Climate Strike participants occupy President's office after hours, asked to leave by police

Friday, March 15, 2019 - 6:14pm

Demonstrators occupy President Mark Schlissel's office in the Fleming Administration Building following the Climate Strike.

Demonstrators occupy President Mark Schlissel's office in the Fleming Administration Building following the Climate Strike. Buy this photo
Alex Harring/Daily

UPDATE: At approximately 7:15 p.m. three male demonstrators were seen leaving Fleming. While they said the had no issues with the police, they said they heard reports while inside that one demonstrator was arrested while leaving then immediately released. Melissa Overton, deputy chief of police and public information officer for the Division of Public Safety and Security, confirmed this claim in messages with The Daily.

A police officer told demonstrators inside if they leave before 8 p.m. they will have no contact with police. If they chose to leave after 8 p.m., they will be arrested.

FLEMING ADMINISTRATION BUILDING — Organizers from today’s Climate Strike are occupying University President Mark Schlissel’s office. They say they are prepared to stay until a confirmation of a response from Schlissel addressing their demands is received. One of those demands was a one-hour public meeting with Schlissel in which questions regarding the University’s plan to address climate change and carbon neutrality were not screened beforehand.

At 6 p.m. — one hour after the building closed — there were approximately 60 demonstrators in the office. Demonstrators included students from middle school through graduate school as well as adults, organizers said.

Rackham student Chris Karounos said he appreciated the diversity of voices in this movement.

“One thing I’d like to say is how beautiful it is to have so many different-aged people here,” Karounos said. “We have middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, graduate students, adults, even more senior people, and this is all spring out of a movement to protect future generations and ensure a world that they really deserve and that we all had.”

Some say they are prepared to continue occupying the office until they are arrested or physically removed. Police officers have been seen near the office, but it is unclear whether they are from the Division of Public Safety and Security or the Ann Arbor Police Department.

LSA senior Tegwyn John said she interacted with a police officer while in the building, who tried to warn her of how an arrest would impact her future.

“I spoke to a police officer who warned me that being arrested and having a criminal record will affect my future,” John said. “I laughed because climate change is definitely going to affect my future — a criminal record may or may not, depending on what I chose to do with my life, but no matter what I do or where I am climate change is definitely going to impact my future.”

While organizers said they don’t want to cause trouble or be “chaos makers,” they want their presence and demands to be respected. Ultimately, they don’t plan to leave until their demands are responded to.

Alice Elliott, University alum and current Ypsilanti resident, said the demonstrators have tried alternative channels of communication, but nothing has worked.

“It’s really come to this because everything else we’ve tried has gotten no response,” Elliott said. “This is the last resort we have to get them to listen to us and get them to talk to us, and I don’t see any other way to do that. And if that means I’m here until I’m physically removed, that’s fine. I’m here until I get an answer from the President.”

At 6:05 p.m., a University representative asked demonstrators to leave again and said further action will be taken if they do not. Some demonstrators questioned why the University would rather arrest students than listen to them, while others left after this request was made.

A student organizer confirmed the representative was Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, but The Daily could not see the individual.

“This building is closed,” the representative said. “I am actually asking all of you to leave the building.”

This is an ongoing story. Check back on michigandaily.com for updates.