Students and Athens community members gathered in Ohio University’s baker Center to listen to stories and pleas of fellow students. The protest was held on February 1, 2017 in Athens, Ohio. (Meagan Hall/WOUB)

Remaining Charges Against Baker Center Protesters Dismissed

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Two days after one of 70 students arrested in a protest at Baker University Center had his charges dismissed, Athens County Municipal Court Judge Todd Grace has dismissed the remaining charges against the protesters.

Grace signed off on the dismissals Wednesday, according to a representative from the court clerk’s office. He was asked to dismiss the charges by City Law Director Lisa Eliason, as Eliason told WOUB.

She was asked to reconsider the charges by the Ohio University Police Department, she said Wednesday.

OUPD Chief Andrew Powers released a statement earlier Wednesday regarding Michael Mayberry’s acquittal on criminal trespass charges and said he respected the decision of the judge. Mayberry was found not guilty in municipal court on Monday.

“Out of fairness to the other similarly situated defendants, I have asked the Athens City Prosecutor’s Office to dismiss the remaining charges related to the Feb. 1 demonstration,” Powers wrote.

The students were arrested after they “occupied” Baker University Center. They were protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order which ceased the immigration and travel visas for those from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order has now been rewritten by the administration, but is still locked in court battles.

Ohio University Police Department officers arrested protesters after officers said the individuals were blocking “ingress and egress” from the building, according to previous WOUB reporting.

“Protesters were informed repeatedly that they were impacting operations, egress and creating a safety issue,” University spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said that night.

In appearances last month in municipal court, 15 pleaded “no contest” to charges of criminal trespass, and the rest gave “not guilty” pleas.

In an email sent shortly after the protest ended in arrests, Powers responded to calls for him to drop the charges, saying the legal system “was set up to ensure an independent, impartial review of police actions by a court.”

“To that end, I believe the proper course of action to allow that review to take place – as we do with everyone else we arrest each year – rather than subverting our judicial process by dropping the charges,” Powers wrote.

OU’s Interim President David Descutner stood in solidarity with Powers when the charges were leveled against the students, writing in a statement that he was unwilling to drop the charges “because I believe the students received due warning from the police and chose to be arrested.”

In his Wednesday statement, Powers also said he looked forward to “working with senior leadership of the university to review our institutional policies and procedures to ensure they protect everyone’s First Amendment rights, while also providing law enforcement with the tools we need to effectively manage public events and keep our community safe.”

Descutner followed Powers’ statement, saying he appreciated the decisions of both the court and Powers. He also said the university was in the process of reviewing procedures.

“We began reviewing our policies and procedures soon after the February 1 protest to ensure best practices moving forward,” Descutner said.

Powers’ full statement can be read here.

Justin Holbrock contributed to this report.