Student Protests: Relative Quiet Shattered by New Events and Announcements

UCR-Riot-Police

After weeks of quiet, student demonstrations re-emerged in the news.  On the local front came the not-unexpected news that the Yolo District Attorney had declined to file charges against the UCD protesters who were pepper sprayed.

For the most part, the district attorney has declined to involve his office in the politics of student protests.

The one notable exception was the case of Brienna Holmes, who was accused of attacking police officers two years ago at a Mrak Hall protest.  However, the video evidence was at best inconclusive and the jury hung in favor of acquittal and the district attorney would later throw out the charges.

Ms. Homes has since filed a lawsuit against UC Davis, alleging that Captain Joyce Souza had singled her out and used excessive force as she waited outside of the building where a protest was being held.

She recently told the Vanguard, “On the night I was arrested in front of Mrak, I went to my evening class and returned back to Mrak to find a friend of my mine. I was standing alone towards the parking lot and news vans, when Officer Souza approached me.”

“Still to this day, I don’t understand why I was singled out and pushed by Officer Souza. I was not trespassing or aggravating the situation in any way. I was simply an innocent bystander eventually tangled in the police chaos,” she continued.

“When I heard about the ‘pepper-spraying incident,’ I was extremely saddened and embarrassed to have graduated from UC Davis. I was not the slightest [bit] surprised though,” she continued.  “As the events of Mrak and March 4th showed, the student movement has remained peaceful, while the police presence on campus has escalated to violence.”

“The pepper-spraying incident was similar to Mrak in that the officers created a scenario that jeopardized student safety. The administration clearly turned the other way in allowing UCPD to resort to extreme tactics of intimidation and violence – including officers decked out in riot gear,” she said.

“Their notion of ‘crowd control’ seems irrelevant, given the police seemed out of control in both cases.”  She added, “In both instances of protest, the UCPD and administration have resorted to violence to suppress dissent on campus. The rhetoric of ‘protecting students’ and the ‘campus’ clearly translates in both cases to ‘protecting private administrative interests.’ With the pepper-spraying incident, the Chancellor and UCPD have singled out the officers immediately involved, rather than addressing the greater policy issues at hand.”

As lawyers for Occupy Sacramento noted in a press release, they were not surprised by the decision by the district attorney not to file charges.

It follows a pattern of county DAs refusing to prosecute after arrests by police at Occupy events, including those in Sacramento, said Jeff Kravitz, one of the many pro bono/volunteer lawyers working with Occupy Sacramento.

“I am not surprised at all. These are peaceful, nonviolent demonstrators. In Sacramento, we have veterans, workers and students defending the First Amendment and being arrested. None of them should be prosecuted. Now is the time to prosecute the real lawbreakers…the police officers at UC Davis who violated the students’ rights,” said Mr. Kravitz late Friday.

They note in Sacramento there have been 110 arrests since October and the Sacramento District Attorney has refused to file charges in any of them.

“The City of Sacramento filed some charges, but has not successfully prosecuted any of them. Twenty-two cases remain of the 110 arrests,” the release noted.

On Friday, the district attorney announced the investigation into the actions of Lt. Pike and one other officer, who were seen pepper spraying protesters at the November 18 protest on the Quad at UC Davis, was still pending.

Meantime, things blew up at UC Riverside, following students conducting a sit-in at the UC Regents meeting and refusing to leave.

According to ABC 7 news from Los Angeles, “The regents walked out of the room, while the students continued to list off alternatives to fee hikes, including the reform of Proposition 13 to help fund public education, taxing millionaires and oil companies and to freeze or cut administrative positions that pay more than $125,000 a year.”

Board chair Sherry Lansing told the students she was frustrated by their actions.

“If your sole intention is to disrupt the meeting, you have succeeded,” she told the students. “If your intention, which I hope, is to have constructive dialogue … you are welcome, and we wanted you to stay, but if you continue to chant, we can’t do the business. We can’t explore any of the options that you’re talking about.”

A release from the UC Riverside Newsroom indicates that UC Riverside police detained three people, during the protests with an estimated 300 to 500 protesters.

According to their release, “A UCR police officer fired pellets toward protesters who were trying to break through police lines. These are hard plastic pellets that are similar in force to a paintball. Officers from the University of California Police Department (UCPD) used batons at different times and locations in response to aggressive action by the protesters. The department is attempting to identify and contact anyone who was injured.”

