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Prosecution of Palestine activists is a waste

-Michael Minasian
Wednesday May 22, 2002

To the Editor: 

I am writing to express disdain for the district attorney’s attempts to press on with charges against the arrested Students for Justice in Palestine. 

As a commission member, civic activist, and private citizen, I am aware of the occurrence of numerous serious crimes where Assistant District Attorney John Adams has made the decision not to file charges. It is unacceptable that the office of the DA remains so entirely out of step with the law enforcement priorities of our community, and it is also time that the district attorney be held accountable for the decision-making process that is used to concentrate public resources in filing and prosecuting cases. 

Many citizens are not aware of the arbitrary and subjective bottleneck that can exist in the office of a California district attorney: the DA functions autonomously and only answers to the desires of the community through the elective process. Complaints against the procedures and policies of the DA’s office will almost always fall on deaf ears at the California attorney general’s office because they hold fast to the notion that DA’s have to be sufficiently independent to reflect the priorities of a particular community. 

When the office of the district attorney uses that granted degree of autonomy to forward an agenda that is out of step with the desires of the community, the taxpayer community foots the bill. It is an educational exercise to sit down, pen in hand, and calculate what the law enforcement efforts surrounding the recent activism in Berkeley have cost the community in hard dollars; and then understand, almost intuitively, that criminal convictions for acts of political protest and civil disobedience in our community are not the results we desire from the very hard-earned tax money contributed by both businesses and individuals to our local law enforcement effort. 

Let’s not presume quite so much that our leaders know what they are doing; rather, we should watch the SJP proceedings with an eagle eye toward understanding just how well the district attorney, as well as the Superior Court, understand what expectations the great majority of Berkeley citizens have of them. Concentrating our criminal law enforcement resources on political protest and civil disobedience is, when reflected against the core values of our principled community, nothing less than a misuse of public funds. 

-Michael Minasian