March 2, 2010

Admins to discuss A-level arrest today

Days after a student was arrested on the A-level with what witnesses say was unnecessary force, administrators will hear student concerns tonight at a campus forum.

The meeting in the McCormick Tribune Lounge will include UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch and a representative from the library department.

Fourth-year Mauriece Dawson was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest after a Regenstein clerk called the UCPD to report a group of students causing a disturbance. Witnesses said that Dawson, who was laughing loudly with friends on the A-Level, was later asked by a UCPD officer to leave. After Dawson repeatedly asked why he had to leave, the officer placed him in a choke hold, pinned him to the floor, and placed him under arrest.

UCPD officials later said Dawson was arrested because he did not present his ID card when asked, but no witnesses heard the officer ask for identification.

Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews said the meeting will address students’ questions about library protocol and police procedures. “The whole community can have a conversation around not just what happened, but...about the kind of relationship we want to have between students and the police, library personnel, etc., to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Goff-Crews said.

Dawson said he would attend the meeting, but declined to comment further.

According to Goff-Crews, the Library Department and UCPD are conducting internal reviews of the incident, and a complaint has been filed with the UCPD over the arrest.

Goff-Crews has already met with some of the students who witnessed the event, including third-year De’Azia Baldwin, who was sitting with Dawson before he was arrested. “There’s still confusion about what exactly happened, and what caused it to escalate as much as it did, and hopefully we’ll get some answers,” Baldwin said.

Students have reacted strongly to the arrest, sending dozens of e-mails to various administrators and listhosts to spread awareness. Fourth-year Nate Wilmers heard about the arrest Saturday and e-mailed his parents to call President Robert Zimmer and ask whether the University would reprimand the UCPD.

“I am absolutely disgusted by the clear police brutality,” Wilmers wrote to his parents, who left messages with Zimmer and Dean of Students Susan Art. “I feel even less safe with the campus police than I already did.”

Wilmers forwarded a request to 20 of his friends to ask their parents to do the same, and the letter was soon shared with hundreds on campus.

Wilmers and others, including witnesses, have questioned whether the incident was racially motivated—Dawson is black—and plan to question administrators about police action tomorrow.

Baldwin, Dawson’s friend, said students have come to her with their own stories of alleged racial discrimination by the UCPD, but she told them they should air their grievances at today’s meeting.

“When something unjust happens, you feel strongly that you should stand up, no matter how much time passes. This is one of those instances,” she said. “Most of the parties feel just as strongly as we did Wednesday evening, and will continue to feel strongly.”

­­­—Additional reporting by Asher Klein