Three students were arrested this afternoon while staging a sit-in inside the campus PNC Bank.
The students, Ethan Jury, Diane Isser and Daniel Teichman, were taken out the back of the bank in handcuffs by officers, and were transported to the 9th district police station at 21st and Hamilton streets.
The sit-in, and the simultaneous protest outside the bank, was orchestrated by the Temple Community Against Mountaintop Removal, which has been fighting against the university’s relationship with PNC. The bank is the number one financier of mountaintop removal coal mining-practicing companies, the activists contend.
Campus police only allowed students who were members of PNC to enter the bank to use ATM machines in the front room, and were told the office was closed because of the sit-in.
Brianne Murphy, a senior religion and visual anthropology major, and one of the main student voices of the group, was reportedly not in attendance because she was arrested when city police dispersed and evicted Occupy Philadelphia early this morning.
Luke Byrnes, a 2009 Temple alumnus, said that Murphy did not intend to be one of the approximately 50 protesters arrested last night.
The group organized the demonstration because the Board of Trustees denied its petition to attend today’s Investments Committee meeting and to put the issue of mountaintop removal on their agenda, said Zack Hershman, a member of the Earth Quaker Action Team.
Individual activists handed out copies of the board’s letter refusing the groups presence, highlighting a sentence that read: “There is no opportunity for others who may be interested in [Temple and PNC’s relationship] or any other matter under discussion to participate in the Committee’s deliberations.”
The letter, from the board’s secretary, George Moore, stated that the group’s letter and materials that were sent to the board would be presented to the committee at the meeting today.
“They’re pretty much denying the students’ voice and our right to be here,” said Melanie Rafoss, an anthropology and political science major. “That’s why we’re out here today protesting and taking direct action, because they’re giving us no other choice.”
Rafos called the trustees’ decision to make the committee meeting non-public “shady.”
The Board of Trustees’ committees regularly meet in both public and non-public settings.
Rafoss said board member J. William Mills III’s involvement with PNC could be hindering their cause. Mills III is the regional president of PNC in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
“We’ve asked them for further information about that, but they’ve specifically told us that that’s ‘None of our business,’” Rafoss said.
Despite their frustration, Byrnes said TCAMR is still willing to work with the board. However, Byrnes did disclose the group’s plans to develop several student coalitions, which will bolster the effort to wear down the BOT.
Byrnes would not comment further on the latter.
Payne Schroeder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on this and on students’ involvement in the Occupy Philadelphia arrests, check back with temple-news.com.