Do We Care about the Picnic Day 5?

Illustration courtesy of Kate Mellon-Anibaba

By William Kelly

Sitting in court listening to police officers identify disembodied hands and feet from still images of cell phone videos projected on a large screen, I want to know why any of this is happening. Because the prosecution is asking that five young people, the youngest is 19 and the oldest is 22, be separated from their families, their communities, their careers, and for two of them, separated from their seven-month-old son, but I can’t believe that this is what the people of Davis really want.

After all, Davis is a community that cares about others. We care about the people who were injured or killed by white supremacists in Charlottesville, we care about the safety of our Muslim neighbors after their Mosque was vandalized, we care about people all over the country who might die if they lose their health insurance, and we care about undocumented immigrants who have been forced to live in fear of any and all contact with law enforcement. Surely we must care about Alexander, Angelica, Antwoine, Iszir, and Elijah.

Because I believe that if we were talking about five undocumented UC Davis students who had been racially profiled, attacked, and arrested downtown in broad daylight by ICE agents the people of Davis would see this for what it really is. We would see five people under attack and afraid, not just for themselves but for their brother, their partner, their friend, and even a stranger. We would be shocked by images of a plainclothes peace officer choking a young woman and throwing her to the ground, and we would immediately understand why a young man, not knowing that the woman’s attacker was a law enforcement officer, felt compelled to intervene.

We’d be disgusted by the prosecution’s use of sleazy, racially-tinged innuendo, like when they decided that an image of one of the defendants smoking a blunt needs to be projected onto the wall of the courtroom, or when a witness went out of his way to point out that the two defendants who share a child are not married, or any of the other indignities that the defendants gracefully endured. We would see how the prosecution is trying to make the defendants’ fear and confusion look like anger and aggression and we wouldn’t fall for it. We’d demand that those in power be held accountable for their own actions first.

Local elected officials, political clubs, and community organizations would be out in full force and we wouldn’t just fill the courtroom, we’d fill the courthouse.

But that’s all hypothetical because these young people aren’t undocumented students, they are our not-so-distant neighbors; and the law enforcement officers aren’t ICE agents, they are our own police officers; and this struggle isn’t about resisting Donald Trump, it’s about overcoming our own bias and indifference.

But what these two cases — one real, one imagined — have in common is the harm that is done by tearing the defendants away from their families and their communities, and the message sent to anyone who looks like the defendants about the dangers of visiting Davis, even in broad daylight.

The preliminary hearing will continue at 8:30 am on August 29th and 10:00 am on August 30th at the Woodland courthouse and there will be a protests outside the courthouse starting at 7:30 am on the 29th and 8:30 am on the 30th. In the meantime, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig is an elected official who needs to hear from his constituents  (530-666-8180  /  /

It’s not too late.

William Kelly is a Davis resident and local activist.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. David Greenwald

      I agree that’s likely what will happen. However, I wonder if that’s the best thing for the community to have a long and potentially damaging public trial.

        1. David Greenwald

          Nowhere in my comment did I offer that as a reason not to pursue prosecution of the case.  Besides, you seem to presume to know what justice looks like.

        2. David Greenwald

          Your first sentence implied just as an end, the second implies it as a means.  I agree with the second.  I don’t presuppose what that looks like.

          I believe this will be a long and damaging trial.  The defense will require putting the cops on trial, that means their records and conduct.  You have no idea just how ugly this will get and decisive it will be to the community.

  1. John Hobbs

    “I believe this will be a long and damaging trial.  The defense will require putting the cops on trial, that means their records and conduct.  You have no idea just how ugly this will get and decisive it will be to the community.”

    I assume you meant divisive instead of decisive. (An interesting slip.) I agree, but should the prosecution go for the whole nine yards and force the defense’s hand, the revelations about the cops involved could also be therapeutic. The community might come together and send a clear message to chief Pytel that words are not enough, he has to identify and clean out the bad apples, before they do any more damage.

  2. Noreen Mazelis

    These thugs were arrested and charged. Let the trial unfold and the chips fall where they may. As for “tearing them from the families”, well boo-hoo-hoo; this is something they should have considered before they drank and started to rumble. (And one of them fled, changing his shirt in the process, one indicia of guilt.) Their actions are part and parcel of the ongoing war on the police.

    Ask yourselves: do you want to be “protected” by thugs or by the cops. If the police keep “standing down”, as we’ve seen on our college campuses and cities, we shall be left to defend ourselves.


