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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Criminal charges pending for two UC Davis undergrads

Two UC Davis students were recently released from custody after being arrested at the Dec. 11 attack on UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s residence.

Fourth year art students Laura Thatcher and Julia Letman-Cleper were among six other individuals taken into custody for alleged rioting and other offenses. Bail was set at $132,500 for the eight individuals with orders not to return to campus if released.

“I was appalled to learn of the attack on Chancellor Birgeneau’s home, and that two of those arrested were UC Davis students,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi in a press release. “Such violence cannot be justified. It’s now up to the judicial process to determine appropriate action.”

UC Berkeley campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said protestors inflicted an estimated $18,000 in damages upon Birgeneau’s home, with 40 to 75 protestors present at the scene. While some carried lighted torches that were later thrown at police, others overturned planters, damaged windows and broke light fixtures outside of the home. The eight arrested were taken into custody early Saturday morning for suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

“This is what it looks like when a student group gets hijacked by extreme and violent elements in its rank,” Mogulof said in a statement released by the university. “There is no place in our community for such extremism.”

However, Thatcher and Litman-Cleper, along with the other six individuals, may never face criminal charges due to insufficient evidence. According to the Alameda County district attorney’s office, evidence of those responsible for the damages remains unclear due to the large number present at the late night protest. An ongoing investigation will be held by UC police to identify the active participants in the vandalism incident.

“The entirety of the protests have been nonviolent and have been about re-establishing what the UC used to be, before we started cutting education,” said fourth year Political Science major Sergio Blanco. “[Thatcher and Litman-Cleper] understand that these protests are not about being violent; as a matter of fact, they are not violent and really levelheaded. The whole incident seems unclear, so how can we come to any conclusions about the event if those investigating are unsure of the facts?”

“They are wonderful students: thoughtful, inquisitive, respectful, and supportive of their peers,” said technocultural studies professor Bob Ostertag in an editorial in The Huffington Post. “They are active in their departments and in the civics of their campus. Imagine what it is like for the parents to have to come up with $132,000 on short notice to make their daughters’ bail, and then: never mind. No charges. Where the police saw multiple felonies, the district attorney saw no case.”

The late night vandalism incident against the chancellor’s home was a recent development in a string of protests opposing the UC system’s implementation of a 32 percent tuition hike. The morning prior to the incident, 66 were arrested at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall in a wider UC system weeklong protest. The students’ peaceful four-day occupation of the building was initiated to draw attention to increasing student fees, but was cut short as police made arrests on sleeping protestors at 4 a.m. for misdemeanor trespassing.

“We had to take steps to ensure that finals could go forward,” Mogulof said. “Our primary responsibility is to the campus’ core academic mission and the 35,000 students who are not participating in the protest.”

The eight individuals charged with vandalizing the chancellor’s residence were released during an arraignment at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 15. Charges will be delayed until further evidence is obtained.

REBECCA SHRAGGE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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