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Milwaukee 16 Say 'Not Guilty!'

By Jacob Flom

Milwaukee, WI – The Milwaukee 16 went to court to plead not guilty, April 15. Outside, a host of TV cameras and news crews were covering their case. When asked to comment on the case, the lawyers and arrestees demanded, “Drop the charges!”

The Milwaukee 16, many who are members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), were arrested at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) on March 4 while protesting for education rights. On that day, police tried to shut down a powerful demonstration of 200 students, workers and faculty members. The protest was outside an administration building and involved students delivering petitions as part of the National Day of Action to Defend Education.

The March 4 education protest, led by the UWM Education Rights Campaign, ended with police pepper-spraying and arresting protesters, members of the press, the student government president, union organizers and bystanders. The UWM police chief targeted one African-American student for arrest and was caught on video saying, “You’re the perfect person to arrest.” Most of the arrested students were charged with unlawful assembly for gathering outside Chancellor Santiago’s office.

Professors and faculty members have been vocal in their support of the Milwaukee 16. The School of Letters and Sciences faculty, the School of Education faculty and the School of Architecture and Urban Planning faculty passed resolutions calling for Chancellor Carlos Santiago to drop the charges against the 16. In addition to the widespread campus support, a well-respected team of lawyers volunteered to represent each of the 16 in court.

The Education Rights Campaign is demanding that highly paid administrators take cuts from their six-figure salaries before cutting staff and forcing furlough days on low-paid workers and faculty. Tuition at UWM has doubled in the past decade as state funding gets cut again and again. The administration continues to sell off pieces of the public university to private corporations.

Chancellor Santiago, in a March meeting, agreed to participate in a forum hosted by the Education Rights Campaign to address the affects of the economic crisis on the university. Since then, the chancellor has created multiple delays in an attempt to avoid his commitment to the university body. This process has proven to many students and faculty that the chancellor isn’t serious about addressing education rights issues.

The Education Rights Campaign continues to build momentum. Their slogans include: “Education is a right!” and “Chop from the top!” Now the campus coalition is adding a new one, “Drop the charges against the Milwaukee 16!” SDS promises to put the pressure on Chancellor Santiago to stop education cuts and treat students with respect.The March 4 education protest, led by the UWM Education Rights Campaign

#MilwaukeeWI #InJusticeSystem #StudentsForADemocraticSocietySDS #March4thMovement