May 22, 2006
All 17 students happily filed out of the courtroom after a judge found them not guilty of trespassing during a living wage sit-in. Outside the were met by claps and hugs from supporters.
"Both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law were served justly by the general district court," said UVA student and protester Khalial Withen.
"I was glad that our lawyers worked so hard and put in so much time and effort," added another protester.
Back on April 15, UVA officials admitted they gave the students 5 minutes to leave Madison Hall or be arrested. But in a video shown to the courtroom, the students were given less than 4 minutes, and that, the judge said, wasn't enough time.
"[The court was] holding them accountable to their own words, and I feel that that's an important present to establish," said Withen. "And hopefully the University will start listening."
The judge wasn't so lenient on Wende Marshall, the professor arrested on April 12th for improperly entering Madison Hall to be with her students. He gave her 10 day jail sentence suspended with 2 years good behavior.
"People do what they have to do, and I felt I was doing the right thing," said Marshall. "The problem is, the people in Charlottesville work full time, and don't earn enough to be out of poverty."
Several top university officials testified including UVA President John Casteen.
In a statement, UVA spokesperson Carol Wood said, "No one at the University took joy in seeing our students arrested, but we believe that today's decision will give all involved the opportunity to move forward."
That's exactly what the students say they plan to do, move forward with their fight to have UVA employees earn a living wage.
"The issue is not going away, and we're not afraid," said Marshall.