Students See Linkage Between Pepper Spray Incident and Bank Blocking Prosecution

reynoso-tf-8.jpg

Six of the 12 students facing charges for bank blocking in the Memorial Union were either pepper sprayed or arrested on November 18, according to one protester involved in both incidents.  By itself, this could simply mean that the same people involved in the bank-blocking incident were heavily involved in the November 18 protests.

The students, however, believe otherwise, that the bank-blocking prosecution is simply an extension of the pepper-spray incident and is the university’s retribution for their involvement on the Quad.

In a press release sent out on Wednesday, they write: “Just months after UC Davis police pepper sprayed seated students in the face during a protest against university privatization and police brutality, Chancellor Linda Katehi’s administration is trying to send some of the same students to prison for their alleged role in protests that led to the closure of a US Bank branch on campus.”

The press release argues, “Whereas the District Attorney declined to file charges against protesters then, this less publicized prosecution seems to be an attempt to punish the dissenting students, perhaps in retaliation for their pending ACLU lawsuit against the university.”

“We might not think of this as violence, because there aren’t broken bones or pepper spray or guns – it’s not as explicit – but sending someone to jail, holding them for a day, let alone 11 years, is violence,” said Andrew Higgins, a graduate student in history and representative of the UC graduate student union.

The Vanguard inquired with UC Davis spokesperson Barry Shiller as to how many of the students who were in the initial six names, that were forwarded to the DA’s office, were involved on November 18.  Mr. Shiller did not immediately know the answer.

On April 27, 2012, 12 protesters – including one professor – will face criminal charges, as filed on March 29 by the Yolo County District Attorney’s office.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig is charging campus protesters with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, the protesters could face up to 11 years each in prison, and $1 million in damages.

According to the press release, “The charges were brought at the request of the UC Davis administration, which had recently received a termination letter from US Bank holding the university responsible for all costs, claiming they were ‘constructively evicted’ because the university had not responded by arresting the ‘illegal gathering.’ “

The release adds, “Protesters point out that the charges against them serve to position the university favorably in a potential litigation with US Bank.”

However, a university spokesperson told the Vanguard on Thursday that this is simply a way for the university to deal with protests without the type of confrontations we have seen in the news on the UC Davis campus such as the November 18 incident, or as have occurred on other UC campuses.

The press release continues: “Three of the protesters had received summons from UCD Student Judicial Affairs in mid-February, and it was only after US Bank announced that it had permanently closed its doors that the UCD administration requested that the DA bring criminal charges against the 12.”

“Supporters argue that the university is targeting the dozen in order to limit its liability to US Bank and that the university is effectively using public funds (through the DA’s office) to protect a private corporation’s right to profit from increasingly indebted students at an increasingly expensive public university.”

This theme played out on Wednesday as students spoke out in the hearing of the task force’s report.

Some students reacted positively to the report.

Fatima Sbeih, one of those pepper sprayed and involved in the lawsuit, told reporters that she was shocked and pleased to see the report so critical of the police action that day.

“My heart stopped. I was like, oh my God, they actually admitted it,” she said.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Lara, arrested but not pepper sprayed on November 18, expressed disappointment in the lack of force behind the recommendations, in particular that the police force will not face complete overhaul.

“The report is pretty thorough. But the recommendations fall short,” she told reporters.

Geoffrey Wildanger was one of the people pepper sprayed and is currently being prosecuted for the bank blocking protests.  He noted that they were, ironically enough, pepper sprayed with military-grade pepper spray, but pepper spray has been banned under the Geneva Convention as a chemical weapon.

He noted that, following the incident, there was a large mobilization for people who wanted Katehi to resign “because Katehi as chancellor of the university bears ultimate responsibility for what happens on campus.”  He added, “The delay and delay and delay of the report has effectively dispersed a lot of this energy and a lot of this anger and caused a situation in which” they have been repeatedly told to be patient as there are ongoing investigations.

