8 protesters arrested after disrupting UM meeting
Ann Arbor — For the first time in 15 years, University of Michigan police arrested protesters at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday after violence broke out and two people were injured.
At least one of the civil rights protesters — affiliated with the activist group By Any Means Necessary — was scheduled to speak Thursday during the last regents meeting of the semester to push for on-site admissions at Detroit schools and action to boost UM's minority enrollment.
Instead, mayhem erupted when about 25 people left their seats at the beginning of the meeting and stormed the regents, who were separated from the audience by a table where journalists sit. Eight people were arrested.
It was the second time in six months that BAMN attempted to shut down a regents meeting. In November, the regents relocated to another building. This time, President Mark Schlissel continued the meeting after the protesters were removed.
"I hope we continue to work together," Schlissel said later, before the meeting ended. "The university's commitment to diversity does not waver. I am pleased with how the university is coming together around the development of a strategic plan for diversity and enhancing diversity across every aspect of our institution."
But Kate Stenvig, a BAMN organizer, said the university continues to pay lip service to activists who want the university to address their concerns.
"Just talking about it and not taking action ... it's just ridiculous. It's unaccountable," said Stenvig, who graduated from UM in 2004.
Immediately after the regents meeting began, the protesters stood up, rushed toward the regents and started shouting.
"Minority enrollment is coming down! Open it up or shut it down!" the crowd shouted. "On-site admissions now. Open it up or we'll shut it down!"
Two uniformed police officers, who typically are not at the regents' meetings, were sitting up front and stepped in to hold back the protesters. Several security officers helped hold the group that broke through the table in front of the regents.
Tables and chairs were overturned as some demonstrators scuffled with officers.
As police escorted the group from the room, protesters continued chanting outside and the regents continued the meeting.
Besides demanding action to enroll more students from Detroit and minority groups, the demonstrators chanted for a crackdown on campus sexual assault: "Sexual assault must be stopped! Expel the rapists, don't cover it up!"
Meanwhile, the arrested protesters were taken to the Ann Arbor Police Department. Diane Brown, campus police spokeswoman, said it was unclear what charges would be filed against the eight. UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted that it appeared one of those arrested Thursday was a UM student.
Two police officers suffered minor injuries that didn't require treatment, Brown said.
Minority enrollment has been an issue at UM for decades, with the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in on several issues, including the upholding of Michigan's voter-approved law banning the use of affirmative action in admissions.
UM's black student enrollment has fallen since the ban was enacted in 2006, dropping from a range of 6 percent to 9 percent to 4.6 percent last fall.
Several regents spoke out about the protest, including Andrea Fischer Newman. She said they have not been meeting with BAMN and thinks there is no need.
"I don't know what issue they are raising," Fischer Newman said. "They immediately stood up and stormed the table. They didn't express themselves at all. ... These are issues that everyone takes seriously."
Regent Mark Bernstein added that he was disappointed in the protesters' behavior.
"It is so misguided and damaging to an important cause," he said.