Baker University Center didn’t close on Monday night.
Instead, Ohio University officials chose to keep the doors open past midnight and allow about 100 students to occupy the fourth floor of Baker and continue protesting the decision of the Michael Brown case.
Despite the threat of arrest, dozens of students promised to remain in Baker after midnight, the time the building closes on weekdays. University officials said they kept Baker open to allow students to process and protest the grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, in August.
Students marched from the Civil War Memorial on College Green to Baker after that announcement came around 9 p.m. Signs that read “I am Mike Brown” and “No Justice, No Peace” laid on the ground in front of protesters. Banners that read “Stop Killing Us” and “Black Lives Matter” hung from the building’s fifth floor.
The students congregated at the top of Baker, and some stayed for hours to discuss problems with race and diversity at the university.
The sit-in — promoted on YikYak and Twitter with “#OccupyBaker” — was the culmination of months of protest and anger at OU about racism and a lack of diversity from minority students and others. Students protested earlier Fall Semester on College Green multiple times and expressed their feelings at Student Senate meetings and other venues. OU students, some of whom attended Monday’s sit-in, even traveled to Ferguson to participate in protests.
Baker employees remained in the building through the night as students occupied the building until at least 2 a.m. Tuesday. No OU officials interfered with the protest.
OU Police Department Chief Andrew Powers told The Post that officers were not needed at Baker and the police respected the protesters while they dealt with an “emotional issue.”
Students, including members of the Black Student Union and OU’s NAACP chapter, had a dry-erase board where they wrote and agreed upon several demands for OU officials, including having cultural competency classes and increasing diversity on campus.
At 10:30 p.m., students voted and decided to stay and occupy the lobby area. Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones announced around 11:45 p.m. that OUPD and Baker staff would, under normal circumstances, clear the building at midnight.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, I’m personally staying the rest of the evening,” Halie Chrysler-Barr, a sophomore studying communication and public advocacy, said after the announcement. “Not because of the issue of race, we are Bobcats united.”
Many students decided to stay after midnight, awaiting a police presence. Ryan Lombardi, vice president for Student Affairs, announced around 12:30 a.m. Baker would remain open.
“We made the decision to leave the building open for those students to continue their healing and processing of the situation,” Lombardi said. “It seemed like the right thing to do to allow them a safe space to do that peacefully. I love seeing when students are passionate and care about things deeply.”
Students chanted, sang songs, clapped, yelled and spoke passionately through a megaphone at the top of Baker’s escalators to express their displeasure about the grand jury’s decision.
“I came out here because if the same thing that happened to Mike Brown had happened to me, the officer would have been indicted, because I’m a middle class white woman,” said Blair Morton, a sophomore studying communication studies. “I think we treat black boys from underprivileged areas like they are problems before they’re people.”
Several custodians at the scene expressed indifference to the protest, as some of their shifts run until 5 a.m.
“If it weren’t for the students we wouldn’t have a job,” said John Ronan, a custodian at Baker. “Just because of one incident staying longer, it doesn’t affect us.”
Post staff writers and editors Megan Henry, Matt Cudahy, Julia Fair, Emma Ockerman, Sam Howard, Will Drabold, Jeremy Hill, Xander Zellner, Joshua Lim and Dina Berliner contributed to this article