DA Drops Criminal Charges Against Marine Recruitment Center Protester

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday December 07, 2009 - 03:57:00 PM

The Alameda County district attorney’s office Monday dropped charges against anti-war activist Stephanie Tang pertaining to her involvement in demonstrations two years ago outside downtown Berkeley's Marine Recruitment Center. 

The protests surrounding the Marine Recruitment Center took place in 2008, with anti-war activists vociferously often clashing with Berkeley police while urging military recruiters to leave Berkeley. 

Tang was scheduled to appear in court Monday at 9 a.m. for a hearing in a criminal misdemeanor case charging that she had obstructed a police officer. 

Tang was represented by attorney Walter Riley at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, where friends, supporters and even Berkeley Councilmember Max Anderson showed up to speak in her defense. 

Tang said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosanahan called Riley into her private chambers and told him that the DA had reduced the charges to a non-criminal infraction and a $200 fine. 

“I accepted that infraction because it was for disturbing the peace,” Tang said. “There’s no criminality attached to it.” 

On Feb. 2, 2008, Tang led a group of protesters in a an anti-military recruitment march in Berkeley which soon escalated, leading to skirmishes with Berkeley police. 

According to a police report, Tang was trying to help World Cant Wait member Raphael Schiller, who had been detained by police for illegally using a loudspeaker, when she pulled an officer’s arm and wrapped her leg around him in order to “impede his movement.” 

The police report said Tang was deliberately trying to “incite a riot.” 

Tang, who has taken part in protests against the Marine Recruitment Center as well as against UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, one of the authors of the Bush administration torture memos, said that she was clubbed by police officers during the protest, causing injuries which she said required treatment at a hospital.  

“They even came charging into the hospital room asking me for a statement,” she said. “The police claimed I was very physical, very violent and even asked the DA to issue a stay-away order to keep me away from downtown Berkeley, but that was not granted.” 

Although Tang was not arrested at the time of the protest, the Alameda County district attorney later charged her with one misdemeanor count of obstruction of a police officer. 

“I am happy we won,” Tang said. “It’s a genuine victory for everyone who understands that what’s truly criminal is not protest and resistance against the war, but the war itself.”