NEWS- Protest U: Wage sit-in brings 18 arrests

For the participants of UVA's Living Wage Campaign, the past week has been a whirlwind of daily rallies, nightly vigils, 18 arrests, and a court hearing.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 12, 17 undergraduate students entered UVA's administration building, Madison Hall, and planned to remain until University President John T. Casteen III agreed to their demands for a $10.72 minimum hourly wage for all university employees or had them forcibly removed. Following a breakdown of negotiations between administrators and students on Saturday afternoon, April 15, Casteen chose the latter.

All 17 students were arrested for trespassing Saturday evening. Third-year Kevin Simowitz faces the additional charge of resisting arrest, and Andrew Mausert-Mooney is charged with vandalism for damaging furniture during the arrests.

Following their Easter weekend in jail and Monday morning bond hearing, the students were each released on bail of $500 and ordered to remain on good behavior and not to return to Madison Hall.

UVA administrators have taken steps of their own to ensure that further demonstrations do not happen in or around Madison Hall. Notices were posted on each of the several tents set up around the building ordering outside protestors to remove their belongings by 10am Tuesday morning.

"The placement of tents at Madison Hall is not authorized," wrote University Vice President Leonard Sandridge in the memorandum. "We are seeking to respect and accommodate your peaceful, non-disruptive protest which does not violate the rights of others or the policies of the University of Virginia and laws of this Commonwealth."

Despite the school's proceedings, students are determined to continue their campaign, as indicated by a sign posted outside Madison Hall Monday evening reading, "This will not go away."

But some wish it would. Karin Agness, who heads a group called the Network of Enlightened Women, held a counter-rally on the afternoon of day one arguing for "market wages." At least 60 students attended a speech given Friday afternoon by free-marketeer Edwin Burton.

But Living Wage proponents had big guns of their own, including NAACP chair Julian Bond and Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich, who spoke to nearly 300 students inside Newcomb Hall on Monday.

"Everyone feels like the campaign's getting so much stronger," says inside protestor and fourth-year student Lauren Cruickshank. "The more coverage we get and the more support we get, the more people know about it."

Students held a teach-in Monday night at the university to educate people about the living wage campaign and the events surrounding the sit-in.

"We plan to hold them at the school and in the surrounding community," says Cruickshank. "The act of spreading awareness is really important."

Even prior to the arrests, the campaign had garnered considerable attention, in part because of keynote speakers who appeared at each of the daily rallies, including Democratic City Council candidates Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro, who both spoke Friday, and Saturday's speaker, Democratic Congressional candidate Al Weed.

"There are too many people in this community who struggle to make it on a day-to-day basis," said Taliaferro. "Living wage should be paid because it's the right thing to do, and I'm willing to take whatever actions are necessary to make it happen."

The inside protestors, who are scheduled to return to court May 5, have also gained the support of over 200 faculty members such as assistant professor Wende Marshall, who was arrested for trespassing the first day of the sit-in when she attempted to enter Madison Hall. She was issued a summons and appears in court Thursday, April 20, for the misdemeanor.

"I'm University faculty," says Marshall, "and Madison Hall is a University building."

According to school spokesperson Carol Wood, "That arrest was a police decision, not a school decision. It wasn't ordered by the administration."

The 17 student protestors were also warned about the possibility of arrest Wednesday by University Vice President Pat Lampkin.

"The administration informed us we were trespassing," says fourth-year Sam Kroiz. "They repeatedly told us Wednesday they were going to arrest us when the building closed."

The arrests finally did take place Saturday evening, shortly after negotiations reached a stalemate between protestors and administrators.

"The protestors started a chant while being led out," says second-year Abby Klinghoffer. "We were just shouting back that we love them, we support them, and not to worry, because we're not giving up on this."

An undercover police agent prevents Diane Villars, mother of protestor Jillian Villars, from bringing her daughter food on day three of the sit-in. "I'm just ashamed for this university," Villars said.

Outsiders were not allowed to take food to inside protestors. Much of the food that piled up outside Madison Hall was discarded by police Saturday night.

Democratic City Council candidates Julian Taliaferro and Dave Norris appeared at Friday's rally to lend their support to the protest.

Inside protestors were ordered by police to keep away from windows and doors.

Last week's daily rallies, which attracted more participants by the day, continue this week at other locations around grounds.

Several inside protestors were carried out by police, including third-year John Salidis.