Charges Dropped for U. of Arizona Students Who Called Border Patrol “Murder Patrol” at Campus Event

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Authorities at the University of Arizona in Tucson have dropped charges against three students who held a nonviolent protest against Border Patrol agents speaking on their campus. During the March 19 protest, the students called border agents “Murder Patrol” and an “extension of the KKK.” All three students were charged with misdemeanors. On Friday, motions to dismiss the charges were granted after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups led a campaign on behalf of the students. We speak with Mariel Bustamante, one of the “Arizona Three.” She is a graduating senior who is double-majoring in law and anthropology.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, authorities at the University of Arizona in Tucson have dropped charges against three students who held a nonviolent protest against Border Patrol agents speaking on their campus. During the March 19th protest, the students called border agents “Murder Patrol” and, quote, “an extension of the KKK,” unquote. One of the students filmed part of their encounter from outside the classroom where the agents were speaking.

DENISSE MORENO MELCHOR: This is supposed to be a safe space for students, but we have the Murder Patrol here. How about you talk about slashing water? How about you talk about taking the shoes off migrants, letting them walk through the desert barefoot? How about you talk about all the graves of unidentified folks?

AMY GOODMAN: All three students were charged with misdemeanors. On Friday, motions to dismiss the charges were granted, after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups led a campaign on behalf of the students.

We go now to Tucson, Arizona, where we’re joined by Mariel Bustamante, one of the so-called Arizona Three. She’s a graduating senior who’s double-majoring in law and anthropology.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mariel. Explain what happened, why you were there.

MARIEL BUSTAMANTE: Hi, good morning. So, it started when the Criminal Justice Club invited the Border Patrol on campus to speak to the club about a number of things, like recruitment and such. Me and my fellow protesters, we saw them on campus, and we decided to speak out, because we were unhappy with their presence there. So that was why we were there, because we saw them armed, in uniform, and we thought that their presence there was unnecessary.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And nothing happened to you at the time, but then you were later visited by—at your mother’s house, by agents looking for you? Could you talk about that?

MARIEL BUSTAMANTE: Yeah. So, we did our demonstration. It lasted about 45 minutes. No names were taken, no IDs. And we kind of went about our lives for a while. And then, about 10 days later, police came to my mom’s house, where I don’t live, and to another one of the students’ home, with a citation for our disruption of an educational institution. And we had signed the charges later. They said that if I didn’t show up to my mom’s house, that I would be subjected to arrest.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the university’s response?

MARIEL BUSTAMANTE: Yeah. So, that was pretty interesting. The president released a series of emails, the first one supporting student free speech on campus. He didn’t really pick a side. He said, you know, students are able—should be able to speak out; all sides are welcomed. And then, a few days later, after meeting with the vice president of the Border Patrol Council, Art Del Cueto, on March 25th, things kind of changed: The university took a stance with Border Patrol, supporting the Criminal Justice Club. And that’s when we knew that charges would be filed against us.

And then there was another series of emails where, as more community support was coming about on our side, on behalf of us, the university, you know, wanted to do a series of campus conversations, supported free speech again. You know, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of juggling of thoughts from the university. And to this day, you know, they haven’t really standed with either side other than the Border Patrol.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what was the response of the faculty at the university to the charges against you?

MARIEL BUSTAMANTE: So, the faculty, it was overwhelming support, mostly, specifically from the faculty of color. The faculty of color mobilized together, at first, for the first two people who were charged, and then, the additional third, more people came together. And there was a lot of support. They used their own individual community networks. They, depending where they were in their faculty, used their power to kind of talk to other staff and professors. And they mobilized to make sure that we were safe, that we had the resources we needed to try to finish school up, to help us get legal assistance. They really mobilized. They did letter-writing campaigns. They had sit-ins with the president. They had lots of conversations with people around the school and the community. So, they were very supportive.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’ll be graduating now without charges?

MARIEL BUSTAMANTE: Yes, mm-hmm, as of—I got the call on Sunday saying that charges were dropped. So I will be able to hopefully graduate by May 9th.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mariel Bustamante, we want to thank you for being with us, a University of Arizona student charged with a misdemeanor for protesting a Border Patrol appearance on campus. The charges have just been dropped. And she will be graduating from U of A.

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