7 arrested in protest at Miami

Thursday, November 12, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - Seven Miami University students were arrested on disorderly conduct charges Wednesday after trying to block traffic and repeat an on-the-street protest near U.S. 27 and Ohio 73.

On Tuesday, about 100 students, most of them black, joined arms and stopped traffic at the same intersection because they were angry about an Oct. 30 racial incident on campus.

Wednesday's incident came about 90 minutes after Miami's president and a black student leader talked about ways to improve race relations at the predominantly white campus of 16,000 students.

About 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, an estimated 30 students - most of them African-Americans - stood along the busy stretch of U.S. 27 and began to step out into traffic. Quickly, about 20 officers from the Oxford Police Department and the Butler County Sheriff's Department arrived to disperse the students.

Police say the seven students were charged with disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Officers intervened because they were afraid someone was going to be hit by a car, authorities said.

The decision to arrest the students came after consultation with university officials, said Oxford Police Lt. Bob Holzworth.

"We've had a lot of calls about this - pro and con. We gave the students an opportunity to have their say yesterday. We decided we would not allow them to take over the streets (Wednesday)," he said.

Miami President James Garland said the students' actions reflect racial division in American society and the problem is not exclusive to Miami's campus.

"Universities are a microcosm of American society, a focal point," he said. "We are not an ivory tower."

He said he is happy to meet with students, but he doesn't want to give the impression that protests will automatically accomplish any goal. Protests, he added, should not disrupt the campus or break the law.

Dr. Garland said a meeting with Nathaniel Snow, a senior in the School of Education and Allied Professions and president of Miami's Black Student Action Association, was "very pleasant."

Mr. Snow did not present a list of demands, the president said. "He discussed issues," Dr. Garland said. "They want assurances that the university shares their concerns."

"The meeting went well," Mr. Snow added. "It was a first step."

Meanwhile Wednesday, another faction of students spoke out on the race issue. Nathan Estep, the president of the Associated Student Government, said the protest is dividing the campus.

"I don't agree with these tactics," said Mr. Estep, who is black. "I believe you should sit down and talk about issues first. I think the university is doing all it can to diversify the campus. I have a lot of concerns in how this (protest) was handled."

Mr. Estep, 20, a junior from Columbus, said black students are evenly split on the matter.

"If there is a race problem on this campus, a more accurate assessment is that we have race problems in this country. Students should find solutions."

An Oct. 30 incident at the college's Center for Black Culture and Learning sparked Tuesday's three-hour protest. Racially charged messages supporting the Ku Klux Klan were posted on bulletin boards. A hand-scrawled drawing showed an African-American being hanged. Also, words on computer screen-savers were changed to include racist messages.

Miami officials are investigating the incident. The building had been locked for the night, and there were no signs of forced entry or damage, said Richard Little, senior director of university communications.

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