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"Tuition Fees are Class War!" CUNY Brooklyn College Students Roughed Up By Police for Demanding Fairer Treatment

Calling for an end to policies that make college less accessible to lower-income students, CUNY activists held a peaceful sit-in that was violently broken up by police.

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During the scrum in the hallway, one student, Cecelia Adams, already walking with a cane after having her feet broken in a clash with cops at last fall's tuition fee protests at  CUNY's Baruch College, had her cane taken from her and thrown down the hall. A slim young woman, she told me she'd been grabbed by a cop who wouldn't let her go as she fought to breathe--”He was squeezing me to death”--and that she was on medical leave from the university after her injuries in last fall's actions, was supposed to start classes again in the summer but because of cutbacks, the university had cancelled 83 of its planned summer offerings.

 

"I think that it was made really clear that President Gould would rather lock down the campus and have students pushed out of academic buildings than answer any questions or engage in any dialogue," Isabelle Nastasia, another of the students involved in the action, told AlterNet later. She also reported being elbowed or punched in the stomach by the police.

The building wasn't shut down, exactly, but the police had blocked multiple stairwells and hallways. Those of us outside the cluster of students being shoved down the hall by baton-wielding officers were directed down one stairwell, and I followed a National Lawyers Guild green hat back up another set of stairs, but was then blocked by officers and told “It's not safe right now in there.” I asked “For whom?” but they declined to answer.

The students, Jeje said, were escorted by the police down another stairwell and outside. They followed the officers who had arrested one of their number, a girl named Julieta, who was shouting about being in pain as she was taken out. (Two students were arrested—Julieta and a student named Eric. No one knew, as of press time, what the charges against them were or how long they would be held, only that they'd been transferred to Central Booking.) 

Later that day, President Gould reportedly spoke to an American History class and was asked what happened with the action. "She said that folks were being inflammatory and violent and we crossed the line by trying to get into the office," Nastasia reported. "All we really wanted to know was what we can do to work together to fix the social conditions of the school that have been broken for a long time."

Back outside, a light rain was falling and I returned to talk with Adams, but was interrupted by an officer charging outside to shout at a student who'd muttered “Fuck you” as he passed. “I can make your life miserable!” he shouted at the student.

Out in the street, a group of students, many of whom had been in the bloc being dragged out by the police, struck up a chant of “Whose streets? Our streets!” even as more police officers walked past them and toward the building. I accompanied Adams, walking slow to regain her breath, and she told me “The only thing that started it was the first cop grabbing someone.” The action had been orderly, she noted, with the presence of the Lawyers Guild to ensure protection for the students.

As she turned to walk home, another student told Adams, “I'm so sorry that happened to you.” She shrugged, and said “Don't be sorry. I couldn't think of a better reason to be here.”

"It was the irony of the day," Jeje noted, "We talk about not having access, and then we physically see, through the excessive amounts of police force, how far they're willing to go to keep students from talking about their issues." 

 
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