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Hampshire College student denies assaulting Maine basketball players over ‘cultural appropriation’



@ecutts_HG
Friday, March 17, 2017

BELCHERTOWN – A Hampshire College student denied physically assaulting a visiting basketball player over what the student called “cultural appropriation.”

Carmen Figueroa, 20, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown Friday morning.

The charges stem from a Jan. 27 incident at Hampshire College’s Robert Crown Center. According to court documents, Figueroa approached members the  Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team and ordered them to remove braids from their hair citing “cultural appropriation.”

Oxford Reference defines cultural appropriation as the “taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.” 

When the players did not comply and began to leave the building, Figueroa allegedly initiated a fight towards one of the players. At the same time, another unknown Hampshire College student pulled the hair of a visiting women’s basketball player causing her to fall to the ground, according to court documents. 

While the player was on the ground, police allege that Figueroa kicked and stepped on the player causing injury.

Another Maine player attempted to protect her fallen teammate but Figueroa “grabbed her by the head and threw her to the ground,” according to court documents.

The second player suffered scratches and other marks.

As coaches broke up the fight, Figueroa attempted to punch at the Maine students and “was screaming swears and racial slurs,” according to court documents.

The number listed for Figueroa in court documents was temporarily disconnected and an email went unreturned Friday. 

Hampshire College confirmed that Figueroa is a student at the college on Friday, but declined to comment on whether she was or is currently on the school’s women’s basketball team.

“The College has no comment on an active district court proceeding,” John Courtmanche, a college spokesman, wrote in an email.

Figueroa was released on personal recognizance and is scheduled to return to court in May.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.