4 Occupy Cal protesters arraigned on charges

(KGO)
March 20, 2012 5:23:21 PM PDT
Four people charged in connection with a November Occupy Cal protest were arraigned Tuesday at Alameda County Superior Court and several have now joined in a civil lawsuit against the university.

The judge's order clear: Stay away. "This is ridiculous and we're going to fight it every step of the way," says protester Yvette Felarca. She says she is committed to fighting the charges against her. "This is a political witch hunt and that's completely clear by the policies of the stay away orders, by the fact that we're being charged at all. We're standing up for the right to public education."

She and three others were charged for the protest on November 9. Campus police say they support every student's right to free speech and although the video may look dramatic, it doesn't always tell the full story. "I think that people don't quite understand what the police use of force is and what it looks like," says UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada. "It's never pretty. It's not something that we want to do or be involved with."

In a rare move, UC Berkeley administrators even sent a letter to the Alameda County district attorney's office to draw attention to a petition that had asked that criminal charges against the protesters be dropped although on Tuesday, Felarca and the others were arraigned on misdemeanor charges.

At the request of the Alameda County district attorney's office, the judge issued orders that require the protesters to stay away from all UC property except when they go to class. "I absolutely believe that these charges are politically motivated," Felarca said.

Berkeley police say they support free speech, but stress that everyone must play by the rules. Demonstrators are no exception. "People have the right to assemble, but when it crosses over into the violation of law or disrupting other people's right to pass or basically violating state laws in general, that's when it crosses the line into an unlawful assembly," Tejada said.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a letter to the Alameda County district attorney's office highlighting a petition that had been written and signed by administrators and students asking for leniency for the protesters. Birgeneau himself never took a position, but last week, he announced that he is resigning in December.

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