Protesters demand alleged rapist be kept off campus

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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Demonstrators marched from Sproul Plaza to a student conduct hearing held at Unit 2 on Wednesday, urging campus administration to keep an alleged rapist off campus.

About 11 a.m., roughly 20 demonstrators organized by BAMN convened on the steps of Sproul Hall to protest the presence of Omar Pedroza, a student who allegedly sexually assaulted another student, Stephanie Garcia, on campus. About noon, the demonstrators chanted as they marched to the Wada Apartments in Unit 2, where Garcia was situated for the hearing.

The protesters stood outside the building, chanted and taped posters to the windows to show support for Garcia.

“If he’s kept off campus, he’s less likely to rape again,” said Angela Dancev, BAMN organizer and former student.

The protesters also circulated a petition to keep Pedroza off campus, gave speeches and held up signs claiming that he is a rapist.

According to BAMN flyers, Garcia alleges that Pedroza raped her in October of last year. BAMN coordinators said Garcia approached them in her endeavor to report him for his actions.

“(Garcia is) a real example for a whole lot of young women who want to regain power, and that was inspiring for me,” said Benjamin Lynch, a scientist at Berkeley Space Physics Research Group and BAMN organizer.

Leah Romm, ASUC student advocate, said that as of the start of the meeting, Pedroza had not been dismissed from campus, but BAMN organizers said Pedroza had already been dismissed and should not be readmitted.

According to Romm, sexual misconduct cases can be handled as an informal resolution or a formal hearing. Pedroza chose to go through a formal hearing.

Garcia consulted a BAMN attorney during Wednesday’s proceedings, but it is unknown whether Pedroza had an attorney with him.

In a formal hearing, the respondent involved can consult the Center for Student Conduct, an adviser or an attorney, according to Romm.

BAMN claimed Romm is representing Pedroza, but she has denied this.

“(The ASUC Student Advocate’s Office’s) role is to guide the students through the complex and exhaustive process,” Romm said.

Romm and campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the hearing’s conclusion cannot be disclosed because of confidentiality regulations.

Romm also expressed concern that BAMN is creating “an unsafe environment” for Pedroza and survivors who are in the classes that the organization attends in order to speak.

They have the right to say whatever they want to say, but I’m concerned as to the kind of damage and hurt these protesters are causing,” Romm said.

BAMN organizers said they saw this case as the first test of the Yes Means Yes law that was passed in California in September of last year. The law defines sexual activity as consensual only when both parties give “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.”

“(Starting this kind of movement) is absolutely necessary at this campus in particular,” said Bianca Huntley-Ortega, a BAMN organizer and former campus student. “We go to UC Berkeley, where we are a beacon of progress across the nation.”

Students who are not a part of BAMN also showed support for Garcia.

“I don’t think anyone should have the pain of going through seeing their rapist on campus,” said Alina Xu, a campus freshman at the protest.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that if Omar Pedroza had accepted an informal resolution, he would have been dismissed. In fact, according to ASUC Student Advocate Leah Romm, there is no way of knowing whether or not Pedroza would have been dismissed if he had accepted an informal hearing.

A previous version of this article also misquoted Romm as saying that “(The Center for Student Conduct’s) role is to guide the students through the complex and exhaustive process.” In fact, that is the role of the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office.