Noah Goodwin’s freshman year at the University of Mary Washington isn’t ending with fond memories and flipping through course catalogs for next semester.
He spent an evening in the Rappahannock Regional Jail on Wednesday along with fellow student Adam Wander, 20, and Fredericksburg resident Yanina “Nina” Angelini, 26, who all were arrested by state police for refusing to leave a sit-in in support of divesting the school’s endowment from fossil fuel corporations.
All three protesters were released after about four hours, each on a $1,500 bond. They were charged with trespassing, a class-one misdemeanor, and have a hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 30 in Fredericksburg General District Court.
Godwin still plans to spend his next three years on the Fredericksburg campus, but the 19-year-old Arlington native is concerned about how he and his classmates were treated.
“It all happened really fast,” he said. “I saw [Angelini] arrested. She is giving a lot for our movement, so it was important for someone to stand with her.”
Goodwin said he hit his head when the van transporting them to jail took a turn, because he was not strapped in.
“This is a public university and it is not acceptable to treat students this way,” Goodwin said. “The cornerstone of the university is its students.”
Wander, a Fairfax resident who spent his birthday evening in jail, claimed he never stopped moving toward the exit when he was arrested.
“I was filming with my cell phone and maybe was less aware of my surroundings,” he said. “I was closer to the police, but at no point was I immobile. I never stopped moving until [the arresting officer] grabbed me.”
He called the university’s actions “really unusual and a bit dastardly.”
At 5 p.m., a letter signed by Doug Searcy, vice president for student affairs, and Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance, warned the protesters to leave and remove all belongings or be considered trespassers subject to police intervention.
The school cited safety concerns from personal possessions crowding the hallway where the students sat and slept.
At 6:30 p.m., UMW Police Chief Michael Hall entered the hall where about 40 students were chanting, and gave a first warning. He said protesters who did not start to leave in the next minute would be subject to arrest.
Goodwin, Wander and Angelini remained while the rest of the group left, still chanting.
Zakaria Kronemer, co-founder of Divest UMW, said the group plans to stage a protest at the board of visitors meeting today.
Divest UMW is working to raise legal fees for the protesters who were arrested. They have raised about $1,000 so far through an online fundraising page.
“Regardless of the issue itself, divestment, we need to really as a campus community acknowledge the injustice enacted by the administration and BOV,” he said. “It is never acceptable to arrest students and remove them from nonviolent protest.”
The board took up divestment at its Thursday meeting while discussing approval of minutes for an executive committee meeting in March where Rector Holly Cuellar decided not to create a subcommittee to consider divestment, effectively stopping the proposal.
Member Carlos del Toro, said that though he is not a member of the executive committee and understands that Cuellar can create a subcommittee or not, he feels it’s incorrect to state that the entire board supported her decision.
“I, as one member of this board, think additional recommendations should be made considering divestment,” he said. “I believe there needs to be further discussion. I believe I am not alone in this opinion.”
Board member Edd Houck agreed and said he doesn’t believe the board has acted at all. He asked for further clarification in the minutes presented.
“I spoke out in support of a divestment subcommittee and that is not reflected here,” he said.
The board will talk further about the Divest UMW arrests at its meeting Friday.