He asked, “Why when the reports are being delayed are we still being harassed by the same administration… and the same police force and now being prosecuted and arrested by them?”

He expressed his frustration because, as he said, this wasn’t the first time these types of incidents have occurred and he argued, in each protest, he has been beaten up by the police and has the bruises to show for it.

Dan Dooley, Senior Vice President in the UC Office of the President responded, “The report acknowledges both in the findings the mistakes that were made…”  He continued, “With respect to the police department,” he said they asked the same question as earlier, why was this weapon available that was supposedly not authorized and the officers untrained on, “how can this happen?  The bottom line is, we think, there needs to be a complete review from top to bottom of the police department, of the training that’s required, the procedures and protocols…”

He said that their objective is “a university public safety operation that is a model for university campuses around the country and not one that is designed around the… [traditional] model .”

Another commenter who was pepper sprayed and is also facing charges at the bank protest asked, “If the police are not trained, why are they still walking around with their weapons on this campus?”

She added, “Why are these police officers still around – that’s unacceptable.”  She asked if they took recommendations, then said, “Then why did you ignore over 100,000 people who called for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi?”

“This report has done its work, right, it was to buy Katehi time and let this uproar die away, now there are no mechanisms to hold her accountable despite the contents of the report.  These same administration and these same police are now prosecuting some of the pepper spray victims and trying to imprison them for up to 11 years,” she continued.

“This report should have changed something, it hasn’t changed anything, how can this be?” she asked.

Cruz Reynoso noted that President Yudof asked the task force not to make recommendations about punishment.

The commenter responded, “Because no one gets punished then.”

Cruz Reynoso indicated that they would be meeting with the chancellor to go over the mistakes that were made and the lack of judgment.

But the commenter was clearly frustrated by the delays in this process, which Cruz Reynoso acknowledged were outside of their control, and he again laid the delays at the hands of the lawsuit and the police bill of rights.

“We called these things are we saw them and we’re not apologetic about it,” Mr. Reynoso said.

She responded, “And on April 27, I’ll meet with the District Attorney’s Office, so the same violence against me of this university, and nobody is being held accountable for that.”

One of the students on the task force said bluntly that, while most of what the student said was true, the employee contracts did not permit them to make those kinds of findings.

However, the student on the task force said, “Katehi’s not going anywhere.  She is our chancellor and she will remain our chancellor unless she does something horrendously illegal.  As it stands right now, that’s not what happened.”

So, the student on the task force added, “The answers that you’re looking for are not going to be found on this task force report because we’re not allowed to do those things.”

“Our job was to point fingers and say what happened; we can’t really do more than that,” that student added.

Another female student came forward and spoke on behalf of someone not allowed to speak up, “The majority of the people who were pepper sprayed that day are now, as you all well know, unable to comment on this report because they’re being pursued, prosecuted by the university for the very same thing, but by the Yolo County Court.”

“They no longer have a voice,” she said.  “The majority of the people cannot even comment on the Reynoso report because on April 27 they’re being called to the Yolo County Superior Court to appear for protesting the privatization of the University.”

One thing that is clear is that the report and recommendations are not going to go far enough for many of those intimately involved in this event.

And while Cruz Reynoso made it a point to say their job was not to recommend discipline and outcomes, a day later speaking to the Sacramento Bee, he expressed his personal opinion that Chancellor Katehi should not have to resign.

“She should not resign. The balance is that she has done a lot of good despite this drastic poor judgment,” Justice Reynoso told the paper.

While the justice may be right, the likely result is that students will be further separated from this process and the result is, rather than achieving reconciliation and moving forward with a consensus, that this may actually polarize the process and frustrate those most intimately involved.

—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.

Related posts

32 Comments

  1. Robb Davis

    David – I must admit that the comment made by the unidentified individual at the public meeting (which I watched online) confuses me. She said:

    “The majority of the people cannot even comment on the Reynoso report because on April 27 they’re being called to the Yolo County Superior Court to appear for protesting the privatization of the University.”

