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: 20 students arraigned at district court

Second group of protesters arrested for trespassing charges at Whitmore during protest for Palestine

At 9 a.m. on Oct. 27, 20 University of Massachusetts students arrived for their arraignment at the Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Massachusetts. These students are the second group of the 57 protesters arrested at the sit-in protest on Oct. 25, protesting Israel’s attack on Gaza and the University’s response to the current conflict.

The court convened at 9 a.m., but pretrial appearances and restraining order hearings were held prior. The court took a 40-minute recess at 9:35 a.m. to process paperwork required for the arraignments of protestors.

Courts are required to provide the accused with 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 a pre-trial conference — a court procedure that sets the trial date — is then set. Judges exercise discretion in how they set the terms of the pre-trial agreement.

Each protester had a plea of not guilty entered, and were charged with 1 count of trespassing –  a misdemeanor carrying a maximum fine of $100 and imprisonment of up to 30 days.

These protesters are represented by Attorney Rachel Weber. Weber waived each client’s individual arraignment privilege, allowing all 20 to be arraigned at the same time. The court decided on a pretrial hearing date for Dec. 12, a day after the first protest group.

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

Students were released from the courtroom on personal recognizance.

Protesters were cautioned that they must abide by all conditions of the pretrial agreement. This includes not being arrested on any further charges, or they could be held without bail for up to 90 days.

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.

Two more groups of protesters are expected for arraignment on Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31.

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

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