“The protesters picked up a metal barricade and began advancing through the crowd and toward officers,” UCR Police Chief Mike Lane said. Fearing that the barricade was going to be thrown, or used as a weapon, police deployed the air-propelled pellets. Lane said that incident was the only time that police deployed pellets.

Chief Lane also indicated protesters were picking up the metal barricades to use them to block access to the roadway, refusing to allow vehicles to leave from a parking lot. At one point, university vehicles carrying UC administrators and employees were surrounded by protesters. Police responded and after about 40 minutes, the vehicles were allowed to leave.

“We had planned to take the Regents out of the rear loading dock area, but that was blocked. So we took them to the second floor of the Highlander Union Building, through Costo Hall, and into three vans,” said Chief Lane. “Officers jogged alongside to make sure the vans were not surrounded or prevented from leaving and to keep protesters and pedestrians out of harm’s way.”

“Let me say that I am very proud of how officers were able to allow the Regents to meet here despite the challenges of the protest,” said Chief Lane. “Our officers protected our students, the UC Regents, and other members of the campus community. So my deep thanks to all the officers from the three law enforcement agencies involved.”

Students dispute the account.  Lee Rogers, a PHD Student in Political Science said he was one of the people carrying the metal partition that police had been using to separate each other, “to protect peaceful protesters, once again, from being pulled out of the line by police officers instigating violence and making false arrests.”

He noted that the purpose for carrying the partition was to create a barrier between seated protesters and police officers.

In a letter to the campus community on Friday, UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White said, “The students have legitimate concerns about affordability and access to UC, as well as the quality of their educational experience. I share their deep concern and worry, and I along with so many others, am working daily to help find solutions.”

He said he appreciated the restraint shown by the students, the police and by the regents in the face of a difficult situation. He also offered kudos for the hard work of the staff who organized every detail of food, transportation, facilities, safety and communications.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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27 Comments

  1. hpierce

    [quote]“The protesters picked up a metal barricade and began advancing through the crowd and toward officers,” UCR Police Chief Mike Lane said. Fearing that the barricade was going to be thrown, or used as a weapon, police deployed the air-propelled pellets. Lane said that incident was the only time that police deployed pellets.

    “The protesters picked up a metal barricade and began advancing through the crowd and toward officers,” Chief Lane said. Fearing that the barricade was going to be thrown, or used as a weapon, police deployed the air-propelled pellets. Chief Lane said that incident was the only time that police deployed pellets.

    Chief Lane said protesters picked up metal barricades and used them to block access to the roadway, refusing to allow vehicles to leave from a parking lot. At one point university vehicles carrying UC administrators and employees were surrounded by protesters. Police responded and after about 40 minutes, the vehicles were allowed to leave.[/quote]Giving the adage, “I tell you three times”, new meaning…

  2. J.R.

    [quote]protesters were picking up the metal barricades to use them to block access to the roadway, refusing to allow vehicles to leave from a parking lot.[/quote]

    Holding people agains their will is a federal crime. A felony, also known as kidnapping.

    These protestors, and the ones blocking the exit of the employees and customers at the US Bank branch on the Davis campus, are getting close to being chargeable with offenses carrying serious jail time.

  3. AdRemmer

    jr – “Holding people agains their will is a federal crime. A felony, also known as kidnapping.”

    See CA PC sections:

    207 – kidnapping &

    236/237 – false imprisonment

  4. medwoman

    JR and AdRemmer

    True, except in the words of the only protester involved who seems to have publicly voiced his motive, that is not what they were doing. His stated intent was to place the barricade between the police and the protesters. So this becomes a matter of who do you believe with regard to motivation. Not a very strong case to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  5. Mr Obvious

    [quote]True, except in the words of the only protester involved who seems to have publicly voiced his motive, that is not what they were doing. His stated intent was to place the barricade between the police and the protesters. So this becomes a matter of who do you believe with regard to motivation. Not a very strong case to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.[/quote]