    I simply do not understand what this means. Cannot comment? Unclear.

    I agree with you that “…the likely result is that students will be further separated from this process and the result is, rather than achieving reconciliation and moving forward with a consensus, that this may actually polarize the process and frustrate those most intimately involved.”

    Still, I hold out hope that some form of restorative process (if not full reconciliation) will be used and in the end that key participants from all the groups “involved” that day (police, administration and students) will meet face to face to flesh out what happened that day, listen to one another and name some steps to change the status quo on campus.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I think the comment refers to the fact that facing legal jeopardy on the bank blocking, they have been advised not the speak. Of course that did not stop at least two from speaking without giving their names and third one speaking and giving his name.

    We have had the discussion of the restorative process and hopefully I will get to publish my article on it next week, but as I understand there is a two way street and I see the students emotions far too raw at this point.

  3. Robb Davis

    I agree David that the students emotions are too raw at this point. Any process will take time and preparation. We will continue to work patiently. Thanks.

    Just one other thing that has not received much attention here (or in the reports) concerns the legal advice given by UC Davis counsel to the police–the legal justification for the police action. The UC Davis lawyers are citing attorney/client privilege and not disclosing the legal advice they gave to the police. While I understand that this is their right, their unwillingness to find a way to share this information makes it hard to rebuild any trust between students and the University. Maybe there IS no way to make this information public. If so, that is terribly sad.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    Attorney-client privilege is probably one of the toughest things to breach and for good reason. I think the bigger question is the overall legality of the their position to clear a public area in the middle of the day and whether they could have done it at night, rather than the legal advice given at the time.

  5. JustSaying

    From an earlier story: [quote]“Another female student came forward and spoke on behalf of someone not allowed to speak up….”[/quote]What do you mean by this observation? Given the outspokenness of the people who aren’t satisfied in the least by Justice Reynoso’s impressive evaluation, no one was “not allowed to speak up.”

    There’s quite a difference between people who say they “not allowed to speak” because they [b]choose[/b] not to as a legal strategy and people who really aren’t allowed. Why buy into this fiction in your report?

    People who don’t speak up (whether demonstrators or police) shouldn’t be described as “not allowed to speak” unless it’s true–prohibited by a judge’s gag order, for example. This is America, land of free speech, for God’s sake.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    JustSaying: She rose and said she was speaking on behalf of those who are not allowed to speak or something to that effect. So that’s how I characterized her since she didn’t give her name.

  7. GnarlMarx

    It’s kind of cool that free speech is a fake concept because not all speech is equal 🙂

    Take for instance, your assertion that the students can name themselves and speak out because they have ‘free speech’ in America, and the only reason they cannot is out of a legal strategy. What you’re missing is the fact that THIS legal strategy is their only way of countering the school’s legal strategy of criminalizing (and therefore, silencing) protestors. At that rally there was literally a fat ass cop in the room. Would you call it wise for a student to essentially announce his/her criminal actions to a room full of students, administrators, and cops? By being prosecuted, they have been forced into a hole of silence. Though no one is holding a physically real gun to their head and telling them to shut up, they are basically being gagged by the administration into not speaking or facing [b]ELEVEN YEARS IN PRISON[/b].

    And as for all of you hoping for the students passions to calm down (which is ageism in a nutshell), I have the exact opposite hope. This is just the start.

  8. Ryan Kelly

    It is my understanding that students refused to participate in the Kroll investigation, so I am not impressed by their questions about the report not addressing various issues, such as their treatment while in police custody and their alleged poor treatment by the University since that time. They seemed very willing to put themselves out there on the Quad and at other protests, but when the University provides them with an avenue to make themselves heard, they shy away, citing fear of retaliation. I think the group is surprised that the report so thoroughly condemn the actions of the Administration and police department and, maybe, regret that they did not participate.

