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Students, UWPD clash during May Day rally

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UW police officer Tanesha Van Leuven speaks to MEChA member Mayra Rangel about the Washington Administrative Code, which prohibits the use of megaphones on college campuses, during the May Day rally held in Red Square.

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UW student Wen Liu holds a sign during the 2009 May Day march for immigration rights.

Student groups — including Democracy Insurgent, Jobs with Justice, First Nations and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) — rallied at Red Square before joining the citywide May Day march for immigration rights on Friday.

May Day is an annual celebration for immigrant rights when participants express concern for better treatment of immigrant populations. However, this year, a disagreement broke out when UW police told protesters to put away their megaphones.

“They [police] came to the leaders [of the protest] and said if we continued to use the megaphone, we would be arrested,” senior Renato Mendoza said.

Police cited Code 132N-15-180 to the students, who then looked up the Washington Adminstrative Code.

“After we looked it up, we found that [the code number] was the incorrect one,” Mendoza said.

Students argued with UW police about whether or not they could use the megaphones after they researched the law police had given them and discovered that it didn’t exist. The actual Washington Administrative Code — 132N-150-180 — differed by one number from the law police had cited.

The code pertaining to megaphone use on college campuses reads, “Bull horns, amplifiers and other electronic devices that disrupt college programs or operations are prohibited on college property.”

Police reasoned with the protestors for more than half an hour before they put away the megaphones, UW Police Department (UWPD) Chief John Vinson said.

However, megaphones were used in an anti-budget cut and tuition-hike rally that took place last month and was sponsored by ASUW — the students involved in that rally, which marched through campus, were not told by police to put away their megaphones. Megaphones have also been used throughout this year by student groups such as Democracy Insurgent, Huskies for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as for President Obama’s inauguration-day rally. In none of these instances were students told they were not allowed to use their megaphones.

Vinson said the officer who approached the students informed the group that she didn’t know how other officers previously enforced the code, but that it was her job to enforce it at that time.

“If an officer gives you a lawful order, we expect you to follow it,” Vinson said. Disobeying a college security officer giving a lawful order is considered an obstruction of justice.

After the rally in Red Square, student groups — including Democracy Insurgent, Jobs with Justice, First Nations and MEChA — joined approximately 1,000 protestors in the citywide march that began in Seattle’s Central District and ended in Pioneer Square.

Demonstrators downtown said they had no problems demonstrating for immigrants’ rights.

“We haven’t been bothered by police [in Seattle] at all,” said UW senior Elizabeth Snow during the rally. “They’re just staying on the sidewalks, making sure that everything’s okay.”

Reach reporter Kaitlin Strohschein at news@dailyuw.com.

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