MIAMI - Seven participants in an Occupy FIU event planned to remember the Haiti earthquake were arrested Thursday and charged with unlawful assembly.
The group, which included non-students and members of Occupy Miami, was gathered at the Deuxieme Maison pit on the school's main Modesto A. Maidique campus for the planned "Occupy FIU Art & Music Festival" when they were asked to move to another location. As a five-minute warning expired and an Occupy member was still relaying the message to the crowd using the repeat-after-me "people's mic" method, campus police moved in to make arrests.
"We were making no noise, there was nothing playing, it was really peaceful," Occupy FIU member Victoria Aguila told FIUSM. "When someone stood up to say ‘let’s go to the lawn,’ they removed us. We were asked to leave, but when one of our members spoke up to try to get the people to the lawn, he was arrested."
Occupy members say the FIU ombudsman told them a permit was not necessary, but according to Miami Beach 411's Carlos Miller, who was on the scene recording video, an hour of negotiation about whether Occupy could continue the concert in the pit without amplification eventually led to police giving the group five minutes to move to the school's designated "free assembly area."
"Diplomacy is over," Miller reports police told FIU student William Sanchez, and the group began packing up and moving. Four minutes into the five minute warning, occupy member Philip Picaza, 22, began asking participants to contact the administration over the incident. (Watch Miller's video of the incident above.)
"If anybody here is displeased about how things unfolded this afternoon, you're encouraged to write your school administrators," Picaza spoke into a bullhorn, before an officer told him he couldn't use any amplification.
"Mic check!" he then yelled, and the crowd began to pass along the message by repeating after him. But as Picaza spoke, officers grabbed him by the arms and also began to lead other Occupy members away for arrest.
"Was it something I said?" Picaza asked, as the crowd broke into a very loud chant of "Shame on you!" at police. He and others including Jonathan Brand, 24, Alex Rosales, 22, Alfredo Quintana, 23, and Carlos Ortiz, 27, were booked in Miami-Dade's pre-trial detention center; records show each was being held on $500 bond.
FIU spokeswoman Maydel Santana-Bravo told the Miami Herald the arrests were made because the students did not have a permit to protest. "We asked them to stop, to move and leave. They refused," she said.
But Sanchez told the paper Occupy FIU held a event in the pit in November without issue, and the group had been told by the FIU ombudsman that no permit was needed. On a Facebook page about the arrests, activist Arianna Aguilar also claimed the group had permission to assemble.
"This was an approved event by the FIU Administration under the condition that students and teachers did not complain about noise levels," she wrote. Occupy FIU plans to protest the arrests on Friday, following a night some members spent in a tent outside the detention center.
"Other student groups get to play music very loudly till very late," Aguilar wrote, "and many people use the DM pit for playing music without a permit as well. Yet the administration only goes against Occupy FIU."
UPDATE: Derrick Mustelier was also among the seven people arrested. According to the Occupy Miami Facebook, the remaining Occupy members in custody were released around 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Check out mug shots, video, and images from the arrests at FIU, and our Occupy live blog below: