[UPDATED] UWPD arrests student during class over graffiti highlighting racism on campus

Witnesses report an arresting officer said, "[the student] had his chance to get his message out and now it’s our turn" while making the arrest.

· Apr 14, 2016 Tweet

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

[UPDATED]: Around noon Thursday, University of Wisconsin Police Department officers removed a student from class to make an arrest in connection to multiple counts of graffiti across campus.

UWPD released a statement early Thursday evening that said officers arrested 21-year-old Denzel J. McDonald on 11 counts of graffiti on campus structures and buildings and one count of disorderly conduct for harassing a bystander. The statement said McDonald is responsible for the graffiti with messages protesting racism all signed by “God” on buildings across campus.

The arrest was made after a six-month investigation. The total cost of repair for the graffiti is upwards of $4,000, according to the statement.

Officers Matthew Schirmacher and Justin Zurbuchen made the arrest. One officer was wearing a body camera, according to UWPD’s statement.

According to faculty and student witnesses, assistant professor Johanna Almiron and UW junior Hannah Frank, two UWPD officers entered the George L. Mosse Humanities Building at 11:30 a.m. to arrest McDonald on suspicion of vandalism. Almiron, who was teaching the class when the suspect was arrested, said police ignored her when entering the classroom to make the arrest and they treated the student forcefully.

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According to UWPD’s statement, officers had been trying to contact McDonald for the past two weeks before locating him in a classroom this morning. The officers asked him to step in the hallway before McDonald asked them to move the conversation outside the building. The officers then placed him under arrest without incident, and McDonald was booked into the Dane County Jail.

During the interrogation, Almiron said officers treated the student “as though he were armed” and forcibly removed his hands from his pockets as if to check for weapons.

When querying the officers about the arrest, Almiron said one responded “[the student] had his chance to get his message out and now it’s our turn.”

McDonald is a senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In her time at UW, Almiron said she’s witnessed dozens of minority students experience racial alienation and believes UW is more concerned with “protecting symbols of progress rather than the students that drive it.”

UW spokesperson Greg Bump said UW communications did not have a comment on the arrest because it was a police matter.

UWPD did not immediately return requests for comment.

This post will be updated as more information is released.


This article was published Apr 14, 2016 at 3:48 pm and last updated Sep 5, 2016 at 12:01 pm


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