The Daily Californian Online

Legal Fate of Protesters Still Up in the Air

By Sarah Burns
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Monday, March 7, 2011
Category: News > University > Academics and Administration

The legal fate of protesters involved in the March 2 and March 3 demonstrations is yet to be determined as protesters wait to see whether the district attorney will file charges against them.

All three protesters booked on charges of obstructing a peace officer in the line of duty during Wednesday's Wheeler Hall sit-in have been released from jail as of early Saturday. The nine protesters who sat on a ledge atop Wheeler on Thursday are waiting to see whether charges will be brought against them and have not yet had their arraignment scheduled.

UCPD Chief of Police Mitch Celaya said police will encourage the district attorney to bring charges against the ledge-sitters. However, as of Friday, police had not yet brought the cases to the office for review, according to Deputy district attorney Teresa Drenick.

Michael Veremans - a San Francisco State University student who was among the Wednesday protesters to be booked for trespassing and obstructing a peace officer - was released Thursday night from a holding cell at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office after posting a $10,000 bail.

Jason Ozolins and Elizabeth Bamaca - also not UC Berkeley students - were arrested on suspicion of the same charges and released at about 12:15 a.m. Saturday on their own recognizance after having an arraignment Friday and the scheduling of a second arraignment set for March 18.

UC Berkeley sophomore Marco Amaral - one of the 17 protesters arrested on suspicion of trespassing after refusing to leave Wheeler on Wednesday - said the group is waiting to see whether the district attorney will bring charges against them after an inconclusive arraignment Thursday. Though no charges were brought against them that day, the district attorney may still file charges for up to a year later.

Veremans said the three facing potential charges for obstructing a peace officer were also given citations stating they cannot return to campus for seven days, until March 10.

Though some protesters questioned the reasoning behind the obstructing a peace officer booking charge, Celaya said the three were arrested because they refused to cooperate with officers.

"Protesting doesn't mean that they can do whatever they can to make the officers' job as difficult as possible," he said. "Whether they're physically resisting or going limp and making the officers have to carry them is a safety issue for the officers."

Among the nine on the ledge Thursday, UC Berkeley junior Alex Poska was first to be arrested at around 2:38 p.m. after police pulled him off of the ledge and into Wheeler through a window. Poska was arrested on suspicion of trespassing with intent to injure property and taken to the Berkeley Jail Facility where he was kept for processing until about 9 p.m.

Poska said he has been instructed by legal aid that his charge will be converted into an infraction, though Alameda County records still report an arraignment scheduled for April 5. Poska said he does not believe he inflicted any property damage, despite the possible charge.

"The only thing we did was tie people to the decorative vases outside the building so in case they did fall, they didn't die," he said.

The other ledge-sitters were cited for trespassing and released at the scene at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday after choosing to leave the ledge. UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said the fact that those protesters were cited and released rather than brought into the police station for more formal processing could be why they have yet to show up in Alameda County logs or have an arraignment scheduled.

Article Link: