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Police Arrest 19 New School Students Following Building Takeover

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Police arrested 19 New School students who took over a university building in Union Square on Friday and demanded the resignation of the university's president and vice president and more sway in school policy.

The students were charged with burglary, rioting and criminal mischief, according to police. New School officials also said that all students who occupied the building will be suspended pending administrative review.

Around 5:30 a.m., about 60 students from the protest group "New School in Exile" barricaded themselves inside the graduate faculty building at 65 Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets.

Just after 8 a.m., six of those students, dressed in black and waving flags, screamed out a list of demands from the roof. About 100 students stood on the sidewalk below cheering them on.

More than 100 police officers, fire chiefs, and emergency responders arrived on the scene just after 11 a.m. with plastic handcuffs. The police officers then communicated with the protesters by megaphones from the roofs of neighboring buildings, before entering and removing the students.

According to a statement released by the university, the police were called after the students forcibly entered the building, took a phone from a building cleaning man, assaulted a security officer and a maintenance man, and did physical damage to the building.

School officials said the security officer had to be taken to St. Vincent's Hospital for his injuries.

Along with demanding the resignation of the president, the students were protesting the school's high tuition and lack of scholarships and what they claim is a lack of communication between the university and the students.

"Our demand for them to resign is consistent with the faculty's 'no confidence' vote in Bob Kerrey," said student Andy Folk. "That demand was not met. Other demands were met, such as starting a socially-responsible investment committee, which Bob Kerrey is trying to bury in red tape. So, we need to show him by force and civil disobedience that students have a right over the school that they pay money for. This is just a demonstration of students taking back their space."

Dozens of people turned out to Union Square late Friday to support the jailed students and throughout the day students and faculty said they stood by the protesters' statements.

"I know a lot of concerns have to do with militarism in the university, also concerns about students' conditions of education," said New School faculty member Jan Clausen. "And I think that the administration needs to listen to the students and furthermore, I'm really shocked at the police presence."

"A lot of them are my friends so I wish they hadn't gotten arrested. I believe in a lot of their goals," said student Cat Ferguson.

"These people have million-dollar salaries and Parsons [School of Design] students don't even have desks to work on, we don't have a library, we don't have any funding to do any research," said New School student Kyle Reaves.

Other student, however, say they did not appreciate the shutdown of Fifth Avenue and disruption of classes.

"I think it's a little embarrassing, they're just giving us a bad rep," said New School student Gabriela Ravassa. "It's one of the schools that's fighting for it, not all of the schools. So I think they're kind of ruining the New School's reputation."

In December, students protested outside the school, calling for Kerrey to step down.

In February, the students announced they would "shut down the university" if Kerrey and Executive Vice President James Murtha did not resign by April 1.

The university released a statement Friday afternoon that the group's claim that they made a simple political protest is false.

"Students and faculty who choose to peacefully and passionately oppose the policies of the university will have their rights to do so protected as strongly as we protect our right to safely and securely operate our university," said the university in a statement.

The city chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, however, said that some of the arrested students were not inside the occupied school building, and that they should be released.

A handful of student protesters stayed in front of New School President Bob Kerrey's house in Greenwich Village during the evening, holding signs supporting the demands made earlier by their arrested classmates.

The school charges that earlier in the year, the same protest group was caught stealing an entire edition of the student newspaper and vandalized the university president's residence.

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