Thursday morning, Judge Karen Valvo of the 15th District Court dismissed trespassing charges against a group of protesters arrested during the March 2019 Climate Strike. Instead, the protesters pleaded responsible to civil infraction for loitering and were ordered to pay a $325 fine.
On March 15 earlier this year, 10 Climate Strike protesters — including Ann Arbor school board trustee Jeffrey Gaynor, two minors and University of Michigan students, employees and alumni — were arrested for trespassing following a 7.5-hour sit-in at the Fleming Administration Building. The ten arrested refused to leave until the administration addressed a list of their demands
Following the March Climate Strike, Schlissel acquiesced to one of their demands, holding a public meeting in which he discussed the University’s commitment to carbon neutrality. He pointed to the formation of the President’s Commission for Carbon Neutrality. Earlier this month, the Commission published its first interim progress report. Among other topics, the report announced the University joined the University Climate Change Coalition, a group of North American universities collaborating toward climate solutions, per the Commission’s recommendations.
In an interview with The Daily, University alum Alice Elliott, one of the arrested protesters who plead responsible to civil infraction, said the results of the case were due to public support rather than the University’s leniency.
“I’m frustrated because the main reason this happened is we couldn’t justify the time and resources to fight these charges,” Elliott said. “We were able to get this reduced charge mostly based on the amount of public support that we received … This isn’t U of M backing down or being nice or being just.”
Though Elliott said she believes the process shouldn’t have had to happen at all, she said she hopes their case helped deliver a message to University administration.
“People aren’t going to sit around, because the same ‘business as usual’ approach is destroying our future and lining their pockets at the same time,” Elliot said. “We can’t be dismissed through words or through a crappy carbon neutrality commission. We’re here to keep fighting, and we’re here to keep raising our voices.”
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said the outcome of the trial was fitting as the University had provided protestors with an explicit time to leave the building.
“In this case, following several discussions with the protesters, the University extended the departure deadline to 8 p.m. Most protesters left at that point, while a small number chose to stay and were arrested.,” Broekhuizen said. “The final outcome this week was determined, appropriately, between the court and the protesters.”