Pitt to work with some students to drop charges

By Liz Navratil and Estelle Tran

The district attorney’s office is dropping the charges against four Pitt students who were… The district attorney’s office is dropping the charges against four Pitt students who were arrested during G-20 demonstrations last week, and Pitt police plan to meet with others.

Pitt police chief Tim Delaney said he will meet with students who were arrested for disorderly conduct or failure to disperse last Thursday or Friday to discuss their arrests.

Delaney said District Attorney Stephen Zappala dropped charges against four Pitt students who were arrested during the demonstrations for disorderly conduct or failure to disperse.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for Zappala, said the district attorney will hear about 50 cases this morning, including “four [that] involve Pitt students that our review indicates were used as pawns by individuals who came to the city with the intent of doing damage and then attempted to blend in with the students and deflect blame for their behavior onto the students.”

Delaney said he’ll only meet with students who were arrested for failure to disperse or disorderly conduct — the two most common offenses — in Oakland on Thursday and Friday. Those who were arrested more than once or have different charges will not be able to discuss their charges.

Delaney said he doesn’t have the power to dismiss students’ charges, but that he can recommend that Zappala drop them. Delaney said he met with Zappala today and has “been working hard to get this resolved.”

“If you think about it, I’m not doing a very popular thing in law enforcement, but what’s right is right,” Delaney said.

Delaney said he’s still cross-checking the list of people arrested last week with Pitt’s databases, so he’s not sure how many students were arrested. So far, he said, it looks like about a quarter of the 188 people who were arrested during G-20 demonstrations were Pitt students.

At least six of those students had extenuating circumstances, Delaney said. He mentioned one student who had a hearing impairment. Delaney asked the student to get a note from his doctor. He said he knew of at least one student who had swiped out of Benedum Hall and was on his way home.

Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey read a statement from the University at last night’s Student Government Board meeting, telling students who were arrested that they could discuss their charges with Pitt police.

Students who were arrested and their supporters filled the SGB boardroom. Many of the attendees shared testimonies from last week’s protests. Their stories took up most of the meeting, which lasted two hours.

SGB president Kevin Morrison and board members Andrew Freeman, Lance Bonner and Nila Devanath listened to Pitt student Nicole Boss’ testimony.

She described how the ties on her wrist serving as handcuffs were too tight.

“I was called an *sshole. I was hit with a baton, and then I was tackled and dragged behind a police van by like five police officers. And they continued to force me onto my knees and then jumped on my back,” she said, adding that she suffered wrist and thumb injuries from the tight wrist ties.

Pitt senior Matt Schultz described his own experience with the police.

“I was terrified Friday night. I didn’t know when this was going to end. I had to run away with my hands up like a criminal,” he said. “I’ve never been more disgusted in my life.”

Students cheered and clapped at the suggestion for the resignation of city Police chief Nathan Harper, before they were quickly silenced by Morrison.

Pitt sophomore Seth Bush said there was a “severe lack of communication” between the police and students. He said that students should understand what tactics the police would use.

“Riots might happen again. Now that they have precedents for all these technologies to be used — the LRAD, tear gas, OC gas, rubber bullets — who knows what they’re going to be comfortable using in the future?” he said.

Morrison said that the University and the out-of-town police could have been better prepared to handle the demonstrations in Oakland.

“You are not working with a normal city population. You are working with a student population,” he said, adding that police should have been told where the residence halls were so that students wouldn’t be trapped out of their homes.

“As an institution as a whole, there wasn’t enough thought put into how we can protect our students,” Morrison said.

Some students discussed a petition calling for students’ charges to be dropped and the possibility of a speak-out event on Thursday.

Morrison said that he would do what he could to help bring a request for University space into fruition.

“The last thing we want is an unpermitted rally,” he said.