Written by David Greenwald Saturday, 31 March 2012 07:17
Twelve individuals involved in the protest and blockade of US Bank, that ultimately led to the bank closing its UC Davis Branch, were mailed letters from the Yolo County DA's office, ordering them to appear on misdemeanor charges, according to Claudia Morain, spokesperson for UC Davis.
The Vanguard has learned that arraignment will take place on April 27, focusing on two charges - a misdemeanor to "willfully and maliciously" obstruct the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk or other public place, or to intentionally interfere with any lawful business, and a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor.
One of those who faces these charges, Geoffrey Wildanger, told the Vanguard that he was advised not to respond, given the possibility of it negatively impacting his case.
However, previously he had told the Davis Enterprise, "This is an absurd mockery of any sort of just situation... Protesters can't be pepper-sprayed because of the media response, so now they're being run through the court system."
The Vanguard was referred to Kristin Koster, one of those involved in the blockade of US Bank, but not facing charges.
She told the Vanguard that most likely, the purpose of this decision was to protect the university from a potential lawsuit from US Bank.
"It's important to note that the UCD administration first sent the names of protestors to SJA in February," she told the Vanguard, about referrals to Student Judicial Affairs (SJA).
It was only when US Bank announced its intention to close, she said, "The administration cancelled the SJA meetings, and elected to have the police forward the names of a larger group of students and faculty to the DA."
"This decision makes sense from the university's perspective, as a way to protect itself from a lawsuit," she said.
UC Davis, on the other hand, seems to believe that they gave the students ample warning and opportunities to engage in more constructive dialogue and actions.
UC Davis Spokesperson Barry Shiller told the Vanguard by email late Friday, "Campus representatives tried daily for nearly two months to engage these individuals, both to understand their motives and try to reach some common ground."
Notices were posted over the ensuing weeks and handed out to protesters. These notices, as we have previously noted, explained the potential legal consequences of blocking the bank entrance.
"This, too, had no discernible effect," Mr. Shiller said. "The Yolo County District Attorney was subsequently asked to review the matter, and has now issued the misdemeanor complaints."
The Yolo County District Attorney's office, not surprisingly, did not return phone messages from the Vanguard on Friday.
However, Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven told the Woodland Daily Democrat that, if convicted, the protesters could face more than $1 million in restitution, in addition to three years of probation and potentially six months in the county jails.
"This is the potential loss to U.S. Bank, which shut down as a result of the protesters," Mr. Raven told the Daily Democrat.
The DA's office was forwarded six cases, originally, from UC Davis and ultimately charged twelve demonstrators. Previously, they declined to file charges against those who had been involved in the November 18 pepper-spray incident.
"The evidence was so much stronger in this case (U.S. Bank) than the other case," Mr. Raven told the Woodland paper.
Michael Cabral, who is Yolo County's assistant chief deputy DA, told the Davis Enterprise, "We examined the case based on the names provided by the police... We evaluated the evidence based on those who were out there most of the time."
US Bank told UC officials that it is terminating its agreements with the campus. In a March 1 letter to the Board of Regents, the bank stated its reason as the interference by protesters who intermittently blocked the door to the bank branch in the Memorial Union since January.
Mr. Shiller said that while the demonstrations in front of the bank began in early January, "The protesters' pattern shifted from simply congregating in front of the bank's entrance while allowing customers and employees to enter and exit freely, to actively obstructing people from entering and exiting."
U.S. Bank employees "were effectively imprisoned in the branch," bank Senior Vice President Daniel Hoke said in his March 1 letter. He noted that employees felt they needed to call campus police to escort them from the branch.
But Kristin Koster disagreed.
"While the protest did intend to stop bank business, employees, police and security guards were certainly free to come and go from the bank--and they did, regularly" she told the Vanguard.
"We were clear that we were there to protest privatization; but we also made it clear that we were not keeping employees closed inside," she added.
The bank had its own private security and would often lock the doors from the inside.
"Considering employees had their own private security guards inside, and the UCPD out front with the protesters every day, there was no possibility that they were in danger," Ms. Koster added. "Protesters actively cleared the paths of obstacles when employees entered or exited."
She also noted the open hostility by the bank employees towards the protesters.
She said, "On a number of occasions bank employees hit seated protestors in the face with brief cases or purses on their way out, rolled over computers with their carry-on luggage, and cursed openly at us."
Ms. Koster added, "One student even filed charges against a bank employee who assaulted him as she was leaving the bank."
Barry Shiller said that, as a result of the demonstrators' actions, which led to the closure of the bank, "Students lose access to vitally needed funding."
The arrangement with U.S. Bank last year yielded $167,000 for student programs. And the total partnership could have generated around $3 million in revenue.
He said, "As state funding to public higher education continues to decline, the loss of these funds is not inconsequential."
