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MSU police deny accusations

April 23, 2007

MSU administrators and police denied allegations that arrests made at a Thursday evening event were the result of racial profiling this weekend.

Five people were arrested at an on-campus speech given by the president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Protesters who attended the event claimed Friday that the five arrests, four of which were of MSU students, were racially motivated.

All the people arrested are Chicano and Latino, and they said police used unnecessary force during the arrests.

The two most severe cases have been forwarded to the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office for review. The other three who were arrested were issued tickets and must appear in court within 10 days.

MSU police Chief Jim Dunlap said Sunday that the people who disrupted the event were the ones asked to leave, and the ones who refused to leave were arrested.

"It's really hard to say that you profiled when everybody had the same opportunity to leave the event," Dunlap said. "I would be at a loss to figure out how that breaks down into profiling.

"I'm well aware that afterward, people will make accusations. The bottom line is that what we did was correct and appropriate. Every time somebody is arrested, they try to transpose responsibility to someone else."

Responding to criticism from students, Dunlap said he never told students Thursday that the event was being canceled.

But police overseeing the event told the audience it was being shut down and everyone would have to leave.

The event featured Minuteman Co-founder and President Chris Simcox. The Minuteman corps is a group of citizens who claim to protect the U.S. border from illegal immigrants. The speech was sponsored by MSU's chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom and MSU College Republicans.

On Friday, about 50 students gathered on the steps of the Administration Building to voice their anger and concern with how MSU administrators and police handled Thursday's event.

"We are a country that promotes free speech," said history sophomore Raul Perez, who was arrested on a felony charge of resisting arrest and obstruction. "Everybody that is standing with me right now was exercising their right to free speech and got arrested for it."

Perez said administrators stood by and watched students get harassed.

"I want my university officials to explain to me why this keep happening to me — why I was choked by police officers," he said. "Why did it take eight police officers to take me down? I'm not that big of a guy."

MSU spokesman Terry Denbow said he did not think the arrests were related to race.

"I know there was no profiling or targeting last night because the university would not accept that kind of attitude on the part of police or any one of us," he said. "I can be sure of that."

Two students were held on charges of resisting and obstructing and violating a university ordinance that prohibits any person from disrupting the normal operation of any properly authorized university activity.

Dunlap said those two could face a maximum two-year jail sentence and whatever fines the court may impose.

The other three were charged only for the ordinance violation and could face up to 90 days in jail plus a fine.

Denbow also argued any claims that the university supported YAF, MSU College Republicans or Simcox.

"We endorse the right of people to bring speakers to campus — to be openly challenged and questioned," Denbow said. "That's part of the speakers policy and part of our belief system. You must be able to be challenged in a way that is free of intimidation, disruption or prior restraint."

On Friday, the students listed six demands, including removal of charges, compensation for victims, a public apology from the university and police, and removal of YAF and the MSU College Republicans.

"We refuse to back down until we receive all of those demands," interdisciplinary studies and community relations junior Ileana Cortez said Friday.

Dunlap also said he refuses the claims that his department acted inappropriately.

"We're not apologizing for doing our job and doing it appropriately," he said.

Maximo Anguiano was the only nonstudent arrested. He was confident any charges against him would be dropped, but the psychological damage done could not be erased so easily, he said.

"My lawyers are salivating at this now," the 23-year-old Lansing resident said Friday. "But there's no feeling that can take away from the individual that I was with last night. When she saw me get taken away last night, she was bawling.

"And when my mother and my family saw my face on the news last night being taken into the police station … I've never done anything wrong in my entire life."

To hold YAF or the College Republicans accountable, students must take the proper steps, said Lee June, vice president for student affairs and services.

"Just because a person calls for a student organization to be disbanded, we can't do that," June said.

June said any students can contest that a registered student organization did not follow the "Outside Speakers Policy," outlined in Spartan Life.

"One of the things that the speakers policy says is that a speaker should not incite an audience to do 'XYZ,'" June said. "If there is a claim that can be brought forth that that was done, it will be investigated and taken appropriate action if the investigation turns to substantiate the allegations."

"Some people asked me why I stayed through the whole event," June said. "Some of the things I was interested in was whether or not the speaker would violate the policy and give us some avenues to take action."

Students plan to file for a hearing and set up a meeting with university officials to discuss Thursday's events, social relations sophomore Doug Schraufnagle said Friday.

Simcox allowed a question-and-answer session at the end of his presentation, following the policy, which Denbow and June said allowed the protesters their chance to speak out against Simcox.

"I heard some really good questions and some really poor answers, to be honest with you," Denbow said. "The speaker was challenged in a very, very good way, and I think that part of the program last night was education and leading to learning, and I do think that was indicative of why we have a policy.

"Challenge with facts, with information, with data. That is the way you win an argument."

Joey Nowak can be reached at nowakjo2@msu.edu. Colleen Maxwell can be reached at maxwel79@msu.edu.

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