marquart.

"It was to protect us and them," he said. "No matter how innocent a situation might seem it can become an extremely volatile and dangerous situation. We wanted to protect ourselves, bystanders and the protesters."

The group repeatedly was warned Wednesday that police would be called if they remained in the building after it closed, said Gene Gilchrist, vice president for Administrative Affairs.

Harles told Thursday's crowd the issue is not her contract, but gaining respect for the work of non-white faculty. After 45 minutes, the rally became a march on the administration building.

Filling the hall in front the president's office, protesters held placards and chanted behind the rhythm of drums. The president's staff told the group Williams would be out of town through Monday.

Williams was called off campus to work on legislative matters, according to Susan Prout, executive assistant to the president.

The group eventually disbanded. MEChA planned a fast from 5 p.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. today in honor of a 1995 hunger strike for improved social justice on campus. The fast was planned before the recent protests and included a ceremony at midnight between the administration building and Centennial Hall.

One of the 13 demands, which administration agreed to during the original fast, was to recruit and retain non-white faculty, protesters said. Gilchrist said the school has had success in meeting those goals.

Individual protesters vowed to fast in 24-hour shifts until Williams and Harles meet.

Williams will talk with Harles, and if Harles' wishes, a union representative 8 a.m. Tuesday. Beyond confirming the meeting, the administration couldn't offer further comment, Gilchrist said.

More outspoken protesters, like student Lance Gibson, call the university straight-up racist. Gilchrist said that while the school may have room to improve, it has made strides toward diversifying the campus.

Police ticketed and released the group from Stearns County Jail around 4 a.m, Police Chief Dennis O'Keefe said, and a 6-year-old child was placed with a grandparent.