January 29, 2007

UCF SDS cited for trespassing

Orlando, FL — January 10th, 2007. [written by eric eingold]
On January 10, 2007, the University of Central Florida Police Department issued a citation for trespassing, threatened arrest, and expulsion to, UCF student Eric Eingold and issued a Student Conduct Referral to two other UCF students, Patrick DeCarlo and Jeff Grim, for refusing to move to a “free assembly area” in front of the UCF Student Union, though the UCF Golden Rule clearly states that SDS members were in a free assembly area. The police officers were called to the Student Union by the Union management after members of the Central Florida Students for a Democratic Society refused to move when asked twice by Union Management after setting up “Free Store,” which SDS has done regularly over the last semester. Free Store is an event where students lay out old clothes, books, records, and even blenders today, in front of the Union to pass out to students for free. The Free Store has been widely successful, and donations from the UCF Student Body have become vital in keeping Free Store afloat. Every Wednesday in front of the Union, vendors from a variety of businesses reserve space, at a fee of $120 for the day to sell goods to students at UCF, and Free Store offers an alternative to the students at UCF to the marketplace the Student Union now is.
This morning was an unseasonably cold day and SDS decided to move to a location in the sunlight, instead of the usual spot in the shade. However, the new location, 10 feet closer to the entrance to the Student Union and across a sidewalk, was determined by the UCF Police a non-free assembly area. However, the UCF Golden Rule, the very document which determines what is and what isn’t a free assembly area, makes no such distinction, clearly stating in Section 16-F (b), “The brick mall area between the John T. Washington Center and the Student Union,” is a free assembly area, and the new location members of SDS moved to, is also paved with bricks. When the university police were told by members of SDS that they were in fact in a brick mall in front of the Student Union and between the John T. Washington Center, the officers sent the manager of the Student Union to look up the Student Union Guidelines, instead of the Golden Rule, which state “The free speech area nearest to the Student Union is situated as follows: the Brick Mall area between the John T. Washington Center and the Student Union as bounded on the West side by the Student Union loading dock and East by the colored sidewalk crossing the Brick Mall near the entrance to the Union.” SDS members later found out that those guidelines were written years before the new construction in front of the Union and the description given by the Union Guidelines were no longer existent as they had been reconstructed.
Regardless, after being given two warnings, the police were called and arrived twenty minutes later. They told SDS that they could move voluntarily or be forced to move. About 6 Sdsers gathered in a huddle to decide what to do, and while others left, others stayed, and while they gave them ample chance to leave, they began to force students to make up their minds. Some students hadn’t decided what to do when they told them that he had taken too much time and Eingold was lead over to the side of the Student Union and away from the sizable crowd that had gathered, many in disbelief that a student faced arrest for gathering in front of the Union. After the police were given garbage bags by the Union to gather our sizable load of clothes to throw away if nobody claimed them, Eingold began to draw attention to students who had gathered that police were confiscating clothes from a program who gives them out for free. The police then lead him away and while being led away, he shouted to his friends to take notice of what was happening to him and was warned that if he did not silence himself immediately, he would be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A student who happened to have a camera on his person strayed a few steps behind them and was told by Officer Fonseca that he was interfering with an investigation and if he did not stop taking photos he would have his camera confiscated. I was brought between four police automobiles, one K-9 unit, and after being informed of what was happening to me him began to ask questions and was eventually forced to sit down on the side of the road. After about 20 more minutes of this, he was told that he was being issued a citation for trespassing and a student conduct referral, which means he will have to go before a disciplinary panel and could face expulsion from the university.
The problem here, is obvious. He was issued a citation for trespassing while being someplace the Golden Rule classifies as a free speech area, but the policy of the Student Union, a building built and paid for by student dollars, supersede that of the Golden Rule. It’s apparent that the university is deciding which rules it should enforce and which laws to ignore.