Arrests at OSU Graduation

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Jun 10 11:32:06 MDT 2000

The following letter has been sent by Dr. Wendy Shaw (Department of
Near Eastern Languages and Cultures) to OSU President William "Brit"
Kirwan (kirwan.1 at and Provost Ed Ray (ray.1 at, urging
them to drop the charges pressed against the four guests of a
graduating student Oona Besman at the Commencement Ceremony.  The
guests were arrested (by the order of Captain John Petry) for
"persistent disorderly conduct" and "obstruction of official
business" just because they stood up & turned their backs against
J.C. Watts (commencement speaker & conservative politician).  Please
follow the lead of Dr. Shaw and write a letter to President Kirwan,
Provost Ray, and the media.


>Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 09:36:03 +0000
>Reply-To: shaw.260 at
>Sender: owner-allfac at
>From: "Wendy M. K. Shaw" <shaw.260 at>
>To: kirwan.1 at, Ed.Ray at
>Cc: Columbus Network <ColumbusNetwork at>, lantern at,
>      mellis at, clease at, editor at
>Subject: arrests at OSU graduation
>Dear President Kirwan,
>At the Ohio State University Graduation on June 9, 2000, four guests of
>a graduating Master's student were arrested for peaceful support of a
>peaceful demonstration.  This is at best a ridiculous embarassment to
>the university, and at worst a travesty of justice and of the right to
>free speech which we as Americans hold so dear.
>The events transpired as follows:  The mother (who was ill and barely
>able to attend the graduation), brother, and two friends of Oona Besman
>were attending her graduation from the master's program in Women's
>Studies.  As marchers from the Afrikan Student Union protested  the
>designated speaker, JC Watts, these four guests of the university stood
>and turned their backs to the speaker in support of the protest.  This
>was the full extent of their action.  The people behind them became
>irate and threatened them with violence.  Seeing that their threats were
>uneffective, these people went to a nearby officer and told him that if
>he didn't make them sit down, they would.  Rather than castigating these
>members of the audience who were threatening violence, the officer whom
>they addressed, Captain John Petrie, arrested the four guests who were
>standing. They heard no warning whatsoever from the arresting officer.
>The brother was handcuffed immediately; the three women were handcuffed
>at the patrol cars before they were taken to the OSU police facility.
>Three hours later, the four guests of the university were taken to the
>County Correctional Facility and charged with the misdemeanors of
>persistant disorderly conduct and obstruction of official business.
>They were released between 9:30 and 10:30 PM last night.
>At this point, the Ohio State University is still pressing charges
>against them.  What kind of university arrests, detains, and presses
>charges against its own guests at a graduation?   Not only do people
>have the right to peaceful protest -- indeed, the protesters were not
>arrested -- they have the right to peacefully support such protest,
>particularly at a public event at a public university.
>Please note that the arresting officer was the same officer who last
>month arrested Andre Banks, an African-American OSU senior who alone was
>chosen for arrest, again without warning, from group of peaceful white
>protestors.  His charges are also still pending, and also speaks to the
>overzealous behaviour on the part of this officer, who must be
>investigated.  The racial issues involved in this arrest are
>particularly shocking in light of the ongoing federal investigation of
>the Columbus Police Department for their practices of racial profiling.
>I urge you to have all of these charges dropped immediately, for all of
>them are an embarassment to the ideals of free speech which the
>university claims to defend and even encourage as an institution of
>higher education.  At present, you are allowing the poor judgement of
>one officer to determine the actions of the entire university, which is
>currently pressing charges against five innocent people.  This is a
>travesty of education, of free speech, and of justice.  It is also a
>profound embarassment to the university.
>Please note, I am sending this message to several media outlets, and
>also will be contacting the Ohio chapter of the ACLU.  If the university
>does not drop charges immediately, I urge those who are shocked by these
>events to please also voice your opinions to the university
>administration directly.  While they may seem small and local, each
>travesty of justice and infringement on free speech presents a danger to
>us all, and I assure you that these events have been anything but small
>for those who were arrested for trusting in the first amendment.
>Wendy M. K. Shaw
>Assistant Professor
>Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

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