Following the direction of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, the criminal charges against four protesters involved in the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal demonstrations were dropped Wednesday in court.
The decision to drop the charges against UC Berkeley students Ashley Pinkerton, Justin Tombolesi, Ramon Quintero and Ricardo Gomez comes after charges against their fellow protester Juan Davalos were dropped earlier this month. The protesters are five of 13 who were issued criminal charges in relation to the Nov. 9 protests at UC Berkeley. All of the protesters have pleaded not guilty.
Quintero and Gomez have been charged on counts that include resisting arrest, remaining at the scene of a riot and obstructing a public place. Tombolesi and Pinkerton have both been charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a public place.
In court, a representative from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland Wednesday that Chancellor Birgeneau has withdrawn support for the defendants’ prosecution and that, “at the Chancellor’s direction, the University has not taken any steps towards administrative hearings or other sanctions against any person arrested or cited following the November 9th protest.”
Following widespread condemnation against the charges from faculty and students, Birgeneau and campus Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer sent a letter March 14 to the district attorney linking to the faculty petition and pointing out that many of the protesters’ student conduct charges had been dropped. However, the administrators did not say definitively in the letter whether they were advocating for the charges to be dropped.
In an email Wednesday, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said “the Chancellor’s March 14 letter to the DA speaks for itself.”
Quintero said he thinks Birgeneau did the right thing in not supporting the charges and that the chancellor now has the opportunity to protect free speech and remain on the side of students, faculty and the law.
“Justice has been served,” Quintero said.
The dismissal of the four protesters’ charges comes after a series of court proceedings over the past few months during which stay-away orders were issued to 12 of the 13, barring them from coming within 100 yards of UC property except for work and school-related duties. Eight of the orders were later lifted.
Gomez said it was difficult balancing court appearances and classes and that he is happy the ordeal is over for him.
Amanda Armstrong, another of the charged Nov. 9 protesters and a UC Berkeley graduate student, said Wednesday afternoon that the district attorney told her lawyer that her charges would also be dropped at a hearing scheduled for Thursday morning.
“I’m glad that my charges have been lifted, and it’s largely a result of the public outcry that has been brought to the chancellor,” Armstrong said, adding that while she is happy that her own charges will be dropped, it is important that the charges for the remaining protesters are lifted as well.
Along with Armstrong, three other Nov. 9 protesters — Yvette Felarca, Joshua Anderson and Zakary Habash — are scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning. Whether or not their charges will also be dropped is still uncertain.
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