Seven students arrested at Students Against Peabody protest

and | Student Life Editors
Derek Shyr | Student Life

A line of St. Louis County and Washington University Police Department officers blocks entrance to the Knight Center. Seven student protesters were arrested for attempting to cross this line.

Seven Students Against Peabody protesters have been released after being arrested at the group’s final planned protest Friday morning.

The students were arrested and charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace after attempting to cross a police line blocking entrance to the Knight Center, where the quarterly Washington University board of trustees meeting was taking place.

The students, who were attempting to hand-deliver a letter to Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce asking him to resign from the University’s board of trustees, were arrested by WUPD upon reaching the line. They have received summons to appear in St. Louis County court on June 2. Jill Friedman, vice chancellor for public affairs, confirmed that the students’ cases will be handled by the county and the University will have no further judicial involvement with them.

Around 75 protesters had gathered outside the Knight Center, chanting in protest of the University’s involvement with Peabody Energy. About an hour after the protest began, the group of seven students attempted to cross the police line, at which point they were taken inside the building, handcuffed and transferred via the Campus Circulator to the Washington University Police Department for booking.

“[A] group of participants attempted to gain access to a building where the Washington University Board of Trustees was meeting,” Washington University administration said in a statement. “They had been informed in advance that doing so was a violation of the acceptable terms of the event and that they would be arrested if they did so. They were reminded of these terms on site.”

Junior Breanna Swenson, who was at the protest but was not one of the students arrested, said the students attempted to cross the police line because their initial efforts had not garnered the response from the University that they had hoped for.

“We wanted to see if waiting or putting a little bit more pressure on the police would allow a few of us to go in to deliver the letter to Boyce,” Swenson said. “We didn’t want there to be any arrests if we were able to get what we wanted. But after over an hour of chanting, we realized that they were not going to take any action and we needed to step up.”

Derek Shyr | Student Life

Students Against Peabody protesters planned to deliver a letter to Peabody CEO Greg Boyce asking him to resign from his position on Washington University's board of trustees.

Junior Brendan Ziebarth, one of the students arrested, said he was surprised by the amount of police force outside the Knight Center.

“The thing that’s most shocking to me is the amount of police force they called out to be here today. We had WUPD, who was holding the line to keep students from entering the building, then the St. Louis County police, then some riot police with riot gear,” Ziebarth said.

Ziebarth added that he was not surprised by the University’s actions, however.

“We were prepared for this; we ran some scenarios to prepare in case this happened. Honestly I’m just surprised that the University was so quick to resort to arrest,” he said. “I’m disappointed that they would rather arrest students than have a dialogue and allow us to talk to Greg Boyce and present the letter and have a say in the board of trustees.”

Freshman Elayna Levin, another one of the students arrested, noted that the arresting officers seemed to be unprepared for the process of booking.

“It was very obvious to us that they weren’t prepared to deal with it. It took them a long time to get organized and a long time to figure out paperwork. The process of booking us one by one took forever,” Levin said.

“Honestly, I’m proud of the fact that I was able to speak up for what I believe is right and participate in an action that I wholeheartedly believe in,” Levin added. “As a freshman, I think it’s important for the University to recognize that they can’t keep waiting out students; this is not something that just seniors are participating in.”

Rob Wild, vice chancellor for students, was present at the WUPD station to take down the names of the arrested students but noted that he and many Washington University administrators were displeased that the arrests took place.

“The University and myself are interested in students saying things that they feel are important to them, and this morning was unfortunate, and none of us like to see our students get arrested,” Wild said. “I think what the students have shared has certainly been heard by the administration at the University. I can tell you it’s been talked about at the board meeting. I think this is a really difficult issue for all universities to grapple with…Students feel strongly about companies that the board represent; this is a tough one. I wish I could tell you that I see an easy solution.”

The seven students arrested were seniors Trevor Leuzinger, Georgia McCandlish and Christa Peterson; juniors Julia Ho, Caitlin Lee and Brendan Ziebarth; and freshman Elayna Levin.

With additional reporting by Derek Shyr.

Editor’s note: Trevor Leuzinger is a staff writer for Student Life. He did not contribute to this report.

UPDATED 1:40 p.m.: Added information from Washington University’s statement.

UPDATED 2:05 p.m.: Added information about WUPD’s ongoing investigation.

UPDATED: 6:45 p.m.: Added information after the arrested students’ release.

  • Observer

    Stanford just announced it would divest its 18.7B from Coal:

    BIG. NEWS.

    It’s unbelievable to hear how backwards some are here on issue like climate change. And how you couch your viewpoint in some sort of “common sense” wisdom.

    Climate change means mass famines and suffering, mass disruptions in commerce as whole industries implode, increased conflicts over dwindling resources, and mass extinction. It’s a big deal.

    For examples, yield rates are going down for grains like wheat due to warmer nights, and the soil in Iowa in 2012 was too hot for seeding corn! It means whole countries will be wiped off the map (the highest point in the Maldives is 2.5M). That means refugees. It means fewer resources for more people.

    The US Department of Defense predicts that there will be armed conflicts over desertifying regions, especially Africa, which experience some of the worst climate change. The USDOD is not made up of hippies.

    • Mikey S.

      Thank you Ja Rule!

  • Stephan T.

    Ja Rule ain’t no nerd

  • Nobody Cares

    Hippies should be arrested. They’re annoying and they smell.

  • come on

    this is just embarrassing…

  • I Care More About the Bear Cub

    “We didn’t think the administration would be OK with arresting students trying to get in their own university building”

    ehh, this is a private property. They’ve being denied of access beforehand and were reminded of that fact. Since they still decided to “step up”, they should be arrested

  • anonymous

    Glad the administration finally grew some balls.

    • dumb students

      Absolutely. These students act like its occupy wall st time. How about you go to class and learn something before protesting something you know nothing about.

      • Don’t be so quick to judge

        They know a lot about the issue at hand. That’s why they care about it. Most people involved have done a lot of research and thinking before deciding to participate.

        • McLovin

          I’ve done some research too. 1.2 billion people don’t have access to electricity. Restricting the production and extraction of some forms of energy because of your personal opinions certainly doesn’t help those people get electricity, and seems pretty selfish.

  • A Student Too

    I wish these protestors would quit using broad terms like “the [Washington] University community” when expressing their own opinions. I’m part of the “University community” too and I don’t support anything these protestors are doing.

    • cadenzaisterrible


      …whatever the hell THAT means.

    • Adjunct-Observer

      They just want to have sex in the tents and feel rebellious without actually doing anything rebellious, strictly speaking.

      It’s cute in a sad sort of way. It reminds me of when my eight-year-old cousin was super boasty about getting to sip wine at Thanksgiving. Babbys first protest. Babby has demands.