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U. Wisconsin student activists released on bail

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 22, 2000
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All demonstrators arrested at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Sunday morning during a police raid that ended the four-day anti-Fair Labor Association sit-in have been released on bail.

Money came from university and community organizations to bail out the 54 students, faculty and community leaders arrested for unlawful assembly, said Adam Klause - chair of the UW student body - who was also charged with resisting arrest.

"Everybody got out of jail last night," Klause said. "All the money came in from groups like the Teaching Assistants Association and other community members."

Prior to the police raid, UW Chancellor David Ward agreed to leave the FLA and join the Worker Rights Consortium along with the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

The UW sit-in began as an attempt to persuade Ward to withdraw from the FLA as well as create a similar agreement to the one signed by University of Arizona President Peter Likins last April following a 10-day Students Against Sweatshops sit-in.

Those mandates were the creation of a living wage, increased student input into human and labor rights discussions, academic amnesty for all missed classes due to the sit-in and an apology from the police for the use of pepper spray on the first day of the sit-in.

In a press release distributed Friday from the UW office of news and public affairs, Ward stated that UW "is playing a key role in national initiatives aimed at ending the use of sweatshop labor."

This announcement was made without ever contacting the WRC, although Ward said in a statement Saturday that UW membership had already been secured.

"I have agreed to end our affiliation with the Fair Labor Association and have been successful in working out an agreement with the presidents of the universities of Michigan and Indiana to participate in framing the Worker Rights Consortium," Ward stated in a second press release.

The success of the sit-in was not announced by those participating, but by the administrators, said John Hamilton, WORT Madison community radio broadcaster.

"There were no negotiations," Hamilton said. "There was a lot of press strategizing, they announced victories and the students hadn't said anything."

The WRC was created by the United Students Against Sweatshops to be a corporation-free monitoring system that would serve as an alternative to the FLA. The UW sit-in follows similar ones at the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan.

The language of Ward's statement worried Maria Roeper, WRC coordinator.

"I don't know what they meant by that," Roeper said. "They haven't detailed that for me, it's a big statement."

The press release was distributed Saturday, and on Sunday the sit-in was forcefully ended.

Both sides argue whether UW administrators' actions were excessive.

"The solution was out of proportion to the problem," said Frank Emspak, at UW School for Workers professor. "As a faculty person I'm surprised with the overreaction."

While Likins said that he did not know enough about the situation to comment on the actions of the UW administration, he expressed concern about changing student tactics.

"I see an escalation across the nation from persuasion to conversion," Likins said. "As my track record shows, I won't take that step (police involvement) without serious provocation."

UA spokeswoman Sharon Kha would not comment on the actions taken by UW administrators and police without more information.

"The most important thing is to keep communication clear and open on this campus," said Kha.

Lydia Lester, SAS spokeswoman and linguistics sophomore, said she doesn't believe Wisconsin arrests will have any effect on student activism here.

"I think most students are prepared for this sort of thing to happen," Lester said.

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