      1. Howard P

        [Noreen]:  “thugs or by the cops”

        Warning… think Noreen meant ‘thugs’, as individuals, but then used “the cops” as a class… which becomes a setup for,

        [David G]: “You act as though those are mutually exclusive terms”

        I sincerely hope David did not mean to equate a number of individuals to a class… based on other of David’s writings, I assume he meant, ‘some LEO’s are thugs, but some are exemplary heroes, and the great majority are in between, as we all are’.

        But I do not intend to put words in David’s mouth.  If he meant most/all LEO’s are thugs, I have a serious problem with that… I highly doubt that is what was intended… yet, there are LEO’s who act as thugs, to be sure…


        1. David Greenwald

          Howard: My point is that when Noreen (and she didn’t invent the phrase) says would you rather run into a thug or a cop in a dark alley, she pretends like the cop can’t be a thug. Remember the case of Sergio Alvarez who used his badge to rape women in West Sacramento? That doesn’t mean that all cops are thugs, just that just because one is a cop doesn’t mean they aren’t a thug. And btw, I don’t like the term thug, it’s not only dismissive but racially charged.

        1. David Greenwald

          Be honest, that’s not an honest question because the term “thug” presupposes a disposition and thus you are basically putting your thumb on the scale. Would I a rather run into a cop or a civilian in a dark alley? That is a tougher question. Since I’m a white guy, probably a cop. If I’m a person of color, probably not a cop.

      1. Howard P

        Point noted, and in my opinion, probably equally applies to the LEO’s…

        There is a huge difference between ‘doing a stupid’ (or an ‘ill-advised’), and being a “thug”… an event, rather than a “pattern”… the case at hand appears to be a series of ‘stupids’ (which still need to be dealt with, not ‘swept away’), rather than ‘patterns’, at least from what I’ve seen to date in the ‘reporting’.

        People do ‘stupids’/ill-advised… ‘thuggery’ is something different, entirely…

        Aalaya… if your cousin did a ‘stupid’, in my opinion, they should own up to that, nowif not, the process should play out… I tend to trust your assessment of your kin, but at this point, “it is what it is”…

        I definitely agree with you Aalaya, that ‘labels” serve no constructive use at this point, if ever…  people make errors and need to deal with them… if the error is not theirs, they should say so…

        That goes equally for the LEO’s…


  3. Dave Hart

    These five should be prosecuted the same way someone should be prosecuted for fighting in public with anyone.  Because the police did not identify themselves when the altercation started, there should not be a prosecution based on assault against police officers.  I am not impressed with how the police handled themselves in any way in this case.  I don’t want to see these five unduly tainted but since when is it okay to fight in public with ANYBODY?  The idea you can open a can of whupass on someone because you feel provoked needs to be addressed and community service of some kind is definitely in order.  But I feel that should be the limit of the prosecution.  These people need a chance to show they have learned something from the episode without it becoming a lifelong albatross around their necks.  But they also indicate they felt justified in physically fighting.  That is B.S.

    1. John Hobbs

      “since when is it okay to fight in public with ANYBODY? ”

      When it is in self-defense or defense of others in the face of a manifest act.

      “But I feel that should be the limit of the prosecution. ”

      What if it is shown that the police were the provocateurs, shouldn’t they be prosecuted, instead?

      If the cops weren’t drug tested following this incident, why? They look like they’re coming back from a liquid lunch, to me.


      1. Dave Hart

        One of the main complaints I have in general is that there seems to be a social aversion to de-escalate any situation.  We should expect that to be a primary skill by police, since they are paid, but it obviously is not.  Saying “I’m sorry” for wrongful detainment or rough treatment is never heard from the police.  It’s a legitimate criticism of the police because they go on patrol every day knowing they may encounter citizens who are not guilty of anything but who have to be questioned sometimes under rough conditions.  One can only wonder why saying “I’m sorry” is so difficult for police.  One probable reason is that they are in fact not sorry for overreacting or temporarily terrorizing people.  Another reason is that it undermines their personal sense of authority.  If they say they are sorry, it may cast doubt on their infallibility or their superiority.  They are afraid to be fully human while on the job because they are immersed in the darker side of society and need to feel armored.  I still think it would be to their advantage, long term, to learn to say “I’m sorry” and to feel that way when their hostile actions run counter to the objective facts.

        On the other hand, the rest of us who do not have a professional reason to feel threatened should learn to appreciate the value of descalation.  Why not?  Why is it so important to BE RIGHT in every interaction?  Yeah, I forgot.  It’s a test of your manhood to not take any guff from anyone.  Avoiding trouble is for nerds.  If I don’t give somebody a load of crap, who will?  Well, I guess that’s one way to live…

  4. Tia Will

    These thugs were arrested and charged”
    Wow. You have decided that they are “thugs” without benefit of trial. That says a great deal about you and nothing at all about them since they are claiming that their actions were in self defense. Surely their guilt or innocence of “thuggery” or any other charge is for a court to decide, not you or me, or any of their defenders.

