Nine people — including seven Binghamton University students — were arrested when an anti-war protest on the Vestal Parkway escalated into a confrontation with police shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday. Three students were jailed and held on $500 bail.
The charges included obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, resisting arrest (both Class A misdemeanors) and disorderly conduct (a violation).
Initial reports said ten people, many of them students, were arrested, but a press release from the Vestal Police Department listed nine individuals charged with arrest. Three of them, Andrew B. Epstein, Thomas A. Pieragastini, and David Bittner, all BU students, were jailed yesterday.
The students could face additional judicial sanctions from both the University and the Student Association, which has scheduled an emergency session for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 133 in the Old University Union.
About 60 people were at the rally, which started on campus at the fountain outside the Glenn G. Bartle Library. Several protesters decided to walk down to the Vestal Parkway, and walked eastbound, disrupting traffic. Just before the demonstrators reached University Plaza, the protesters clashed with police.
John Butler, Vestal’s chief of police, said officers tried to arrange for the protesters to “walk on the inside land down to the Plaza.” One student jumped into the passing lane, he said, and started jumping in front of a police car, causing the officer to “brake suddenly.”
When the officer got out of the car to take the student into custody, other protesters reportedly started antagonizing the officer, according to Butler.
Protesters started chanting “Let him go!” and “you are continuing the war by arresting our friends!” as others were arrested.
Pepper spray was used on several of the protesters “when the people who were arrested started to shove,” said John Butler, Vestal’s chief of police, adding that their eyes have since been “irrigated.”
“You mace a rapist, not students that are protesting,” said Alisa Selman, a senior sociology major who was at the protest and whose boyfriend was one of the first individuals detained.
Protesters disputed Butler’s version of events, and said that an otherwise peaceful protest was disrupted by an inappropriate use of force by police officers.
“As peaceful demonstrators, I really feel violated by the police today,” said Ben Elliott, a sophomore environmental science at BU.
Students depicted a protest which escalated quickly as protesters attempted to defend eachother.
“It was a nonviolent protest,” said Seyma Bayram, a sophomore at BU who was attending her first protest. “When you try to help your friends , they start beating you too or pepper spray you or threaten to arrest you.”
The protest tied up traffic eastbound, though there are reports of at least one car accident on the westbound lane of the Parkway.
The demonstration was organized in part by the Experimental Media Organization as an anti-war rally to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, though members from Veterans of Foreign Wars and Veterans for Peace were also present.
“We’re engaging in a peaceful protest to raise awareness on the unethical occupation in Iraq,” said Elliott. “We are here trying to spread the idea of this unethical violence. The last thing we wanted was violence.”
Check www.bupipedream.com for more updates. Alana Casanova-Burgess contributed reporting for this story.