Protesters rally before Occupy Cal demonstrators’ proceedings

A group of UC Berkeley students, faculty and Occupy Cal protesters called for Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s resignation during a rally in Oakland Monday morning before scheduled court proceedings for some of the movement’s protesters.

The proceedings — which took place at Oakland’s Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse — for the 39 protesters arrested during the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal campus demonstrations were preceded by the rally and a press conference led by the defendants’ attorneys from BAMN, a national minority rights and pro-affirmative action group.

Following the press conference, the plaintiffs turned in approximately 1,000 petition signatures — including signatures from Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and other local figures — that demanded the court not pursue the pending criminal charges.

“This is a political witch hunt against the leaders of an integrated, youth-led civil rights movement,” said Monica Smith, a BAMN attorney for the defendants. “(They) are fighting for students’ rights for affordable education and minority students’ rights for education.”

After meeting with Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and prosecutors for the case during the proceedings, protesters and their attorneys demanded a public statement from Birgeneau that would support dropping the criminal charges.

“It was more of a rally than an arraignment, but it was successful,” Smith said. “We want these charges to be dropped.”

Last month, 24 demonstrators filed a federal lawsuit against campus and police officials, including Birgeneau, stating that protesters’ Constitutional rights were violated on Nov. 9.

On Nov. 30, the campus administration issued a response to the lawsuit, stating that an investigation of the confrontations between police and protesters by the campus’ independent Police Review Board would help the campus community move forward more effectively than litigation would.

“It is disconcerting that the plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit that is filled with so many inaccuracies,” the statement reads. “For example, the claim that members of the administration are opposed to the ‘protesters’ defense of affordable, public education’ is completely unfounded.”