Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Press Conference Tomorrow


Contact: Andrea Mueller FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(908) 463-7329

Walkout Coalition To Hold Press Conference Tomorrow to Support Rutgers Students Prosecuted for Protesting Iraq War:

Charges Especially Contentious as Walkout Was Widely Reported as Peaceful with Police Pleased

New Brunswick, NJ – Tuesday April 22, 2008 – Three Rutgers students, Erik Straub, a Rutgers College junior and member of Tent State University/Students for a Democratic Society, Suzan Sanal, a Douglass College junior and member of Rutgers Against the War, and Arwa Ibrahim, a Rutgers College senior, have been issued summons for activities that took place during the March 27, 2008 Rutgers Walk Out Against the War. These three students will be issuing a statement at a press conference immediately preceding their first trial date this coming Wednesday, April 23rd at 11:00AM during the Tent State University event located on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. The press conference will take place at the Vietnam War Memorial on Voorhees Mall.

The Walkout brought together about 600 Rutgers students and supporters, who walked out on their daily routine and rallied in protest of the war in Iraq. The Walkout culminated in a march, with an estimated 300 participants, that took a path through the streets of downtown New Brunswick and onto nearby highway Route 18.

Despite the fact that the action involved hundreds of students, police singled out only three for prosecution. Furthermore, while for the second year in a row the protest yielded no injuries, no arrests, and no incidents of vandalism or property damage, the New Brunswick Police Department is charging the three students with 'recklessly creating … a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by an act which serves no legitimate purpose.'

"91 Rutgers students will be shipped to Iraq beginning this month; Rutgers students are significantly more likely to be put into harm's way due to the criminally negligent actions of President Bush than they ever will be attending a protest in New Brunswick," replied Jean Pierre Mestanza, a member of the Walkout Coalition "The only hazardous and dangerous situation that has been created has been the result of the decision by the US government to invade Iraq." Mestanza went on to cite a recent report by the National Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected Defense Department research center, which referred to the Iraq war as "a major debacle."

Reactions among organizers of the Walkout have been mixed.

"I called my parents as soon as I found out," said a participant at the Walkout who wishes to remain anonymous. "I was worried when I heard they were prosecuting students because I was helping to organize during the march that day too. My job was mainly to walk around and make sure nothing got out of hand. One officer even thanked me after the event; I'm not sure if he opposed the war too or if he was just glad for the assistance we were providing by circulating through the crowd and keeping the situation calm and under control."

Other students took a different view.

"This is quite clearly selective political prosecution with the intent to intimidate organizers and prevent future protests from happening," said Adriel Bernal, a Walkout participant. "They don't want us protesting against the war even if we're being peaceful and nonviolent. If we can't even protest peacefully in our own city, it's clear that our voices will never be strong enough to reach those in power elsewhere."

"While they're busy putting students on trial, they should be arresting the real criminals: the architects of the war," Bernal concluded.

The Walkout Coalition has issued the following demands in regards to the charges against Arwa, Suzan, and Erik, which they hope will be echoed and supported by the residents of New Brunswick, the Rutgers community, and peace and justice advocates across the United States and beyond:

To the New Brunswick Prosecutor's Office: Drop all charges against the Rutgers students being prosecuted in relation to the 2008 Walkout Against the War.

To the City of New Brunswick: Students are being prosecuted for peacefully opposing the war. It is obvious that the voice of students is not being considered in City Hall. Therefore, we demand student seats on the New Brunswick City Council to represent our student neighborhoods. Student representation for our student wards! (http://www.empowernb.com/)

As for Erik Straub, one of the students being prosecuted, he is trying to take everything in stride. "We all want our sisters and brothers in the military to come home," Straub explained. "While I don't relish the idea of spending any time in a jail cell, countless others have sacrificed even more in this unjust war. I am convinced we will defeat these unjust charges, but whatever happens, I believe I have a moral imperative to do whatever is required from me in the nonviolent pursuit of freedom from occupation for the Iraqi people and an end to the war."

For more information, please contact Andrea Mueller at andrea@tentstate.com


Tara Betts said...

Please post information on who we should call or write AND what we should say to show our support for these students who were exercising their right to peacefully protest, if they were involved.

Andrea said...

To support us, please keep an eye on this page, as later today, we will post a petition for everyone to sign. In the meantime, if you can help us, we are looking to put together a team of lawyers, and need to raise some funds to help make that happen...
If you can help in this way, please visit a coalition member website:

www.tentstate.com to help!


Alex said...

I'm from NJ and currently go to Brandeis... we'll use our blog to get everyone to sign your petition. Good luck!
Find the post here.