    I’ve seen the youtube videos of the “peaceful” occupy protesters. I’m going to have to say these people were carrying around a big piece of metal that didn’t belong to them, they had just interrupted a meeting, and they had to evacuate the chancellors. I think one would have to be smoking the medicinal marijuana not to see what was happening there.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I’ve seen the youtube videos of the “peaceful” occupy protesters. I’m going to have to say these people were carrying around a big piece of metal that didn’t belong to them, they had just interrupted a meeting, and they had to evacuate the chancellors. I think one would have to be smoking the medicinal marijuana not to see what was happening there.[/quote]

    Directly on point. Secondly, how could the police have any way of knowing what was in the students minds who were coming at the police with a heavy metal barricade? If the students were approaching me in that way, I would certainly consider it threatening. Thirdly, not allowing someone to leave, if that was the intent of the students, is illegal, as has been pointed out above. No matter what way you slice it the students were in the wrong here…

  7. medwoman

    ERM

    Another good way for the police to have known what their intent was would have been to ask. And again, in the words of one of the students carrying the barricade, they were attempting to place it between the protesters and the police. Given that the police are professionsls and the students are not, I would find it prudent to ask first and shoot later. Even if you find the students carrying the barricade in the wrong, how does that justify causing potential harm to others by initiating a stampede which is what happened ?

  8. biddlin

    Exactly on point, medwoman, the police are held to a higher standard of behavior, even if one accepts this dubious premise that the students were going to use a huge, unwieldy barricade as a weapon . (One or two cops jump on the barricade, it becomes too heavy for the kids to carry .) Having been involved in human rights campaigns for some decades, the video was very reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid protests . I thought the chant ” What does a police state look like ? This is what a police state looks like . ” was particularly apt .

  9. 91 Octane

    Another good way for the police to have known what their intent was would have been to ask. And again, in the words of one of the students carrying the barricade, they were attempting to place it between the protesters and the police. Given that the police are professionsls and the students are not, I would find it prudent to ask first and shoot later. Even if you find the students carrying the barricade in the wrong, how does that justify causing potential harm to others by initiating a stampede which is what happened ?

    right, ask the protestors as they are shouting and chanting and drowing out other voices but their own. uh huh.

  10. 91 Octane

    if the vanguard and others truly believe civil disobedience is right and just and the way for our society to go fine then. the following should happen, according to them:

    the tea party should hold sit ins and occupy buildings and the end result should be:

    1. lower taxes on everyone including the wealthy
    2. closing borders
    3. shutting down abortion clinics.
    4. greater military spending
    ……

    you get my drift. and these things should happen as long as the tea party uses civil disobedience because they are unable to aquire these things to their liking under the current system.

    the point being, whats good for the goose is good for the gander. now is this what vanguard and company truly want?

  11. Mr Obvious

    [quote] Given that the police are professionsls and the students are not, I would find it prudent to ask first and shoot later. Even if you find the students carrying the barricade in the wrong, how does that justify causing potential harm to others by initiating a stampede which is what happened ?[/quote]

    We are talking about a group of educated people who are smart enough to organize. These people are smart enough to realize that if you carry a big metal battering ram towards police there are going to be some consequences. The protesters could have told the police what their intent was prior to their actions, theres a thought.

    The protesters also could have totally avoided the entire situation, oh yeah.

  12. AdRemmer

    mw, an after-the-fact, out of court statement, is not really apposite to the question relative to reasonability as per the best persons to decide use of force, in these cases, again per the SCOTUS, [u][b]the officers on the scene[/u][/b], based on the totality of the circumstances.

  13. biddlin

    91 Octane-They have the right to protest . What they should do is left to one’s own judgment. The results are ultimately decided by the court of public opinion, local and state governments and the SCOTUS .

  14. medwoman

    AdRemmer

    “, again per the SCOTUS, the officers on the scene, based on the totality of the circumstances.

    Again, I have no quarrel with this statement as it stands. It does not alter the fact that the police are also bound by laws. Also,there have been instances in our history when police behavior has also been so far outside the bounds of public acceptability ( the use of dogs and fire hoses against peaceful protesters in the south as one example ) as to change the conversation and to change laws. It remains to be seen whether the current actions will change minds and or laws.

