Five students arrested at General Assembly rally
Five UNC-system students were arrested Wednesday at the N.C. General Assembly amid worldwide May Day protests.
The students — including UNC seniors Zaina Alsous and Carissa Morrison — were part of a pre-planned public disobedience act that aimed to protest budget cuts and tuition increases coming out of the legislature this session, said senior Matt Hickson, a member of UNC’s chapter of the N.C. Student Power Union.
Though the official charges were not known Thursday morning, General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver said he expects the students to be charged with disorderly conduct, and charges of assault on a government official are also possible.
Hickson said the students were released late Wednesday night after each posted bail between $500 and $1,000.
He said approximately 150 students from around North Carolina participated in the protests, which started with a 30- to 45-minute rally in the streets in front of the legislature — which the police allowed.
“After it was clear that the police were going to wait us out as long as possible, we decided we might as well go try to speak directly to legislators,” he said.
Hickson said the five students who were later arrested led the march to the building, where a line of police met them to keep them from entering.
“They tried to cross the line,” he said.
Alsous said she and the other students were aware of the risks of breaking through the line.
“We knew we were going to get arrested,” she said.
But she added that the police had no right to prevent her and the four other students from entering the building.
“It was totally arbitrary,” she said. “It’s a public building and it should be accessible to everyone.”
Weaver said arrests were made immediately after several protestors began pushing police officers.
There was increased security around the building because of the frequent protests associated with May Day, he said.
Alsous said one of the main concerns of the student protestors was Gov. McCrory’s proposed budget, which includes cuts for the UNC system that would total $139 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“Health care, rights in the workplace, even the right to vote, have all been attacked,” Alsous said in a video statement before the protest. “Now, we’re even seeing public education, normally a bedrock of our state, under devastating attack from those in power.”
She said she believes mass resistance is the only option to move state legislators to take action.
“If a few people are able to see what happened yesterday and want to take a stand as well, we’ve definitely done our job.”
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