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April 26, 1999 - May 9, 1999
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East Lansing Bans Some
Michigan State Students from Town After Riots

 

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By Jamie Cook
The State News
Michigan Stte
U-Wire
Published Apr. 22, 1999

 

(U-WIRE) EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A decision to ban certain people from East Lansing because of their alleged involvement in the March 27-28 riot has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.

East Lansing judges ruled that six people, including two Michigan State University students, cannot enter the city except for legal proceedings. The students can stay in the city until the end of the semester.

"(The judges) certainly have the right, but it is very unusual and bizarre to impose restrictions of this nature," said Henry Silverman, chairperson of MSU's History Department and President of the Lansing branch of the ACLU.

Silverman said the penalization is unfair because the banned people have not yet been convicted of a crime.

"It's not a question of legality, it's a question of appropriateness," Silverman said. "By doing this, people banned are given the aura of dangerous criminals."

But city officials defend the measure, saying it is for the community's safety.

"I think anything that you do to restrict people from engaging in similar behavior would improve community safety," said Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon.

This is not the first time East Lansing has dealt with the issue of banning people for riotous behavior.

After the May 1 [1998] Munn field riot, 54-B District Judge Richard Ball banned several MSU students from East Lansing. The ban was lifted days later.

Ball said the conditions under which people are kicked out of the city differ from last year.

"I ask people if they are leaving for the summer, and, if they are, don't permit them back in the city if proceedings are still going on," he said.

Ball said avoiding the cost of a daily tether also factored into the decision.

"If someone is living at home elsewhere, I make sure their parents will keep them in shape," he said.

But Silverman said being barred from a city still can hurt a person's image.

"These are not hardened criminals," he said, "Unless you can show a person is a danger to the community, then it is not justified."

Any punishments, including restricting people from entering East Lansing, ultimately is left up to a judge.

East Lansing City Councilmember Douglas Jester said the decision could be helpful in some cases.

"In a sense it's like a restraining order," Jester said. "In this case they've sort of assaulted the city and have to stay away now."

The March 27-28 riot occurred shortly after MSU's Final Four loss to Duke University. More than 5,000 people rampaged through the city and campus, causing more than $150,000 in damages.

One person was arraigned Wednesday, bringing the total number to 41 -- including 21 MSU students. At least two felony arraignments are pending.

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