However, others see this in a different light.
For Cres Velluci, the Vice Chair of the ACLU Board of Directors in Sacramento, who emphasized that he was not speaking on behalf of that organization, this was a matter of chilling the notion of freedom of speech.
"These charges against peaceful demonstrators are yet another attempt to intimidate UC students by the 1 percent, and those who serve their bidding...in a way, these charges are as chilling as the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis," he told the Vanguard. "Both actions were meant to dissuade students from exercising their rights."
"And no one should kid themselves. This is not the District Attorney's idea to prosecute," he added. "No, that comes directly from the 1 percent, not the 99 percent. 'Conspiracy,' as it is being used here, is meant to scare protesters and chill their free speech rights. But it won't have any more effect than it did against civil rights, or anti-war protesters decades ago."
"Students should stand strong, plead not guilty and demand a jury trial," Mr. Vellucci said.
Artem Raskin, who was not involved in this action but has been involved in other Occupy actions, noted the strategy by the university to frame activists as "the unruly children who deserve to be severely punished, but the University generously keeps its response 'patient and measured.' "
"Framing this as a debate over how 'patient' the University is, happens to be a convenient rhetorical strategy for the university, because it presupposes the activists' guilt," he told the Vanguard. "It makes it seem as though the blockade spontaneously arose out of a vacuum rather than being a justified reaction to a predatory deal between US Bank and the Regents."
"The University is using the charges to prepare its case against a possible attempt by the bank to hold the university liable for the bank's departure," he said.
Mr. Raskin calls this "a frivolous charge, of course, since the contract explicitly states that the bank is responsible for its own security," adding, "The bank accused the university of being too soft on the blockade, so the university urgently needs to ruin a dozen lives to dispel any suspicions of leniency."
Mr. Shiller noted that, while both sides have threatened each other with lawsuits, neither has filed suit. Moreover, he said, "Talks continue with U.S. Bank on the future of the partnership."
At the same time, other banks have expressed an interest to step in.
---David M. Greenwald reporting
"We'll break the law for three months with the expressed purpose of shutting down the bank office, then whine like puppies when authorities take action the way the Vanguard insisted they should. We'll pretend we didn't hinder employees, but whine that they ran into us trying to get to and from work. We'll also whine about the way those whose jobs we were trying to eliminate made mean faces at us as thet were trying to get in and out."
"Even though we purposely broke the law in order to get the bank closed, we'll whine that UCD and the DA have some illegitimate reasons to act against our law-breaking. Then, we'll have our instigators and advisors whine on our behalf, encouraging us to demand jury trials, refuse plea deals, gum up the court system and waste thousands of Davis residents' tax dollars."
Whine...whine...whine. These folks are an embarrassment to the honorable traditions of civil disobedience.
Just to be clear I said the authorities should have arrested them on the site, hold and release. They didn't do this. Instead they have charged them after the fact, which is not what I wanted to see.
The University has changed tactics to one of inaction, as I advised you they would. The University is not going to be drawn into physical confrontation again, is going to take immediate media coverage out of the equation, and just have protestors charged after the fact through the DA's Office. Now the protestors have had their guns spiked, and have no idea how to counter these new tactics by the university. Furthermore, more serious charges are being leveled at the protestors bc more damage was done - shutting down an entire business and the loss of a yearly stipend to the University. As I said before, this has become a high stakes chess game, and the University is getting a lot better playing at it. Next move is in the hands of the protestors...
Re "stopping bank business": There's nothing illegal about stopping bank
business if it's accomplished thru peaceful demonstrations and free speech that simply persuades people not to do business with the bank at that location.
The idea that the bank would charge students, and other customers, higher
fees in order to kick back money to the university is troubling.
Elaine's point is well taken. Protesters' new tactic might be to go to trial and prevail against the university's false charges. I say "false"
because students should have been arrested at the time if they were actually doing anything illegal.
The university has clearly aligned itself with the 1% and corporate greed.
Good news- I hope these punks are prosecuted as they deserve. Their selfish grandstanding has cost the University a lot of money and that is going to be reflected in a reduction in student services and an increase in the cost of being a student.
For everyone's sake I really wish their parents had paid more attention to them when they were younger...
"I say "false (charges)" because students should have been arrested at the time if they were actually doing anything illegal."
Criticism has been voiced about a delayed prosecution through what is commonly called the "complaint process" rather than an outright arrest at the scene of the purported crime. Criticism of the process used by the University is in play, but the process cannot be challenged for legal insufficiency.The complaint process needs only to met the "probable cause" standard, which it did.
"For everyone's sake I really wish their parents had paid more attention to them when they were younger..."
