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05-10-09, 11:06 AM #1
Alan Keyes among 22 arrested at Notre Dame
Former Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes and 21 other protesters were arrested this morning when they refused to leave the Notre Dame campus during a protest of President Obama's upcoming commencement address there, authorities said.
Keyes and the others were arrested on trespassing charges when they refused to leave campus, a university spokesman said. All 22 were being held in the St. Joseph County Jail on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges, in lieu of $250 bond each, said St. Joseph County Sheriff's Sgt. Bill Redman.
Keyes was among a group of 26 protesters, some of them pushing baby carriages with dolls covered in fake blood, who entered the campus and were greeted by Notre Dame police, said university spokesman Dennis Brown.
The protesters had "publicized their intentions in advance," and were handed notices advising them that university policy bans protests unless they are organized by student groups and approved in advance, Brown said.
University policy is to arrest anyone who refuses to leave campus after being notified of the policy, and Keyes and other protesters who stayed were arrested about 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time, he said.
"We've got a long established policy that only members of the university community can organize or lead a protest, and they have to be approved by our office of student affairs," Brown said.
The first protester was booked on a trespassing charge at the St. Joseph County Jail at 1:14 p.m., Redman said. The protesters were a mix of local residents and others from out of state, he said.
Those arrested would appear in St. Joseph County Court next Monday if they fail to make bond, he said.
Notre Dame announced earlier this spring that Obama would be the commencement speaker at its May 17 graduation ceremony. Since then, Notre Dame, a Catholic university, has become the target of protests by groups who say Obama's stance on abortion should disqualify him from speaking at a Catholic institution.
Activists including Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion rights group Operation Rescue, who was arrested at the campus last Friday, have begun targeting the school for protests in recent weeks. A student group, Notre Dame Response, has organized its own protests regarding Obama's visit.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters this afternoon that Obama had no plans to decline an honorary degree that will be given to him as part of his appearance at Notre Dame. Such an honor has been especially troubling to some opponents of his appearance at the school.
"We are honored to have received the invitation," Gibbs said. "Notre Dame has a good history of robust, civic debate and the president looks forward to speaking to the graduating class."
Gibbs said Obama planned to "accept the degree, and come back to the White House."
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