By Miguel Rodriguez.
Six CUNY students were arrested on September 17 while protesting against ex-CIA director David Patraeus during a fundraiser at Macaulay Honors College.
Augustín Castro, 23, Jose Disla, 25, Denise Ford, 24, Angelica Hernandez, 18, and Rafael Peña, 24, were charged with obstruction of governmental administration, riot, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct in criminal court the following morning.
The students oppose Petraeus new position as a visiting professor at the Macaulay Honors College. They consider him a “war criminal” for his involvement in the creation of death squads and torture of prisoners during the “surge” operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The students also oppose the return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to CUNY. They see Petraeus’ and the return of the ROTC as a “militarization” of the university which will allow the U.S. to use CUNY students to spread imperialism around the world.
Three members of the group, which has been baptized the “CUNY 6,” took some time to speak about the arrests and their campaign against Petraeus.
What was the purpose of the protest?
Luis, Queens College: We wanted to counter the fundraiser that was happening inside. [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg, Patraeus, and former chancellor [Michael] Goldstein were in attendance.
Denise, City College: It was meant to be a peaceful protest to let the administration know we don’t want ROTC and David Petraeus in CUNY.
What happened when you first arrived at the protest site?
Jose, Baruch College: I was one of the first to get there and saw the NYPD had already set up pre-designated areas within barricades across the street from the building.
Denise: One of the NYPD sergeants was already pointing people out; they were targeting us from the start.
When did things start to escalate?
Denise: We were told that we could protest outside the barricade across the street as long as we didn’t block pedestrian traffic or have any signs, so we did that. All of a sudden I started to see NYPD grab some of my friends. One of my friends got her hair pulled and was slammed so hard you could hear it.
Jose: NYPD started to pick up the barricades and use them to box in groups of people, pushing people onto the floor.
Who was arrested first and why?
Jose: I don’t remember and a few of us were arrested at the same time. They didn’t tell us anything right there but later we found out that we were being charged with obstruction of governmental administration, riot, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. They NYPD provoked us, none of us touched the officers; they were the first to hit us.
The officers hit you? How so?
Jose: [We were] tackled to the ground by five officers and after the handcuffs were placed on me one un-uniformed officer lifted my shirt and punched me in the liver. There’s a video online where you could see this happening.
Is there anything else you want the students of all CUNY to know?
Jose: We have two goals: One, to oust David Petraeus. Two, to get rid of ROTC on CUNY campuses
Luis: It is in the best interest of CUNY students to listen to what’s happening because this impacts you, me, all of us.
Denise: Don’t be afraid to stand up and fight for what you believe in. Don’t let the upper elites scare you into doing what they want you to do. Petraeus has to go.
All six students have started an online campaign with the hashtag #CUNY6. The six are due back in court October 16 as they continue to build support for their cause throughout the city.