Hundreds gather for silent vigil against student arrests

[Update 5/16/2012 @ 11:26pm] More photos and video from the event are available here.

Over two hundred faculty, students, and staff gathered at Brooklyn College this afternoon for a silent vigil against the arrests of two students on May 2. The students were arrested during a peaceful demonstration outside of President Karen Gould’s office.

Today’s action was organized by the Brooklyn College Student Union and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing faculty and staff at CUNY. One Brooklyn College professor also resigned in light of administration’s response on May 2.

Attendees gathered on the quad for speak-outs before proceeding in silence, single-file into Boylan Hall.

via @biola_jeje on Twitter

Inside, they lined the hall for nearly one hour as they individually presented letters outside of the president’s office. The letter campaign was planned in conjunction with two other petitions calling for an end to tuition hikes and campus securitiziation, as well as dismissal of charges for the two arrested students.

A common letter, submitted by many today, read:

Dear President Gould,

We are assembled today because we deplore the force used to intimidate and remove the students who demonstrated at Brooklyn College on May 2, 2012.  The students who engaged in this boisterous but peaceful demonstration were not only within their rights under the First Amendment, they were expressing a viewpoint about the burden shifted onto students under CUNY’s austerity budgets.  This may be a viewpoint with which you and others disagree, but the demonstrators arrived at it through personal experience and an analysis of the facts at their disposal.  Your response to the demonstration was unnecessarily aggressive and adversarial, and your characterization of the behavior of students and security guards in your communication with the campus community was recklessly inaccurate.

We urge you take steps to address the situation as it stands today.

  • Drop the charges against Julieta Salgado and Eric Carlsen, including vacating any Adjournment Contemplating Dismissal plea agreements;
  • Comply with the PSC chapter’s request to meet with you, concerned students, and senior members of your security staff to discuss the events of May 2 and develop a process for a broader conversation for campus security procedures;
  • Reconsider the dismissive and vilifying stance you have adopted toward the Student Union activists and engage them in a forthright dialogue about their concerns about access to and conditions at Brooklyn College and the steps you have taken to offset the impact of austerity budgets and tuition increases;
  • Permit an independent investigation of the May 2 incident by an outside party, mutually agreed to by the PSC and BC management, as resolved by the PSC Delegate Assembly at its May 9 meeting.

You have said that “In order to work together as an educational community, the rights of everyone at Brooklyn College need to be respected so that we can fulfill the essential activities and responsibilities of our core mission.”  We do not consider the essential activities of this educational community to be limited to the execution of administrative duties and the pursuit of classroom study but to include at its very core the maintenance of an atmosphere of open dialogue free from intimidation and physical coercion.