SF Commune activists protest dorm arrests at SF State

Coburn Palmer

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SF Commune activists and SF State students gathered at Malcolm X Plaza today in protest of “police brutality” during the removal and arrest of six non-residents from Mary Ward Hall last night.

The group of approximately 50 protesters held signs that read “End Police Brutality” and “SFPD Used Excessive Force on Mary Ward Hall Guests” while chanting, “Shame on them.”

“Everything that happened yesterday was wrong and these people shouldn’t be punished for doing nothing wrong,” Tiffany, who invited the non-residents to her dorm room, said. “They are activists, but they’re just people.”

Mary Ward Hall was evacuated last night after a homeless man, who was with a group of non-residents, pulled a fire alarm second floor residents Miranda Gonzales and Kenneth Anyanwu said.

There was a total of eight to ten “welcomed guests” according to psychology major Luis Garcia, who had spent time with them before arrests.

The group of non-residents were a part of a squatters collective called SF Commune that was evicted from an abandoned church by SFPD on May 15 according to CBS Local.

Police had followed the group and dorm resident Tiffany from a commune at Capitol Avenue and Broad Street back to SF State according to Tiffany, who refused to give her last name.

After the evacuation, a small group of people gathered outside the University Housing Business Office to protest against “police brutality,” chanting, “What law was broken today?”

During today’s protest, students passed out leaflets telling their side of the story, explaining that the non-residents who were arrested were invited guests. They further claimed the arrestees are currently not receiving medical attention while in jail.

Of the six arrested non-residents, Andre Estrada was arrested for drinking in public. Kevin Dougherty, Carlos Cruz, Tanya Kostenko, Jonathan Urrutia and Melissa Nahlen were arrested for resisting a peace officer, trespassing, conspiracy, battery of a police officer and “lynching,” which are attempts to remove a person from custody of a peace officer according to University spokesperson Ellen Griffin.

Beyond the arrest charges, the non-residents’ stay at Mary Ward Hall violated several University housing agreements Griffin said.

One overnight guest is allowed per host resident. The maximum room occupancy is five people. SFPD told Griffin two dogs were with non-residents, and only service animals are allowed in University housing.

School policy states that dorm residents must sign their guests in, however protester Nick Camacho said the rule is rarely enforced.

“They’re acting as if they always followed it,” Camacho said. “Every single guest you have over during the day isn’t signed in.”

Speaking through a megaphone, protest leaders spoke to the gathered crowd and asked for anyone who took video of last night’s event to come forward. Students like Diego Sanchez gathered to watch the protest and try to discover the truth about what happened.

“I heard a bunch of rumors on the internet and didn’t know what to believe,” Sanchez said.

Not every student watching the demonstration sympathized with the protesters, however. Several students said they thought the protest was misguided, including 18-year-old freshmen Arlen Cuevas.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened, but there are bigger issues to worry about,” Cuevas said. “Saying all cops are pigs is just like saying all Muslims are terrorists.”

The demonstration then marched to the Administration Building to confront campus leaders.

Protesters dispersed around 4 p.m. from the Administration Building. Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell issued a statement for protesters at 5:30 p.m. in Malcolm X Plaza. A dialogue between protesters, students and Greenwell ensued.

Cesar Chavez Student Center cancelled its extended hours and closed at 10 p.m. tonight because of a “building emergency.” A CCSC information desk representative later elaborated early closing was due to arrests at Mary Ward Hall on May 16.

This week and next week CCSC has extended 24 hour weekdays for finals studying, but extended hours are as of now indefinite the CCSC information desk representative said.

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The arrest of six non-resident guests at Mary Ward Hall sparked a response from SF Commune activists at SF State’s Malcolm X Plaza.


Update: 3:15 p.m.

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SF Commune activists have moved protests to the Administration Building.


Update: 3:33 p.m.

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SF Commune activists are locked from the fifth floor (President’s offices) of the Administration Building.


Update: 3:43 p.m.

Here are the live tweets from the Administration Building.


Update: 3:48 p.m.

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Update: 5:44 p.m.

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University officials issue a statement to protesters of the dorm arrests in Malcolm X Plaza.