    As for the girl who spoke at the briefing about people who couldn’t comment – She spoke out of turn, raising her voice over Cruz Reynoso’s attempt to let another student, who had waited patiently in line, to speak. He was gracious enough to let her finish, but made it clear that she had not followed the rules he set forth. I found her to be rude and annoying. Her comment made no sense in the context of the briefing about the release of their report, so her message was lost on those in attendance and watching on line.

    Students need to recognize to when there are opportunities to engage the UCD community and the broader community in dialogue. There have been major opportunities that they have missed – Katehi coming out to the Quad only to have students vote to not let her speak, the Kroll investigation, etc. When speaking in public, they need to speak to the issues in a relevant way that gets other people to start wondering the same things. And do not be rude to the very people they are trying to get on board. I’m still waiting to for a true leader to emerge from this group.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The students, however, believe otherwise, that the bank-blocking prosecution is simply an extension of the pepper-spray incident and is the university’s retribution for their involvement on the Quad.[/quote]

    Or perhaps this is an example of students pumped up with their apparent “power” over police in a perceived ability to goad police into confrontation at will, who now find themselves outsmarted by a wiser university that refuses to be goaded into such destructive and dangerous confrontations…

    [quote]When speaking in public, they need to speak to the issues in a relevant way that gets other people to start wondering the same things. And do not be rude to the very people they are trying to get on board. I’m still waiting to for a true leader to emerge from this group.[/quote]

    Well said!

  10. JustSaying

    [quote][b]”Students See Linkage Between Pepper Spray Incident and Bank Blocking Prosecution”[/b][/quote]The students believe this…the students believe that. Who are these students who “believe” there’s a “linkage” who also “believed” that those who were served only are charged because the bank pulled out, leaving the university in a bind.

    This handful of lawbreakers either believe things for which they have no basis (ala conspiracy theories) or assert things which they think will advance their cause (ala talking points). It’s obviously a PR strategy that has no basis in fact.

    Not one of the “students” believes that those charged are “facing ELEVEN YEARS IN PRISON.” Not one has a basis for claiming they “are basically being gagged by the administration into not speaking.” The administration cannot punish anyone for speaking out and never will have the power to “criminalize” acts that are not criminal.

    These folks are charged with breaking very specific laws, repeatedly, intentionally and knowingly. It’s just silly to contend they should get some kind of free pass just because their believe their cause is just while they believe the university is bad.

    If they decide to stop talking and chose to refuse to cooperate with Justice Reynoso’s worthy undertaking, that’s their right. They likely have very selfish and reasonable motives based on advice from their attorneys. But boycotting Reynoso certainly brings into question whether they have any commitment whatever to improving UCD’s future responses to demonstrations.

    The evidence against those charged seems pretty strong, so any distraction is preferable to talking about the law-breaking itself. Furthermore, there’s no evidence that “the students” who supposedly have been gagged have stopped blabbing at all.

    They keep saying the same thing over and over–in talks, blogs, news releases, letters, public forums, etc. Apparently not noticing that the redundancy is part of a PR campaign, some media pick up every repetitive morsel as though it’s news.

  11. TedA

    [quote]Which perhaps shows Reynoso’s bias? We all have them… [/quote]

    I think regardless of your position on what the students did and whether it was at all justified, it’s a stretch to support the prosecution of the 12 students/professor.

    I think the big question here is: what was the university trying to accomplish?

    If the university wanted to prevent protesting behavior that affected the community and businesses on campus, they could have tried actually doing something before the Bank closed. They could have had the students arrested on the first day. They could have tried availing themselves of their administrative powers (i.e. SJA) to warn, put on probation, or even suspend the students. They could have [i]even warned that they were building a case against the students and intended to recommend prosecution if they didnt stop[/i]. They did none of this– they took a totally hands off approach, and the most they did was notify the students that it was potentially illegal, which is a considerable distance from “it’s illegal, and by the way we’re collecting evidence and letting you build up counts so that we can forward all of it to the DA without warning.”

