Treatment of Davis Dozen perverts justice
John Kesler, Opinions Editor
May 6, 2012
A new battle in the war on free speech is on at UC Davis.
According to a press release from the Occupy UC Davis Anti-Repression Crew, on March 29, 11 students and a professor were mailed arrest notices from the Yolo County DA to appear in court on misdemeanor charges. The date of the arraignment is May 10.
Their crime? According to an article by Muna Sadek for the California Aggie, the “Davis Dozen” is facing up to 11 years in jail and up to a million dollars in damages for blocking the entrance to an on-campus branch of US Bank by sitting in front of the door, forcing it to shut down.
At this point I should mention that one of my close friends was involved in this demonstration but was not charged with any crime.
Of course, the students involved were engaging in civil disobedience and it isn’t necessarily evidence of a fascist police state to charge these protestors with a crime.
However, there are certain elements to this case that make it suspect.
According to the press release, some of the students being charged were also involved in the pepper spray incident last November.
The release theorizes, “But whereas the District Attorney declined to file charges against protesters then, this less publicized prosecution seems to be an attempt to punish the dissenting students, perhaps in retaliation for their pending ACLU lawsuit against the university.”
The severity of the charges also hit me the wrong way.
In the brief amount of research I did, the behavior of the protesters is noted only through biased sources. An article by David M. Greenwald for the Davis Vanguard makes this evident by quoting both sides.
Kristin Kroster, a member of Occupy UC Davis who was involved in this protest (yet not charged), said, “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. We were clear that we were there to protest privatization, but we also made it clear that we were not keeping employees closed inside.”
On the flip side, a spokesperson for UC Davis named Barry Shiller said, “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.”
Because of this, I can’t say that the protesters are 100 percent innocent. However, they are 100 percent not deserving of an 11 year prison sentence and a million dollar fine.
For comparison, Angela K. Schulz, who killed a young mother in a head on DUI collision after being convicted of two previous DUIs, was sentenced to 11 years in prison according to the Colombus Dispatch.
Additionally, a hedge fund manager named Raj Rajaratnam was put away for 11 years last October for making 72 million dollars off of insider trading.
Now compare those crimes to blocking access to a bank on a college campus as part of a protest. Would you agree that the crimes of the Davis Dozen pale in comparison?
Because of this, I have no choice but to conclude that these charges are egregious and are mostly in place to scare away other people from protesting and exercising their First Amendment rights.
The Davis Dozen are currently accepting donations to their legal fund. If you want to support them, visit davisdozen.org.