CUNY Protesters Cheered After Judge Releases Them Without Bail
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A pair of City College students arrested for their roles in a campus protest last month left court Tuesday with their arms raised in triumph after a judge released them without bail.
About 100 CUNY students and professors filled Manhattan Criminal Court to back Tafadar Sourov, 19, and Khalil Vasquez, 22, who were arrested after an Oct. 24 protest against the closure of the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center.
They were charged with criminal mischief, obstructing governmental administration, riot, inciting to riot, attempted assault and harassment for their involvement in the incident, which left a CUNY employee injured.
During the protest, a group of 100 students pushed their way through the doors of the school building on Convent Avenue, in Harlem, breaking their hinges, according to the charges.
Both men encouraged the other students into the building, shouting, "Come on. Get in. Get in," a school security guard told prosecutors.
CUNY police Corporal Jacqueline Meekins claimed that both men pushed her to the ground, injuring her shoulder.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office said they are still investigating the incident. The two students, who were suspended at the end of October, are due back in court on Jan. 9.
A disciplinary hearing scheduled at the school Friday morning will determine if they will continue to be barred from classes.
The student leaders spent a night in jail after surrendering to authorities on Monday.
“We were held as political prisoners because we were trying to liberate CUNY for the people,” Sourov told the throng of supporters who cheered the pair outside court after their arraignment.
“The people are going to continue struggling to make sure the communities of New York City have access to CUNY because that’s what CUNY was made for, for working-class and immigrant people in this city.”
Vasquez said he and Sourov had been targeted.
“I think a lot of it is trying to make examples out of community leaders for the people. It should be characterized as political oppression,” he said. “We have to show them political power comes from the people, not abstract laws.”
The Morales/Shakur Center was given as a gift to students following tuition hikes in 1989, but City College officials took it back Oct. 20, claiming it was needed to expand the City College Careers and Professional Development Institute.
That sparked the students to protest and occupy the building. on Oct. 24.
Sourov and Vasquez have been banned from the campus since Oct. 28.
A City College spokeswoman declined to comment on the arrests. Prosecutors didn't explain why charges were filed nearly a month after the incident.