    If the point was to make an example of the students, there’s a big question as to whether universities should allow students to get themselves in as much trouble as possible so that they can make examples of them. Personally, I think the University has a role in protecting its students, it has some responsibilities as a caretaker and supervisor. I think building a case against students until it was as strong and penalizing as it possibly can be, without using any of the vast range of measures it had available to try and stop or dissuade them from what they were doing or even letting them know that they were building this case, is a major abdication of that role and a terrible violation of the trust of all of the students– even those who might have wanted access to the bank.

    Finally: what in the heck is the prosecutor doing? We’re at a time that the Chief Justice of the California Supreme court is calling a [i]crisis[/i] (See http://www.abanow.org/2012/04/press-conference-access-to-justice-in-the-wake-of-budget-cuts/ ) due to incredibly low judicial resources, and he’s pursuing cases recommended to him by the University when they have done nothing to avail themselves of the various administrative measures they have available to deal with the alleged misconduct? This is a problem that the University has its own internal tools to deal with, and if I was a member of the Yolo County community I would be outraged to have the University punting it to the criminal system, taxing public resources (in so many ways, from the payment of the many lawyers that will be involved and the cost-opportunity suffered, to the work missed by jury members), and denying justice for cases where there is no alternative remedy but the criminal justice system. And I would be equally angry to see the county DA catching that punt.

    On a personal level, I think the University messed up terribly. They might have been able to stop the bank protests from going beyond a day just by threatening a probation. I think the University should have to bite the bullet that the protests, if they were going to stop them at all, could have been stopped long ago, and take full responsibility for the entire event. By not trying to do anything about it, the University was blocking that bank door just as much as the students (in fact, I would personally consider them more responsible), and the fact that they have tried to get off scott-free and give the students 11 years of jail time is a total abomination. In my mind, the only way for the University to redeem itself at this point is to ask the DA to drop the charges and, in repentance for trying to screw the students so hard, let the students go.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “The evidence against those charged seems pretty strong”

    How do you know this? The evidence perhaps against the collective group may be strong, but to get a conviction they will have to show individual acts of culpability and that may be much more difficult to prove.

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If the point was to make an example of the students, there’s a big question as to whether universities should allow students to get themselves in as much trouble as possible so that they can make examples of them. Personally, I think the University has a role in protecting its students, it has some responsibilities as a caretaker and supervisor. I think building a case against students until it was as strong and penalizing as it possibly can be, without using any of the vast range of measures it had available to try and stop or dissuade them from what they were doing or even letting them know that they were building this case, is a major abdication of that role and a terrible violation of the trust of all of the students– even those who might have wanted access to the bank. [/quote]

    You mean invoke the “in loco parentis” doctrine that dmg insists no longer exists?

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “You mean invoke the “in loco parentis” doctrine that dmg insists no longer exists?”

    You have misrepresented what I said which is that the courts have no longer recognized it with regards to college students and I even cited case law to that effect.

  15. J.R.

    The evidence against the students presumably includes numerous videotapes and photographs. Perhaps it will not be enough to convict some of the students. That’s why we have courts; so they can get a fair trial.

  16. JustSaying

    David, you’re kidding? Or just trying to rile things up for the sake of a more interesting discussion? Can you think of any defense case that has a chance in the face of weeks of close surveillance and interaction with people in the act of breaking several laws? Anything?

    Authorities will not have made any serious mistakes in preparing the cases against these dozen folks, whose law-breaking was documented and observed by many. They’ve not charged “the collective group”–they’ve charge the ones for which they have the strongest cases and high confidence in their successful prosecution.

    When you purposely and flagrantly break laws (essentially daring authorities to arrest you) and, at the same time, attempt to make police look cowardly if they don’t act (remember your criticism!), you’re in a heap of trouble talking your way out if you end up charged.

