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STUDENTS GATHER TO CLAIM PUBLIC SPACE

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Protesters gathered outside of Twin Towers East over their right to use the space in front of the dorm.

Daniel Calwell, protest organizer, emphasized that the area was a public space. “There have been a few incidences with people hanging out at the corner, but they aren’t law violating incidences,” Calwell said. “Because it’s a public space, these incidences have to be treated as isolated incidences. You can’t just ban a public space because something bad happened there; it would be like going to Riverfront Park and just shutting it down because homeless people sleep there or because people sell drugs there.”

Calwell said he used fliers to spread word about the protest, but thinks word of mouth was the most effective way to let other students know about the gathering. “There’s a lot of people who sit at the corner and those people have a lot of friends, and I told them to let people know,” Calwell said. “It isn’t a significant problem in the grand scheme of things, but it matters to us and it matters now and we want to change it.”

Some students said they have had negative experiences with the officers who come to the area to disperse the small crowds that gather outside the building.

Student Tehmihya Walker recalled an incident with police she said left a bad taste in her mouth.

“I was having a personal altercation with these guys who basically threatened to kill me,” Walker said. “Two cops on bikes approached and asked me to step away from them [the men], so I did. They started to argue with me, so I argued back. The officer told me to shut up, or he was going to taze me, so I stopped talking.”

Walker said the police continued to interrogate her, even after the incident had stopped. “They told me I needed to get off campus because I was smoking on the corner. I complied and made my way to the middle of the street on Fifth Avenue, where there was no traffic and the cop threatened to taze me again if I didn’t get out of the street,” Walker said. “I walked off campus to finish smoking, then returned to the corner to calm myself down because I was very upset over what the cop said to me. I just wish I could still smoke or even hangout at the corner.”

Some students said they are worried they could lose a nice spot that means a lot to them.

“What scares me is that this could be shut down, taking away a great social spot for students,” student Corey Bond said. “The first week I came to Marshall, I thought ‘How am I going to make friends?’ If I wouldn’t have come to the corner, I wouldn’t have made the many friends I have today.”

Students cite confusing directions from police officers as one of the many worries they have regarding the corner. Student Hannah Nelson had been told contradictory information from an officer who was dispersing a crowd.

“The cops came about three times within the hour last night and told us to leave,” Nelson said. “I asked the officer ‘Where else could we go smoke or even hangout? This is a public area.’ The cops told us to go around back behind the building, literally on campus. There’s no smoking on campus and yet he wants us to go there.”

When the protest began, Calwell said there were around 45 people participating.

“If they’re not going to come when there’s 45 people out here, I would be pretty surprised to see them come out when there’s the traditional 10 people out here,” Calwell said. “We all saw the cops tonight several times make eye contact with us. I think we were pretty successful if we were able to send a message to the cops, keeping them away with this amount of people.”

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected] Nick Morton can be contacted at [email protected]

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