Or perhaps their parents paid a great deal of attention to them, and taught them different values than those your appreciate. Perhaps their parents believed in civil disobedience when one truly believes that various forums, educational efforts, protests at the capitol, on campus protests have not resulted in any kind of progress on issues important to these protesters. Whether or not you agree with their causes is beside the point. Perhaps these are students who have been taught that there is no shame in standing up for what you believe even at a cost to yourself. And, as several folks have posted here, that cost may be substantial.
I fail to see how it is "whining" to use the legal system to defend oneself to the best of one's ability.
Should not the same set of laws that allows the police to defend their actions be equally available to the protesters. How is it a "waste of money" when the legal system is used by one side, but not when used by the other. Or perhaps you also feel that the legal maneuvering by the police union and University is also a waste of money. That would certainly be an evenhanded opinion.
"Just to be clear I said the authorities should have arrested them on the site, hold and release. They didn't do this. Instead they have charged them after the fact, which is not what I wanted to see."
Thanks for clarifying. So, you aren't focusing just on assuring that they end up being prosecuted for their crimes?
What good would have come from your "hold and release" strategy? My guess is that they would have returned and/or been replaced within a day of their release (while video of the "pepper-spraying, German-sounding chancellor" dragging them out by their ________(fill in blank) played on cable news around the country. Your recommended action would have resulted in identical charges from everyone whose words appear in this story. Not one of these claims would have been overlooked.
We're really back to is the university being unable to take ANY action that wouldn't subject it to harsh critIcism from the Vanguard, the ACLU, the protestors.
As the participants have made clear, their objective was to shut down the bank operation by engaging in an unlawful blockade of the bank while trespassing on university property. They have been successful. Why look around at others to blame for their success after the three-month effort, one that could have gone on for years?
The power was in the hands of the protestors this time around, and pretty much everyone realized it from the start. I'm just suprised they turn out to be such poor winners, whining all the way to their desired jury trials.
medwoman, I just was referring back to the Vanguard's constant theme that the DA should plea bargain instead of going to trial or be charged with wasting tax money. But, in this situation, are you really suggesting that those facing these charges are being encouraged to demand jury trials for misdemeanors so they'll have a better opportunity to be declared innocent than if a judge determined their cases?
I don't think that's competent legal advice. Wouldn't it be better for the defendants to plea to reduced charges with reduced penalties on what David likes to call an open-and-shut case?
It's a tough case to defend against when one purposely and publicly breaks the law with high-quality cameras documenting the offenses and investigators on hand at the crime scene for 2-3 months.
If they want jury trials as topping for the demonstration goals, fine. A jury trial is our right, but don't confuse the reasoning for demanding one here. it isn't to have a chance to defend their innocence of these charges. This right is everyone's and is worth whatever it costs to preserve it.
I think it's a poor decision to exercise our jury trial right when one's purposely broken the law for purposes like this one. And, I feel it's whining when one complains about getting a misdemeanor ticket for an act of civil disobedience.
This jury trial demand isn't looking for innocence, it's avoiding responsibility for a choice we made on purpose. And, it's aimed at hampering the very court system that protects these rights for us.
"One student even filed charges against a bank employee who assaulted him as she was leaving the bank.
So it appears to be the protestors who first went to the court system.
Well, let's see what happens when they get a trial. There appears to be a lot of uncontested evidence, including statements by the protestors and videos from surveillance cameras, that supports the charges put forward by the DA. What would be the basis for a defense?
I suppose the students could claim that they were misled by the faculty who were leading the protests.
"This jury trial demand isn't looking for innocence, it's avoiding responsibility for a choice we made on purpose. And, it's aimed at hampering the very court system that protects these rights for us."
I am not making an argument for any course of action at all. I simply think it is far too facile to assume that we know someone else's motivations for their actions. For instance, do you not think that an individual protester might want to go to trial hoping to keep this in the public eye, or to put a face on the debate rather than have it swept under the judicial rug ? Others might be naive enough to think that they could win in court. I would
not claim to know the motive of each participant. My point was very much in agreement with your statement
"This right is everyone's and is worth whatever it costs to preserve it." I feel this right belongs to protesters equally with police.
I think normal calculations are out the window here because there is a huge political component that is not in play in most cases. The students could opt for trial in hopes of disrupting the system but also in believe that it will embarrass the university further by turning the students into sympathetic figures, persecuted by the system.
The DA may find it difficult to find 12 jurors would convict just as they had trouble getting a conviction for Bri Holmes and ultimately had to dismiss the matter.
medwoman- you raise a good point. Perhaps I was wrong about the students parents not paying enough attention to them.
In fact, its possible the opposite is the case. They are simply so used to having their every whim catered to by mommy that they felt entitled to do whatever they felt like regardless of the consequences and their parents will take care of it.
