Thursday Night's Altercation May Be Classified As Hate Crime by Police Pending Investigation

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A fight that broke out last Thursday in Eshleman Hall may be classified as a hate crime pending further investigation by police.

Police said racial remarks were made during the altercation-a result of Palestinian flags that were hung from a second-floor balcony overlooking a pro-Israel concert-that may cause investigators to classify the fight as a hate crime.

"We're looking into the possibility of it being a hate crime, based on the statements (made to police by) Palestinian students," said UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya. "Clearly these two groups have some conflict."

Celaya said it appeared the Palestinian protesters were exercising their free speech rights when they hung two Palestinian flags on the second-floor balcony of Eshleman Hall to protest what they said were anti-Palestinian lyrics they heard in a concert promoting Israeli Liberation Week.

In response, former ASUC Senator Gabe Weiner and Yehuda De sa, the concert's opening act, went to the

balcony from Lower Sproul Plaza to ask that the flags be removed, Weiner said. ASUC Senator John Moghtader said he accompanied the two to observe.

Both Weiner and Moghtader are organizers with the UC Berkeley chapter of the Zionist Freedom Alliance.

When they reached the second floor balcony, a fight broke out between the two groups, police said.

Campus police say Weiner, 23, was cited with three counts of battery. Two of the three Palestinian students who displayed the flags-senior Dina Omar, 22, and senior Husam Zakharia, 23-were each cited with one count of battery. The third, junior Dalia Marina, was not cited. Nobody was taken into custody.

Omar, Zakharia and Marina declined to comment.

Weiner, who graduated last spring, said he did not feel the incident was a hate crime. "All I did was defend myself," he said.

Police are also asking the Alameda County District Attorney's Office to file battery charges against Moghtader based on witness statements, Celaya said.

Moghtader, a junior, said he became involved when attempting to break up a fight between Weiner and Zakharia.

"I had absolutely no part in the altercation," he said. "After 20 to 30 seconds, I decided to intervene."

Moghtader said that as of Sunday night, he had not been approached by campus police to recount his story.

Celaya said the situation could have been resolved more peacefully.

"Both sides did not handle this on the most tasteful or intellectual level," he said.


Contact Will Kane and Valerie Woolard at [email protected]

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