Fifty-one out of 52 students and faculty arrested for trespassing during the Nov. 19 Mrak Hall protest will not be charged with a misdemeanor violation at this time.
District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced his decision after consulting with Chancellor Linda Katehi and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, according to a press release sent Friday.
“While criminal charges may be filed for up to one year after the date of the alleged violation,” Reisig said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee, “it is our hope that future student demonstrations will comply with the law and eliminate the need for the district attorney’s involvement at all.”
The dropped charges followed another protest last Tuesday, where nearly 150 students and faculty occupied Mrak Hall and negotiated several demands with Janet Gong, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, and Spicuzza.
In response, many who were arrested were pleased that the charges were dropped, despite their concern for one student, Bree Holms, whose charges were not dropped. Holms allegedly assaulted a law enforcement officer and her case is still under Reisig’s review.
“Whether or not the charges were dropped doesn’t really affect my reasons for staying in that building,” said Sarah Raridon, one of the 52 arrested individuals and a senior women and gender studies major. “Personally I am happy the charges were dropped because it means I can get arrested again.”
Raridon said civil disobedience is an effective tactic to garner attention for a cause. However, this type of activism is not mutually exclusive of other types, such as writing to state legislators, she said.
The agreements signed by Gong last Tuesday included: an immediate review of Holms’ arrest without the formal complaint process, an agreement to take an affirmative position of advocacy with the district attorney in charge of reviewing the case of the arrested and to ask him to strongly consider not filing charges, not pursuing action with Student Judicial Affairs for the students arrested and further discussions – including those with a representative group of students’ choice – regarding the campus’ Cooperative Housing.
The agreements were made in exchange for the demonstrators’ agreement to leave Mrak Hall peacefully and also to respect the hours of operation of the facility.
Spicuzza said that it is not uncommon for a DA to drop charges based on other evidence, such as the peaceful nature of the protests before and after the arrests.
“There was a violation of a law, but he took into consideration the behavior that was exhibited,” Spicuzza said in an e-mail interview.
Reisig is still reviewing Holms’ case, authorities said. The case will require a more in depth investigation than the other arrests.
Protesters at last Tuesday’s Mrak occupation requested an apology from administrators and police for the treatment of Holms, whom they believed was assaulted by a police officer. However, Spicuzza said she was unable to apologize because she did not witness the alleged assault.
Students remain critical of Holms’ arrest, as well as the overall decision to raise student fees 32 percent. They will continue to protest throughout this week and into the school year.
“We are going to be here and push and push and push until we get what we want,” said one protestor at last Tuesday’s occupation. “Until education is free there will be no break.”
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View AGTV coverage of the negotiations and more at facebook.com/aggietvfan.