4 more Occupy Cal protesters have charges dropped

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Criminal charges against four protesters who participated in the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal demonstration were dismissed during a hearing on Thursday, just a day after four other protesters also had their charges dropped.

BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca and UC Berkeley graduate student Amanda Armstrong were present at the hearing at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. UC Berkeley students Joshua Anderson and Zakary Habash could not attend because they were out of town, according to BAMN attorney Ronald Cruz, who represents them as well as Felarca.

According to a statement read at both hearings by a representative from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, evidence against the protesters is “sufficient without a reasonable doubt,” but “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.”

Armstrong, Anderson and Felarca were facing charges of obstructing an officer and obstructing a public place, while Habash had additional charges of battery of emergency or police personnel and remaining at the scene of a riot.

The protesters attribute the dismissals to a March 14 letter sent to the district attorney by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer following the outcry from faculty and students. The letter mentioned a faculty petition against the charges and pointed out that all of the protesters’ student conduct charges had been dropped, but campus administrators have not said whether or not the letter advocated for dismissing the charges.

In an email Wednesday, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said, “the Chancellor’s March 14 letter to the DA speaks for itself,” but subsequent requests for clarification of the chancellor’s role have not been answered.

Felarca and Armstrong said they were confident that the charges against them would be dropped because of a Wednesday meeting that took place between the district attorney and their respective attorneys.

“I don’t feel like the district attorney’s office feels like they can prosecute (us) and get away with it,” said Felarca minutes before the hearing.

“Birgeneau’s statement was a big part of why the charges were dropped,” said Cruz, adding that he expects the charges against the three remaining protesters — UC Berkeley students Jasper Bernes and Michael Boyle and campus English professor Celeste Langan — to be dismissed as well.

Armstrong said even though the legal battle is over for most of the protesters, they are still planning to attend the UC Board of Regents’ next meeting in May.

“People are wanting to organize to ensure that the state gives more money to the UCs and CSUs,” she said. “It seems like the regents may be considering a fee hike in the summer.”

Cruz and Armstrong’s attorney, Jeff Wozniak, said they are prepared to fight any future litigation.