A DeKalb County State Court judge has placed the case against the seven Students and Workers in Solidarity (SWS) protesters who were arrested last spring on the dead docket.
The judge's move, announced June 4, means that the prosecution has been postponed indefinitely but could be reinstated in the future, as the court has not issued a dismissal nor a termination of the prosecution in the accused party’s favor.
The Emory Police Department (EPD) arrested the seven SWS members, which included four Emory students, last April as they protested the alleged mistreatment of employers subcontracted by Sodexo, Emory’s food vendor. The arrests were the culmination of several days of SWS refusing to vacate the Quad, where they pitched tents and camped out in protest. Administrators cited a "long-standing University policy [that] clearly prohibits the unauthorized use of the Quadrangle for such purposes" as the reason for the arrest.
The Office of the DeKalb Solicitor-General originally pressed charges, which included an April 12, 2012 arraignment and a June 4 calendar call, at which time the judge placed the charges on the dead docket.
In a letter from SWS available on the organization's website, SWS called the judge's decision "a moment of great relief, filled with gratitude for the many family members, friends, professors and workers who have supported us throughout the last year as we dealt with the stress of facing criminal prosecution for nonviolent dissent on our own university campus."
According to Emiko Soltis, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate at the Laney Graduate School and one of the arrested students, Emory had the influence to drop the charges, but Senior Vice President and General Counsel Stephen Sencer said that the only prosecutor — the DeKalb County Solicitor — could dismiss the criminal accusations.
In a previous email to the Wheel
, Sencer explained that the administration would work with the arrested individuals to seek dismissal of the former charges by asking the students to commit to Emory's policies, including their facilities-use policies, in addition to agreeing not to bring a lawsuit against the University in connection with the events.
However, Soltis and Roger Sikes ('12R) refused, countering that they had no desire to sign away their voice.
Although the charges have been placed on the dead docket, Soltis said SWS is not satisfied because Emory still has not changed the status quo for sub-contracted workers. SWS has said the organization encourages the University to form a President's Commission on the Status of Class and Labor and to eliminate additional transportation and parking costs for all subcontracted workers by providing Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) passes.
"We will continue to build relationships and organize together until Emory University addresses the poverty jobs, intimidation and lack of dignity that exists in workplaces on our very own campus," Sikes wrote in an email to the Wheel
Communications and Executive Director Nancy Seideman wrote in an email to the Wheel
that Emory remains committed to strengthening dialogues on important issues, such as examining the reports made by the Committee on Class and Labor.
"We are looking forward to upcoming reports from the Committee on Class and Labor, which is examining the effect of class and status on the work experience at Emory, and a Task Force on Dissent, Protest and Community, which is proposing a set of principles designed to help the University community assess and develop policies on dissent and protest," she wrote. "We anticipate that the ideas, research and recommendations that come out of these collaborative, campus-wide projects will greatly enhance how we work and live together as a community."
The University said it would not comment further at this time.
— Contact Roshani Chokshi