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Police officers surround protesters in Baker Center on February 1.

Demonstrators start fundraiser for court fees, hold sing-in event

When police released Rob Miller and other demonstrators from custody Wednesday night, he said a group of waiting people greeted them with handshakes and hugs.

“Honestly, it was a little like finishing a race,” he said.

Miller, a junior studying electrical engineering and information and telecommunications systems, was one of 70 demonstrators detained on trespassing charges at a sit-in at Baker University Center. The demonstrators called on Ohio University President Roderick McDavis to make OU a sanctuary campus.  

Trespassing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Each person charged with trespassing Wednesday faces a maximum fine of $250 and a maximum jail sentence of 30 days.

A news release OUPD posted on Twitter stated that the demonstration impeded foot traffic and created “an unsafe condition.”

When police released the demonstrators, Miller said staff from Student Legal Services took down their contact information. Then he learned that someone had already started a legal fund for those that were detained.

An online fundraiser Carly Pretzel, a junior studying political science, started Wednesday has been shared 3,000 times and has raised more than $7,000 of its $17,500 goal.

Pretzel sat in the demonstration until police began detaining people. Then she left to get medical cards and phone numbers in preparation for her own detainment. When she came back up the escalator and saw how quickly officers were detaining her peers, she realized she’d just be getting detained to prove a point.

“I was watching 70 people that I consider very close friends and incredibly intelligent, smart, empathetic people being pulled away by police,” she said.

So instead she went home and started the fundraiser.

Pretzel hopes the $17,500 will cover the fines of the 70 detainees, and that some of them will contest their charges. She thinks the resulting trials could attract more media attention.

Pat McGee, managing attorney of Student Legal Services and Athens city councilman, arrived at Baker after the detainments took place. He said he is meeting with some of the detained students this weekend to talk about the legal process ahead of them.

“I know a lot of people are worried,” he said. “I know a lot of people have doubts.”

Student Legal Services will still provide services to students who waived the optional fee. The office will “arrange something reasonable,” McGee said.

At about 5 p.m. Thursday, another group holding signs gathered on the fourth floor of Baker Center. They sang songs including “Lean on Me” and “This Land is Your Land” in support of the people detained Wednesday.

Patty Stokes, an assistant professor of women and gender studies, helped organize the sing-in to support the demonstrators detained Wednesday. She said in light of Trump’s policies, it is important to “stand up in the name of humanity and decency.”

“That to me shouldn’t be a political thing, but apparently it is now,” she said.

Powers and two other OUPD officers watched the singing from a distance. The demonstrators moved to the fifth floor balcony to avoid blocking traffic, and kept singing until about 5:30 p.m.

@baileygallion

bg272614@ohio.edu

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