    The diversions (Katehi’s sins, “retroactive” charging, UCD’s anxiety about the bank leaving, the pepper spray connection, the so-called “privatization” matter, etc.) may or may not be important issues. But they have nothing to do with whether the dozen charged are guilty or innocent.

    There is no reasonable defense when you’ve announced to the world you’re breaking the law, then you do it, then you do it again, etc., while the world is watching and taking pictures. You’ve called charges “open and shut” before. How can you even imagine this on isn’t such a case and “may be much more difficult to prove”?

    I predict at least half of these people will make plea deals, in spite of their supposed desire for expensive trials, once their attorneys explain the “open and shut cases” they’re facing. What kind of hope are you claiming to be offering them?

  17. David M. Greenwald

    Just Saying: Slow down there. All I said is we don’t know that they have a good case. We’ll see what the evidence ends up being. I can’t tell you how many times I sit down in court and watch these things, they have nothing more than innuendos and very sketchy circumstantial evidence.

  18. medwoman

    JustSaying

    “But boycotting Reynoso certainly brings into question whether they have any commitment whatever to improving UCD’s future responses to demonstrations.

    It you believe this, do you also believe that the same could be said of the police, or anyone else who declined to be interviewed by the Reynoso group ? If not, why not ?

  19. JustSaying

    [quote]“JR: He stated that the evidence was pretty strong, I’m simply arguing we do not know that yet….I can’t tell you how many times I sit down in court and watch these things, they have nothing more than innuendos and very sketchy circumstantial evidence.”[/quote]You know this is not one of those cases. The chance you’ll get surprised watching these trials is minimal. For you to claim it’ll be “difficult” to prove their culpability just seems weird, knowing what we know about these cases. [quote]“It you believe this, do you also believe that the same could be said of the police, or anyone else who declined to be interviewed by the Reynoso group.” [/quote]Exactly. I’ve repeatedly said the police probably made a mistake in refusing to cooperate. One difference I see is that the students are claiming some higher motives to improve the university while the cops are claiming only to be covering their behinds. And the students now are whining that they’re “not allowed to speak up” when it’s not true–they’ve made their choice, the same as the police.

  20. AbenC

    Justsayin

    You seem to be very resolute in your feelings that the students should face awful criminal justice consequences for their actions.

    However, I think it’s worth remembering that Justice Reynoso has said:
    “I confess, I disagree with what this campus is doing.”

    UC Davis Law Professors/CA Supreme Court Justices aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about these prosecutions as you are.

  21. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]However, I think it’s worth remembering that Justice Reynoso has said:
    “I confess, I disagree with what this campus is doing.” [/quote]

    And I would argue Reynoso has his own biases…

  22. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]You have misrepresented what I said which is that the courts have no longer recognized it with regards to college students and I even cited case law to that effect.[/quote]

    And I cited examples where the “in loco parentis” doctrine was used…

  23. JustSaying

    AbenC, I’ve never called for “awful criminal justice consequences” for those who blockaded the bank for weeks.

    I’ve pointed out that the charges filed against them appear legitimate and the cases look strong from what’s been reported; that, if found guilty, their sentences likely will be appropriate and minimal (certainly not “awful”)

    I’ve suggested these particular protesters are an embarrassment to the honorable traditions of civil disobedience, whining as they do now that charges have been filed against them for crimes they purposefully, repeatedly and publicly committed. I’ve challenged the contention the charged demonstrators make in claiming they’re being punished for “speaking out” at the pepper-spray event; they’re charged with crimes in blockading the bank.

    I see what Justice Reynoso said about not supporting what they are doing at Irvine and Davis. We’ll see how each situation turns out. In the Davis bank case, I’m not that troubled that we’re ending up plea-bargaining or in court trials, given the length and the purpose of the blockade. They knew what they were getting into; time to buck up and take your medicine.

    I’ve also asked what punishment people propose for the law-breaking involved during the three months. What do you think will be appropriate?

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for