Charges were dismissed against three students involved in a protest of U.S. Border Patrol agents at the University of Arizona that was captured on video.
The case was dismissed Friday at the request of prosecutors after they after learned the university will conduct an administrative investigation into the March 19 protest in Tucson, said Amelia Cramer, chief deputy for the Pima County Attorney’s Office, noting the students could face punishments if they’re found to have violated the university’s code of conduct.
The video shows a student standing in a hallway as two Border Patrols agents spoke inside a classroom to a student law-enforcement club. The protester repeatedly referred to the Border Patrol as the “murder patrol.”
“This is supposed to be a safe space for students, but they allow an extension of the KKK into campus,” said the student, who later declined an invitation to join the group inside the classroom.
Other students later joined in the chants of “murder patrol” as the agents walked out of the classroom and were followed to parking garage where they left in an SUV.
The video footage sparked anger among members of the union that represents Border Patrol agents. A few days later, the university announced that two students were being charged with interference with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution for their role in the protest. The third student was later charged.
Supporters say the three students — Denisse Moreno Melchor, Mariel Alexandra Bustamante and Marianna Ariel Coles-Curtis — had free speech rights to protest the agents’ presence. They started an online campaign to drop the case and staged demonstrations in Tucson. A protest planned for Monday outside Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, where the three were scheduled to be arraigned, has been called off.
Bustamante had no immediate comment on the dismissal, while Moreno Melchor and Coles-Curtis didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
Bustamante and Moreno Melchor had previously said in a written statement that allowing Border Patrol agents on campus was harmful to students for several reasons, particularly because the agency they work for is “one of the main culprits for the separation of families.”
“The criminalization of these communities is solidified by Border Patrol’s presence on our campus,” the students said in the statement.
Cramer pointed out the misdemeanor charges lodged against the three students had been filed by the University of Arizona Police Department, not prosecutors.
The university’s police department declined to comment on the dismissal, and university spokesman Chris Sigurdson didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.
The Tucson chapter of the Border Patrol union didn’t immediately respond to phone calls for comment on Monday.