Dozens of Protesters Arrested On Gallaudet President's Order

D.C. and Gallaudet University police officers carry Latoya Plummer, who was among the dozens of protesters arrested on campus.
D.C. and Gallaudet University police officers carry Latoya Plummer, who was among the dozens of protesters arrested on campus. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
By Susan Kinzie and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 14, 2006

Campus police arrested dozens of student demonstrators at Gallaudet University last night to reopen the famed college for the deaf after a three-day shutdown staged in a long-simmering protest over the appointment of a new president.

The arrests began shortly before 9 p.m., when police began carrying away students from a jeering throng that had been blocking the school's Sixth Street NE entrance. Students hollered and signed, "This is our school!" By early this morning, police said, about 80 had been arrested. Witnesses said many students were still awaiting arrest.

Teams of officers, acting on orders from President I. King Jordan and aided by interpreters in orange vests, picked up individual students, who went limp, and carried them to a D.C. police van.

The students were to be taken from the school, at 800 Florida Ave. NE, to a police training facility in Southwest Washington for processing, officials said.

The arrests brought to a head a bitter dispute that began in May between the administration and students angry about the appointment of then-provost Jane K. Fernandes as the university's next president. She is scheduled to replace Jordan, who is to step down in December.

Protesters expressed dislike for Fernandes, saying she was remote and divisive. They argued that other candidates, especially minorities, had been overlooked. And they called for her to step aside.

She has refused, saying she is the target of student extremists. And earlier yesterday, speaking to the protesters for the first time this week, she said: "This has gone on long enough."

About 7 p.m., Jordan announced to demonstrators at the school's main gate on Florida Avenue that they faced arrest if they did not disperse. "I deeply regret being forced to take this action," he said. "But the protesters have left me no choice."

Two hours later, after three warnings from campus Police Chief Melodye Batten-Mickens, arrests began at the Sixth Street entrance.

At the main gate, other students got word of the police action via text message. Some cried and embraced. Graduate student Ryan Commerson signed information to fellow students, telling them that demonstrators were being put in vans one by one.

"Dr. Jordan has gone and arrested his own students," Commerson said. "This means his legacy is gone."

Main gate protesters began organizing rides to pick up those who were arrested, and Commerson collected bail money from supporters who donated one-, five- and 10-dollar bills.

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