Over 40 Webster University students locked arms and blocked the intersection of Big Bend Boulevard and Edgar Road on Dec. 2. The students chanted “Black lives matter” in support for the current movements against the grand jury decision to not indict Police Officer Darren Wilson.
At 5:15 p.m Webster administrators, Provost Julian Schuster and Patrick Giblin, and student affairs staff, Katherine Knetzer, Nicole Parres, John Buck and Ted Hoef, accompanied the students for safety.
Policemen assisted the students by blocking the streets with their cars and escorting them down Big Bend toward South Old Orchard, where the police officers lined up, blocking Murdoch Avenue and Interstate 44. Students then laid down in the middle of the road. After the students laid on the road for 10 minutes, they marched back toward the campus.
There were several verbal confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.
As the students marched back to Webster University’s quad, Webster student Andrew Gurney was arrested. Webster student Darren Lewis said Gurney was holding one of the banner poles during the march when he was grabbed by an officer
Lewis said the officer shouted, “It’s done, time to disperse, you are done. Understand me: you are unlawfully assembling.” Lewis said he believes the arrest was unjust.
Webster University Public Safety confirmed Gurney was arrested by police. When Kate Wylie, friend of Gurney, heard word of his arrest, she went to the Richmond Heights Police Department to retrieve him. Webster University communications staff member Chris Phillips, a Webster University public safety officer and Schuster also went to Richmond Heights Police Department to retrieve Gurney.
Gurney said he was released at 7:30 p.m without bail and with a summons for assault. Gurney said he will give further information tomorrow after he has rested.
According to Missouri-criminal-defense.com, a third degree assault is when a person attempts to cause physical injury to another person.
Gurney said he didn’t touch the officer. He said the officer walked towards him shouting, ‘It’s done. You are done’ and scooped him up with one arm and proceeded to pull him back. Another student grabbed Gurney’s other arm as he was being pulled away from the officer.
Gurney said his first reaction was his concern for the sign and planted his feet on the ground. Then the next thing he knew, he was being handcuffed and placed on the sidewalk as the officers deliberated what to do with him.
“I wasn’t fearful, because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong.” Gurney said. “I didn’t do anything different than anyone else.”
Gurney was first taken to the Webster Groves Police Department and then taken to a cell at the Richmond Heights Police Department, where he awaited his release for about half an hour.
Gurney said he was annoyed by the entire process. His mother is undergoing breast cancer treatment and she had stayed up worried about the whole incident. Gurney said he felt his arrest was arbitrary and the policeman who arrested him was trying to make an example out of him.
Gurney currently has a court date Jan 28. and is requesting people who witnessed the event to testify on his behalf.
Webster student and Association for African American Collegians (AAAC) member MJ Johnson said the protest was successful, but it could have been better if the police had complied with the protestors.
“I feel like we accomplished awareness,” Johnson said. “It really got stifled because the police were not doing what they said.”
Johnson said the police were notified in advance about the student protest to march down Big Bend. However, during the event, officers and protesters argued about protesting down certain streets.
As he was walked to a policed car, Gurney said to a group of us assembled on the sidewalk, “I didn’t do anything different than anyone else.” From my vantage point, he did not do anything in a struggle, he simply cooperated with the officer.
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