As 11 protesters charged in relation to the March 2 Wheeler Hall sit-in close the book on their charges, the legal consequences of that demonstration stand in contrast to the aftermath of the November 2009 occupation of the same building.
Seventeen protesters were arrested on March 2 after they refused to leave Wheeler Hall when instructed by law enforcement at its closing time. Of these 17, 11 were charged with trespassing, and three were charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
In November 2009, when 40 protesters barricaded themselves inside a second-floor room in Wheeler Hall and were subsequently arrested in connection to the occupation, no charges were brought against those arrested.
Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick said she could not comment on the charging determination for the specific case.
“The determination of whether or not to file charges against an individual in any criminal investigation is made after a full and thorough investigation,” she said.
According to UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode, the charging decision was probably based on whether protesters had prior protest-related arrests.
But Graham Archer, an attorney working with the 2011 protesters, said he saw a difference in the decision to charge protesters of the later demonstration.
“My impression is that the UC Berkeley admin has gotten more aggressive about pushing the Alameda County District Attorney with charging protesters with crimes,” he said. “I am not surprised there has sort of been a pattern of increasing pressure with getting charges brought.”
But according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the university has remained consistent in its position on protester actions.
“We have been and always will be staunch supporters of (the right of) students, faculty and staff to have their voices heard and protect their constitutional rights,” he said.
Mogulof said the university does not have the power to influence the DA’s decision on charges and added that the only interaction that the university has with the DA in these determinations is through the UCPD.
“At the end of the day, the DA is and has to be independent and free to prosecute cases based on what the evidence suggests,” he said.
Legal proceedings have come to a close for all but three of the protesters involved in the March protest. Of the 14 charged from March 2, five pled no contest to disturbing the peace and were sentenced to community service. Six of the protesters from that incident who stood trial were found not guilty of disturbing the peace Tuesday.
The three remaining protesters — none of whom are UC Berkeley students — are set to have jury selection begin for their trial Oct. 11 at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
Sarah Burns is the lead crime reporter.