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Protesters reject plea bargain Pro-Palestine group reinstated

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 07, 2002


UC Berkeley officials reinstated Students for Justice in Palestine Monday afternoon, but only after issuing an official admonishment to the group that led the April 9 occupation of the university’s Wheeler Hall. 

In a separate development, activists rejected an offer by Alameda County Assistant District Attorney John Adams to drop trespassing charges against 71 of the 79 protesters if they pled guilty to a disturbing the peace infraction, which would carry a small fine and no jail time. 

“We would have to plead no contest or guilty, and we’re not guilty,” said SJP leader Hoang Phan, describing the decision to reject the plea bargain. “We have right on our side.” 

The university temporarily suspended the group April 24 pending an investigation of the Wheeler Hall takeover. Under the terms of the suspension, the group was not allowed to reserve classes or space on campus to meet or protest, and could not set up an informational table on Sproul Plaza.  

The group flaunted the restrictions in recent weeks, setting up a table one day and reserving space to demonstrate under the name of a different student group. 

In a statement to the press Monday, UC Berkeley announced that it had concluded its investigation and decided to admonish SJP for “the disruption of classes” in Wheeler Hall. But, the statement read, “the group’s priveleges as a registered student group were reinstated.” 

“I can’t say that I’m grateful to the university because it did the wrong thing in the first place,” said SJP member Will Youmans. “Hopefully this represents a change in the way the university deals with student groups.” 

Although the university reinstated SJP, Director of Student Judicial Affairs Neal Rajmaira wrote in his letter of admonishment that the group had violated five sections of the Student Code of Conduct, including “unauthorized entry to, possession of, receipt of, or use of any University property” and “obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, student disciplinary procedures or other University activity.” 

The decision to reinstate the group will have no bearing on the university’s handling of the individual students arrested at Wheeler Hall. Those students face disciplinary action ranging from probation to a one-year suspension. 

Students made up 41 of the 79 arrested April 9. 


Plea bargain  

Last week, 71 of the 79 protesters were arraigned on charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace. Seven defendants were also charged with resisting arrest and one, 23-year-old student Roberto Hernandez, was charged with assault and battery. 

Adams offered the plea bargain to the 71 protesters facing lesser charges Friday afternoon during a pre-trial conference with lawyers for the defendants and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosnahan. Adams did not offer a plea bargain to the other eight defendants. 

Half of the defendants appeared in court Monday afternoon and Brosnahan set a June 10 trial date in the Oakland branch of the Alameda County Superior Court. She indicated that she will set a June 3 trial date for the other half this afternoon. 

Eighty protesters gathered at the Downtown Berkeley BART station an hour before the Monday hearings and marched on the courthouse. 

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington attacked the university and district attorney for pursuing the case and said the City Council will vote on a resolution May 14 calling on the district attorney to drop the charges. 

Former Berkeley mayor Gus Newport also spoke out for the group and called on students and residents to step up pro-Palestinian protests. 

“We ought to close that goddamn university down,” he said. “If Berkeley can’t mount a movement at this time, the United States is doomed.”