This article was updated 7/11/17 at 4:20 p.m. to reflect the Anthropology Department email obtained by the Wheel. This story will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.
An Emory student is facing a first-degree felony charge after allegedly disarming a police officer during a protest at a Pride parade last month in Columbus, Ohio.
Deandre Miles (18C) was arrested June 17 during a protest at the Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade and later charged with aggravated robbery.
Miles, a Robert W. Woodruff Scholar, had been protesting violence toward LGBTQ people of color at the parade and allegedly jumped on a police officer’s back and reached for her gun while she was arresting two other protesters, according to an account from Columbus Division of Police Officer Bradley Thomas. The officer kept her gun in its holster, according to a complaint filed by Thomas.
Miles’ attorney Anastasia Sydow denied the allegation. Miles, who was in Ohio to conduct summer research at Ohio State University, declined a request for interview because of legal limitations, and directed the Wheel to a June 27 Facebook post.
Miles wrote that they had been charged with “a crime I did not commit.”
Miles, who was released on bail June 19, had been handed a recognizance bond of $100,000, which is only to be paid if the defendant does not show up to court, and a surety bond of $100,000 by Franklin County Municipal Court Judge David Tyack, according to Sydow. Supporters of Miles fundraised the required 10 percent of the surety bond, Sydow said.
Miles waived the right to a preliminary hearing, deciding not to plead guilty or not guilty, Sydow said, adding that the no plea disposition will give the defense team more time to review the case. If prosecutors choose to present the case to a grand jury and the jury indicts Miles, the trial process will begin. As of July 9, Miles is not scheduled to appear in court, according to Sydow.
In Ohio, a person convicted of a first-degree felony could be sentenced to up to 11 years of jail time.
At the Pride parade, Miles, alongside about 10 other protesters, had blocked the parade route at Columbus City Hall to protest 14 deaths of black transgender women and the June 16 acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Philando Castile. They attempted to hold a seven-minute moment of silence, according to Black Queer and Intersectional Columbus (BQIC) group co-founder Dkeama Alexis.
Columbus police officers responded to the scene after receiving a tip that the group would block the road, according to WCMH-TV Columbus. Police arrested Miles, Kendall Denton, Wriply Bennet and Ashley Braxton after they allegedly ignored police orders to leave the street, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Before Miles was released on bail, Alexis and BQIC co-founder Ariana Steele staged a demonstration at the Franklin County Municipal Courthouse June 19. The protesters demanded an investigation “into the excessive use of force” used by police and that the charges against the defendants be dropped, according to NBC4. At that time, only Denton, Bennet and Braxton had been released.
“This has not been an easy time for me, nor for any of us involved in this work,” Miles wrote in the June 27 Facebook post. “The weight of racism and queerphobia had never bored down on me so hard as an officer’s knee, pressing my head into concrete, smearing my makeup on the sidewalk … We must continue to struggle through this tension, until queer/trans folk of color like me are safe and happy living their truths.”
Assistant Vice President of Community Suzanne Onorato said that Emory is working to “support” Miles, but declined to provide additional details. In addition to being a Scholar, Miles is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and a member of Emory’s Mu Alpha chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. According to the June 27 Facebook post, Miles had planned to study abroad in England during the Fall 2017 semester.
Young Democrats of Emory wrote a June 28 Facebook post in support of Miles, stating they “unequivocally support Deandre’s work” and asking “everyone to educate themselves about the issues [Miles is] fighting for.”
Anthropology Department undergraduate program coordinator Heather Carpenter sent a June 29 email to the anthropology undergraduate listerv on behalf of the department to inform about Miles’ arrest and the charge against them. “These events are always difficult and we know that many of you following this story may be processing a wide range of reactions/emotions and feeling impacted in different ways,” Carpenter wrote. “Emory Counseling and Psychological Services are always available if you need someone to talk to.” Carpenter attached a June 28 email from Associate Professor Debra Vidali addressed to “Anthropology Colleagues, Students, Staff, and Friends,” which included a link to Miles’ legal defense fund and a statement from Miles. Below is a copy of the email obtained by the Wheel.
Michelle Lou contributed reporting.
CORRECTION (7/10/17 at 7:13 p.m.): The Young Democrats of Emory statement has been updated to clarify that the group was asking “everyone to educate themselves about the issues [Miles is] fighting for.” The statement originally read that the group asked “everyone to educate themselves about the issues they are fighting for.”