Police arrested Roger Sikes, a second-year student in the Rollins School of Public Health, as well as six others yesterday on grounds of trespassing the Quadrangle. The group, which also included members of Students and Workers in Solidarity, refused to move out of the tents to protest Sodexo’s alleged actions in condoning labor misrule.
The Emory Police Department (EPD) arrested seven individuals — including four Emory students, all of whom were protesting the alleged mistreatment of Sodexo’s employees — on grounds of trespassing yesterday after they refused to vacate the Quadrangle despite University requests.
The group, which included members of Students and Workers in Solidarity (SWS), refused to move as part of an ongoing protest against Sodexo, the campus food provider. Those inside the tent who refused to move were escorted to the DeKalb County Jail by EPD. The other three students who were arrested were students at different universities or colleges such as Georgia State University.
According to an official University statement, students set up a cluster of tents and canopies five days ago following their evacuation from a staged sit-in at the administration building on Wednesday. Administrators cited a “long-standing University policy [that] clearly prohibits the unauthorized use of the Quadrangle for such purposes.”
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life John Ford explained in the University statement that University policy requires that people who use the Quad must apply two weeks in advance to get a permit from Meeting Services.
In the case of the student protestors, the University stated that they had received no permit other than for the afternoon rally on April 20, which did not apply for additional events or activities.
College sophomore and one of the leaders within the SWS movement Alex Zavell — who explained that SWS’s lawyer read the University’s reasoning for removing them from the Quad — said the stipulation should not apply to them.
Zavell explained the University’s rules either apply to a group of more than 50 people who need to apply two weeks in advance prior to getting a permit from Meeting Services, or the rule applies to a group of under 50 people who have neither food nor music, in which case they require one week to reserve the Quad space.
Zavell said he understood that neither of the University’s stipulations apply to the protestors because they were comprised of less than 50 people who do have food and music.
“There was no stated justification for the police to mobilize,” he said. “Administrators have shown a willingness to allow the police to enforce power and shut down student use. It’s disrespectful, especially when we’ve kept the Quad clean, and it was all very respectful. I literally do not believe that Emory is an example of courageous inquiry and ethical engagement.”
A small number of protestors refused to pack up the tents after workers from Campus Services broke down other tents at approximately 8 p.m., which encouraged protestors to move into the last tent.
A crowd of students gathered around the last remaining tent while police officers began trying to take the remaining protestors out of the tent.
SWS members carried signs around the crowd chanting, “Who do you serve, who do you protect?”
Six people were removed one by one, with police either assisting the individuals off of the Quad and into police cars or carrying them.
The last individual refused to walk to the car and was turned onto his side where police bound his hands before escorting him off the Quad.
College sophomore Ronni Shalem said she was shocked at the spectacle.
“I feel completely embarrassed to be attending a University that doesn’t follow ethical and democratic laws,” she said. “It’s scary that I’m on a campus that will deny me my freedom of speech when my voice needs to be heard.”
Last week’s sit-in ended with police officers repeatedly asking protesters to leave the administration building once the doors locked down that same evening.
University policy prohibits unauthorized personnel from remaining in the building past 6:30 p.m. Emory officials, followed by Emory police officers, warned students that their continued presence past building close-down could result in conduct violations or arrest, but neither ensued.
Students decided to move to the Quad once an arrest squad arrived on the fourth floor of the building.
The protest itself was preceded by rallies and letters to University President James W. Wagner’s Cabinet, expressing concern over Sodexo’s labor practices on campus, according to an April 22 article in the Wheel.
Since earlier in the year, members of SWS have alleged that Sodexo ignores its mistreatment of workers.
The administration has maintained its response that the University’s responsibility to intervene in conflicts between Sodexo and its employees does not precede both parties’ responsibility to seek out established federal avenues or company internal outlets for complaints.
No formal complaints have been filed yet.
Arts & Living Editor Arianna Skibell contributed reporting.
— Contact Roshani Chokshi.