Spoiled children playing at protesters, tie-died shirts, slogans, tents, they even had a chant, it was all so exciting, it was almost like they had an issue.
"n fact, its possible the opposite is the case. They are simply so used to having their every whim catered to by mommy that they felt entitled to do whatever they felt like regardless of the consequences and their parents will take care of it. "
Or perhaps, as I said, "mommy" taught then to stand up for what they believe in. Isn't that what you would want parents to teach their children ? Or would you only want them to stand up for what you believe in ?
"But I don't think you should necessarily assume the students will win this one..."
I make no assumption at all. I don't think any one wins here. I think the only win would be for the University system to go back to the initial promise made to these students which is currently being abrogated and that is to provide an affordable education for those who qualify by working hard. That is the initial injury, and is the basis for all that has followed.
Or perhaps, as I said, "mommy" taught then to stand up for what they believe in.
Or perhaps they were misled by some marxist professors in trendy but bankrupt fields, who have fooled them into thinking they are doing something worthwhile.
I think the only win would be for the University system to go back to the initial promise made to these students which is currently being abrogated and that is to provide an affordable education for those who qualify by working hard.
I must have missed where the "university system" promised this. Can you provide a link to this promise?
"I must have missed where the "university system" promised this. Can you provide a link to this promise?"
I am not too good with links, but I would direct you to the mission statement of the University of California where it is explicitly stated that it is the mission of the university to " serve the society" through the transmission of advanced knowledge..... You can read the rest for yourself. So if you really want to parse words, it doesn't include the word "promise" but I think if you substitute "mission" or "goal" or "mandate" you will find that the meaning is nearly identical to what I wrote.
The nice thing about links is that they let people see for themselves what the facts are.
The UC Mission statement:
The University's fundamental missions are teaching, research and public service.
THe word affordable is nowhere in the mission. See for yourself.
Nonetheless, the university does do a lot to subsidize low-income students. For example, students from families with incomes below $80,000 per year are charged no tuition and fees. Zero. See
The students who were sitting in front of the bank branches were following their marxist leaders in the Technocultural Studies program. The students who
those who qualify by working hardwere taking advantages of the fantastic opportunities that UC Davis provides to study real subjects. They were learning, as opposed to those pretending they were rebels by following the pseudo-scholars who have been peddling the same old and tired nonsense since the sixties.
Kristin Koster "told the Vanguard that most likely, the purpose of this decision was to protect the university from a potential lawsuit from US Bank....This decision makes sense from the university's perspective, as a way to protect itself from a lawsuit....."
David, from this one person, you've come up with an interesting story, "Students Believe Potential Lawsuit Motivates DA Charges Against Bank Blockers." Who is this person, and why do you think that her statement warrants even the slightest consideration? She gives you nothing but a couple sentences of random, baseless speculation regarding something about which she apparently has no knowledge whatsoever.
Which "students" believe what she's told you? You never say, yet you've selected the "students' belief" as the headline for this story--instead writing that this is one unclassified person's claim. The rest of your sources (the ones with knowledge about the decision to prosecute) give no support to Ms. Koster's claim
And, who is this Artem Raskin fellow? Some mystery man who has no apparent identity, who you specifically say wasn't involved in any way and who appears out of nowhere for the single purpose of echoing Ms. Koster's odd claim.
So, why is this story in the Vanguard? Since the headline isn't supported by the reporting and since the significance of Ms. Koster even making her claim isn't considered significant enough to explain, what are readers supposed to glean by reading it?
Here's what it looks like. The defense for those charged and/or Occupy promoters come up with a strategy that further discredits UCD and US Bank, the claim that there's no legitimate reason to prosecute these folks who have been openly breaking the law. Therefore, there must be some devious reason (to gain advantage in the lawsuit).
It appears this PR strategy gets advanced by using the Vanguard as a vehicle. Someone gives David a contact or two to promote the concept. Fully prepped, Ms. Koster--supported by Mr. Raskin--tosses in the idea that the charges aren't really being pursued because UCD and the DA think there are valid cases.
This approach looks to have successfully resulted in the Vanguard being used, willingly or unknowingly, as part of Occupy's ongoing anti-UCD publicity campaign and the new effort to start defending the blockaders. Only you know which it is, David, based on which mysterious sources sent you to Ms. Koster to write up her odd charge which you then attributed to "students" (UCD students in general or the demonstrators?)
"were taking advantages of the fantastic opportunities that UC Davis provides to study real subjects. They were learning, as opposed to those pretending they were rebels by following the pseudo-scholars who have been peddling the same old and tired nonsense since the sixties. "
I am particularly interested to hear what you consider to be "real subjects". Do you really think that either you or I should be determining what constitutes a "real subject". I suspect our lists might be quite different. And from your post, I suspect that mine would be more inclusive than yours.