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EMU Student to Stand Trial

December 5, 1995

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) _ An Eastern Michigan student on Tuesday was ordered to stand trial on two misdemeanor charges in connection with a fight that inspired a protest at a basketball game.

Aaron Johnson will face one count each of resisting and obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest with injury inflicted in connection with the Nov. 7 fight. A felony charge of disarming a police officer was dismissed.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Johnson was arrested after a fight in a university residence hall. Johnson said he accidentally hit officer Kenneth Hardesty while trying to pull apart women involved in a brawl. Johnson also allegedly knocked a can of mace out of the officer’s hand. The police officer is on administrative leave.

Monday night, Bowen Field House was cleared of about 1,100 spectators after about 55 demonstrators converged on the basketball court to protest Johnson’s arrest and what they called police brutality.

At the protest, Black Student Union leader Anthony Garrett read a list of demands that included firing Hardesty.

``Our mission was to stop the game for the university,″ he said. ``We wanted to hit the university in the wallet, and if that meant stopping the game so that they would have to give refunds, then we accomplished what we wanted.″

Play resumed between Eastern Michigan and San Francisco State after the protest. Eastern won, 111-61.

Eastern Michigan vice president Kathy Tinney on Tuesday said the university was studying videotape and photographs taken at the protest to determine how many of those involved in the protest were students.

She said any students identified would be charged with violating the student code and subject to penalties ranging from administrative probation to dismissal. Non-students would be charged with trespassing, she said.

The court will be cordoned off during all future basketball games and signs reading ``participants only″ will be posted, she said.

Some students have said the arrest was racially motivated since Hardesty is white and Johnson is black. Tinney said the university considers the matter a police issue, not a racial issue.

University spokeswoman Susan Bairley said the university has been unable to complete its own investigation because officials have been unable to talk with Johnson under the advice of his attorney.

``The university is investigating this incident from many perspectives,″ Bairley said. ``I think the point that needs to be made is the university has made some very strident efforts to communicate with the student.″

University president William Shelton said the protesters had no right to interrupt the game.

``We respect the right of individuals to express their opinions, yet at the same time we believe there is a responsibility of all individuals to respect the rights of others as well,″ Shelton said.

But Garrett said more protests, including leafleting or picketing, are planned if the issue is not resolved.

``The university is not acting in a swift manner,″ he said. ``The students felt that we weren’t being heard, and we wanted the whole university to be aware of what’s going on on campus.″

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