  15. medwoman

    91 Octane


    if the vanguard and others truly believe civil disobedience is right and just and the way for our society to go fine then. the following should happen, according to them:

    the tea party should hold sit ins and occupy buildings and the end result should be:

    1. lower taxes on everyone including the wealthy
    2. closing borders
    3. shutting down abortion clinics.
    4. greater military spending “

    For me this is not about what a group “should do”, but what they have a constitutional right to do. There are groups whose philosophy and tactics I personally find abhorrent, the Westboro Baptist Church being a prime example, but whose right to express their hate filled ideas I would adamantly defend.
    Bad behavior based on one’s philosophy is not limited to the political left or right.
    Abortion clinics have been blocked on many occasions by those who feel that abortion is unacceptible but that murder of abortionists is justified.
    If a “so called right to lifer” many of whom would cavalierly place the pregnant woman’s life at risk because of their lack of understanding of the medical issues, wants to hold up signs, chant and block the path to a clinic, and is willing to sit and be arrested for blocking access, I will defend their right to do so.
    As for immigration, if those who want to block the border want to sit side by side and form a human barrier, more power to them. This is within our constsutional rights and as American’s, if we are willing to defend a right for one, we should be willing to defend it for all.
    Does that answer your question about my position ?
    ……

  16. JustSaying

    [quote]“For me this is not about what a group ‘should do’, but what they have a constitutional right to do.”[/quote]Actually, I don’t think the Constitution protects lawbreaking.

    By definition, civil disobedience involves breaking a law. People who want their lawbreaking to get labeled “civil disobedience” are claiming a higher authority and are willing to accept the legal consequences of their acts.

    If you’re suggesting that some moral authority allows these acts, that’s fine, but please point out anything in our law (including the Constitution) that allows them “a constitutional right to do” it.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If a “so called right to lifer” many of whom would cavalierly place the pregnant woman’s life at risk because of their lack of understanding of the medical issues, wants to hold up signs, chant and block the path to a clinic, and is willing to sit and be arrested for blocking access, I will defend their right to do so. [/quote]

    Protesters are not permitted to block access to abortion clinics…

    [quote]Actually, I don’t think the Constitution protects lawbreaking.

    By definition, civil disobedience involves breaking a law. People who want their lawbreaking to get labeled “civil disobedience” are claiming a higher authority and are willing to accept the legal consequences of their acts.

    If you’re suggesting that some moral authority allows these acts, that’s fine, but please point out anything in our law (including the Constitution) that allows them “a constitutional right to do” it.[/quote]

    Very well said!

  18. E Roberts Musser

    To medwoman: FYI, from [url]http://www.npr.org/2011/09/01/140094051/obama-takes-tougher-stance-on-abortion-protesters[/url]
    [quote]The Obama Justice Department has been taking a more aggressive approach against people who block access to abortion clinics, using a 1994 law to bring cases in greater numbers than its predecessor.

    The numbers are most stark when it comes to civil lawsuits, which seek to create buffer zones around clinic entrances for people who have blocked access in the past. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has filed eight civil cases since the start of the Obama administration. That’s a big increase over the George W. Bush years, when one case was filed in eight years.[/quote]

  19. medwoman

    “By definition, civil disobedience involves breaking a law. People who want their lawbreaking to get labeled “civil disobedience” are claiming a higher authority and are willing to accept the legal consequences of their acts. “

    Correct, I was sloppy in confounding two separate issues.
    I agree that there is no constitutional right to break the law. There is however a right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
    And I personally feel that the existence of a law does not mean that it is morally correct and many laws that were in effect, and subsequently have been considered morally unacceptable were not overturned until there was significant civil disobedience calling attention to the law to force its reconsideration. I personally do believe that it is an individual’s right to peacefully follow their own conscience, even if it means peacefully breaking the law and being willing to accept the consequences.

  20. medwoman

    ERM

    “The numbers are most stark when it comes to civil lawsuits, which seek to create buffer zones around clinic entrances for people who have blocked access in the past. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has filed eight civil cases since the start of the Obama administration. That’s a big increase over the George W. Bush years, when one case was filed in eight years.”

    Change is incremental in this area as in most.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    There is a point being missed here and that is civil disobedience by its very nature must break the law. Neither nor anyone who is arguing for civil disobedience is arguing that it shouldn’t be illegal to do these things.

  22. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I agree that there is no constitutional right to break the law. There is however a right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. [/quote]

    There are limitations on the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, such as reasonable time/place/manner restrictions…

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