    1. Howard P

      Antoinnette… very refreshing observation you share… if I understand correctly…

      Big difference between ‘not being guilty as charged’, and “innocence”… very refreshing… thank you.

      To me, your distinction shows a great deal of knowledge, and mature judgement…  brava!…

      1. Antoinnette

        Thanks for your comment,  Howard.

        I’m grateful its over for my friends in law enforcement,  even if I’m not as well-pleased as them. But I’ll respect their opinions.

        I’ve learned a lesson in humbledness today from my favorite officer!

        But I’m not surprised,  he’s a good man and honest cop.

        No matter what ugliness has been spread, stirred up about him and family.


        I’ll leave it there…





        1. Keith O

          Antoinnette, I would still like you to write an article  so we can hear the other side of this story since  we’ve been subject to much propaganda from the side of the defendants.

  5. Tia Will

    When it is in self-defense or defense of others in the face of a manifest act.”

    I am 65, female and white. I asked my partner what he would do if he believed that a citizen had me in a head lock. His answer was to try and defend me to the best of his ability. To any of you, who have decided on the guilt of these five, I ask you the same question. What would you do if someone you presumed was a civilian apparently attacked a friend or loved one with intent to physically harm ?

    1. Howard P

      Well, Tia was faced with a very real potential of that… the guy had a 6 inch sheath knife… he was definitely under the influence of drugs… when alerted to that (knife possession), was prepared to use lethal force… unarmed… in hindsight, still would have done that (40+ years later am still involved with the loved one potentially threatened)… and would have also been prepared to face charges up to and including 3rd degree murder… fortunately, he never reached for the knife… so no action, other than reporting him to a park ranger, was necessary…

      The key is, I accept that I would have had to ‘answer for’ what I might have chosen to do…

  6. Tia Will

    What if it is shown that the police were the provocateurs, shouldn’t they be prosecuted, instead?”

    I see this as one of the best arguments of all for letting the trial proceed. I care very much about the outcome for these five individuals. I also care very much about a thorough investigation of the actions ( and records) of the police involved. I am hoping that the truth will become apparent despite the clear bias in investigation ( all involved in the brawl should have been drug tested and questioned at the earliest opportunity and none should have been allowed to communicate with others so as to be able to coordinate stories). The exact same interrogation of the citizens should have been duplicated with the officers.

    We as a society need to get over the idea that officers become somehow better humans when they don their uniforms. The uniform does not change the inherent characteristics of a human being. There are good officers, and yes, Keith, I believe that there are officers here, like every where else who will use their position in less than ethical ways. I know nothing about the officers involved, but I consider it imminently possible.

  7. Delia M.,

    Cops get away with initiating violence the same way they get away with lying to witnesses to corroborate a false narrative when they cannot solve a crime.

  8. Tia Will

    One can only wonder why saying “I’m sorry” is so difficult for police. “

    You left out one possibility that I believe may come into play from my experience as a doctor. Very early in my career, we were taught not to apologize because that could be taken as an admission of negligence and guilt. As my career evolved it has become accepted that we will apologize for a poor outcome and that this can be done without any admission of personal guilt, or with full admission if an error was indeed made without incurring further legal culpability through the mere statement of truth.

    1. David Greenwald

      To add to that point a lot of people are not interested in suing – it’s a long process, it is not very satisfying and so for them, sorry is actually what they want more than money.

      1. Ron

        David:  ” . . . sorry is actually what they want more than money.”

        In general, might an apology be viewed as an admission or acknowledgement of “guilt/responsibility”, creating greater vulnerability to a subsequent lawsuit (and/or, subsequent punitive actions against individual employees, for example)?

        The concept of “CYA”, comes to mind.

        1. David Greenwald

          In general, they have came up with ways to apologize without admitting to liability.  And it makes sense, I can be sorry for an outcome without believing acted inappropriately.

        2. Ron

          O.K. – but reminds me of the saying, “If anyone was offended by my comments, I apologize.” (Might not be a very “satisfying” apology, for some.)

          Again, we’re speaking generally – not regarding this case.

  9. Keith O

    I think this comment deserves to be repeated:

    PhilColeman August 12, 2017 at 8:21 am
    In fact, David, unsolicited information offered to me says the prosecution has such witnesses.
    The prosecution has at least two independent witnesses who were in a perfect location throughout the encounter. One spoke to me and others present on her own initiative shortly after the event. Her eye witness account was not even close to the popular depictions posted here as fact. And she used the words, “not even close.”
    The wise course for us all to consider is to await all the facts and circumstances to be revealed in a judicial setting. Several people are posting signs and visualizations clamoring for justice. You shall receive it, let the accepted process play out.


