Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Whitmore sit-in protest: 17 students arraigned at district court

Protesters arrested for trespassing charges at Whitmore during protest for Palestine
Dylan Nguyễn
APD van transporting students to the UMass Police Department on Oct. 25.

On the morning of Oct. 26, 17 University of Massachusetts students were arraigned at the Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Massachusetts. These students are the first group of the 57 arrested the night prior at a sit-in in the Whitmore building protesting Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the University’s response to the conflict.

The court convened at 9 a.m., but held pretrial appearances, civil hearings and other arraignments before the UMass students appeared before the court. Students sat patiently throughout the proceedings, but a few were cautioned not to use their electronic devices while in the courtroom.

The court recessed around 11:15 a.m. so the judge, clerks and lawyers could determine a date for a pretrial hearing.

Courts are required to provide the accused with an arraignment hearing. In an arraignment hearing, the accused must appear in court at a time given when they are released from arrest, often by putting up bail. At the arraignment, a judge will read the charges the accused faces, and the accused will enter a plea.

If a lawyer is needed and the defendant qualifies, a public defender is appointed to their case. A date for pre-trial conference — a court procedure that sets the trial date — is then set. Judges get discretion in how they set the terms of the pre-trial agreement.

Each protester pleaded not guilty to 1 count of trespassing, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum fine of $100 and imprisonment of up to 30 days.

Those protesters are represented by Attorney Rachel Weber. Weber waived each client’s individual arraignment privilege, allowing all 17 to be arranged at the same time. One by one, the protesters stood and lined up along the rail separating the gallery and the court floor. They were given a pretrial hearing date for Dec. 11.

The protesters had originally given their availability for a hearing to their attorney. However, the court said that they were unable to schedule the pretrial hearings according to the preferences of the protesters due to the large number of those arrested.

They were released from the courtroom on personal recognizance, with the court assuming that they will appear for their pretrial date without having to post extra cash bail.

The protesters were cautioned that they must abide by all conditions of the pretrial agreement. This includes not being arrested on any further charges. At a follow-up protest on Oct. 26, organizers encouraged those who were previously arrested not to do so again, as they said the bond clerk told them that they would have to be held without bail until a trial.

Court officials discussed that three more groups of protestors are scheduled for arraignment on Friday, Oct. 27, Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Daniel Frank can be reached at [email protected]. Olivia Capriotti can be reached at [email protected]. Grace Lee can be reached at [email protected].

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