Ohio University Student Senate President Megan Marzec and two other senate members were found guilty of persistent disorderly conduct Monday in the Athens County Municipal Court.
Marzec, DJ Amireh, who is on the senate appropriations committee, and Kyle Tussing, the arts and sciences senator, were each sentenced to 30 days in jail by Athens County Municipal Court Judge William Grim. The three were charged for protesting a tuition hike at the Jan. 22 Board of Trustees meeting.
But Grim said the students could avoid jail time if they each perform 30 hours of community service within 60 days, pay court costs and remain “upstanding citizens” for a year. The defendants were not fined additionally.
The charge contained a maximum fine of $250 and 30 days of jail time.
“We have a group that decides to make a point by taking the streets,” Grim said. “It’s your rights opposed to everyone’s rights to use the streets.”
The protest began at the bottom of Baker Center with speeches from various protesters, including Marzec. Shortly after, protesters decided to proceed through the building and down Court, Washington and College streets.
During the march, the group encountered Nick Magruder, a police officer with the Athens Police Department, on East Washington Street.
“The group chanted something of the nature of ‘This is our street,’ ” Magruder said.
He said that as the group made it to Washington Street, he attempted to direct the students from the street onto the sidewalk.
“Once they got close, I started waving my hands and saying ‘Get on the sidewalk’… Everyone was yelling at me,” Magruder said in his testimony.
Some of those chants included “F–k the police” from Amireh and Tussing.
“It was a political statement, actually, because of all the police brutality,” Tussing said, referring to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.
Tussing said the statement was not personally directed at Magruder, and Amireh said he was surprised to see his statement on the police report.
Magruder said he was trying to direct students out of the flow of traffic and was interrupted by Marzec’s bullhorn.
“I saw Ms. Marzec with a loudspeaker,” he said. “Every time I tried to say something, that siren on the speaker went off.”
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said pedestrian movement on the streets without proper permits created a safety issue. The students did not secure a parade permit before marching Uptown.
“Streets are designed for motor vehicles and the public, not as a sidewalk,” he said. “Any group choosing to walk city streets not only inconvenience the public, but endanger themselves and endanger the public.”
Marzec said it was “much faster and much less disruptive to walk down the street,” and so the group avoided the sidewalks during their protest.
The group did not choose its path with the intention of breaking the law, she added.
However, she felt targeted by police.
“I’ve had countless interactions with police recently,” she said. “I believe that’s why I was singled out and charged.”
Pyle maintained officers were not targeting Marzec or other students by exclusively citing them.
“If we had (properly identified) more names of people Nick had seen in the street, we would have charged them,” he said.
Grim said Marzec and the fellow protestors brought the negative attention upon themselves.
“The only reason you got noticed is because of what you said,” Grim said. “Protesting tuition is a very worthwhile thing to do. There is not an unlimited right to protest wherever you want.”