  10. Tom Theisen

    This piece is an appeal for a certain point of view, but there aren’t nearly enough facts presented to support it.  Any time someone is incarcerated it takes them away from family and friends.  So is it always wrong?  I don’t think so.  It depends on the facts of the case, none of which are included here.  I don’t even know what the five have been accused of.

  11. Antoinnette

    I’m so absolutely disgusted with the articles that continue to thwart the public on the police officers…there are 4 videos so far and of even the first one seen shows an exact verbatim of the event of how things really happened.  What perplexes me is how David can see and hear the identical facts and yet continue to put his own spin on the case?



    And to that point, NO, none of them are innocent,  not one.  I’m so ready for this to come to light it’s not going to be soon enough…ugh!

    Interesting how everything done to police officers is so minimized. Yet, we should find sympathy for the wrong doers?

    How bout the grief garbage like this has caused, their families and unborn child during the days, weeks afterward??? To police officers??

    Does anyone give a hoot? And how bout how much more dangerous events and mistruths have made their job?

    It’s funny, the defendants have changed their story more than once,  we have already seen bits of that but I can say the one video couldn’t have been more exact to my knowledge of the event from a horses mouth!

    Of course, I’m sure the public will never heard it unless you find yourself a seat in court, which I strongly encourage everyone to do!!

    Perhaps then, NO one can speculate and/or argue over incorrect facts, evidence!

    Tired of keeping silent!!!

    I’ll write on it after preliminary, Democrat.

    1. Keith O

      Antoinnette, good to hear from you again.  As you I’m getting tired of the spin being put on this by some of the usual suspects.  I too can wait for all the facts to surface but it seems like some can’t.  I’m sure there’s more to this story than we being led to believe.  Look at Phil Coleman’s post directly above that I re-posted.  I respect Mr. Coleman so it says a lot when he comes out with a statement like that.

      Antoinnette, I’ll look forward to your article.


      1. David Greenwald

        Just had a pretty interesting conversation with someone at the law school and apparently even the investigator views the event as incredibly complex.  There is a lot that the video does not capture including most importantly audio which means we don’t have dialogue and we can’t know for certain when the individuals recognize they were dealing with police officers.

        1. Keith O

          which means we don’t have dialogue and we can’t know for certain when the individuals recognize they were dealing with police officers.

          Maybe one or both of the witnesses that Phil Coleman is referring to will clear that up.

          Why doesn’t everyone just hold their horses and let the case play out?

        2. David Greenwald

          Maybe so – but we’ll see what happens next week when the prelim resumes.  In the meantime, I think people are going to continue to weigh in on the facts are we currently now them.

        3. Ron

          David:  “In the meantime, I think people are going to continue to weigh in on the facts (as) we currently (k)now them.”

          Or, lack thereof.  (Hasn’t stopped any of us, so far.)  🙂

  12. Antoinnette

    Btw….we will hear some audio.

    Thanks Keith! Hopefully once preliminary hearing is done, Davis will set the record straight. I’ll give him benefit of the doubt.

  13. Wayne Hawkes

    This discussion made me realize something. If there are “bad apples” in the Davis PD, then a knock-down, drag-out, “fight-to-the-death” courtroom battle is probably the ONLY way any such bad apples could ever be publicly revealed. Even the best systems of civilian police oversight fail to get bad apples removed from the force, but a trial that would probably gather national attention just might. If the DA doesn’t back down, the Picnic Day 5 will need a lot of money to adequately defend themselves against the city (in 100% CYA mode), the county, and Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department.

  14. Tia Will


    The key is, I accept that I would have had to ‘answer for’ what I might have chosen to do…”

    Absolutely. And I am sure that you would have expected that the processes of information gathering that preceded your trial, and the trial itself to be fair and unbiased. I doubt that you would be comforted by having different rules applied to you than to officers encountering the scene and investigating the case who may or may not have reasons to collude in coordinating stories and/or hiding their own contribution to events.

    I am in no way suggesting that this is the case. I am suggesting that we simply don’t know and that a fair trial is the only way to determine the facts and that both the 5 and police are innocent until proven guilty.

    1. Howard P

      In full agreement with your last two sentences…  the “trying” of the case so far in the media, social and otherwise, does not, to me, contribute to honest fact-finding and a fair trial.  Once the fact-finding is complete, and trial completed, there is a separate opportunity to judge extenuating circumstances as to what, if any, consequences are appropriate for ALL those involved… citizens and sworn officers.

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