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U. Wisc. sit-in crashed; 48 students arrested

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 21, 2000
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About 50 demonstrators participating in a sit-in at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were arrested at 4 a.m. yesterday when university, city and county police stormed the building in full riot gear.

The UW sit-in was protesting the university's membership in the Fair Labor Association

According to UW police, 54 demonstrators were arrested, while students counted 48 arrestees.

Jennie Mahalick, a University of Arizona history senior and Students Against Sweatshops member, was participating in the sit-in and witnessed the event.

Earlier Saturday evening, UW Chancellor David Ward spoke with members of the sit-in stating that he could not be reached until Monday and allowed them to occupy the secretary's office.

According to demonstrators, Ward returned later and angrily stated that he would not allow them to remain in Bascom Hall, where Ward's office is located.

"He said, 'I will not negotiate with these kids'," Mahalick said.

Sarah Spohn, a Wisconsin student participating in the sit-in, was on security shift until 3:45 a.m. when two police cars and five officers arrived.

At that time "everyone mobilized," said Spohn, to prepare for the police to enter the building.

Soon there were more than 10 police vehicles. Several demonstrators did a head count, estimating about 50 officers.

The demonstrators were then forcefully removed from the building.

"A girl was being dragged down the concrete steps, her knees were hitting every step," Spohn said.

All those arrested were charged with unlawful assembly and had bail set at $400. Sixteen were also charged with resisting arrest, adding $300 to their bail, Spohn said.

Ward had announced - along with Michigan and Indiana - that UW would leave the FLA for an interim period.

In addition to withdrawing from the FLA, he stated his intentions to join the Worker Rights Consortium - a corporation-free factory monitoring system - under certain conditions.

The language used in Ward's agreement is what prompted the demonstrators to remain sitting-in.

"We consider these victories, but not completely what we've been asking for," Spohn said. "We're still asking for full membership."

Maria Roeper, WRC coordinator, said she was upset at the way the sit-in was handled by the police.

"I think its really sad the police have resorted to violence in a peaceful protest," Roeper said.

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