Protesters gather on Sproul Plaza to call for charges against student demonstrators be dropped

Jennifer Tanji/Staff

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Around 80 protesters gathered on Sproul Plaza on Thursday afternoon to demand that charges be dropped against a student who was arrested during a campus protest in March and another student who alleges she has been charged by the campus.

Students from various campus organizations as well as some UC workers, faculty and other community members marched to California Hall where they called on Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to drop charges against John Penilla and Kristian Kim, who are demonstrators with the Student Labor Committee.

“They are getting punished for … standing up and doing something to benefit society,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington who attended the protest.

Penilla was arrested at a protest March 2 in Zellerbach Hall for disobeying police officers’ orders and resisting arrest, and he faces criminal charges for misdemeanor trespassing and misdemeanor battery.

The Student Labor Committee has, with a labor union representing UC workers, organized several protests in recent months calling on the campus to insource its subcontracted workers.

After taking part in several similar protests, Kim alleged the campus Office of Student Conduct charged her for unauthorized conduct, obstruction of university activities, disorderly conduct and failure to comply.

According to Adam Ratliff, communications manager for student affairs, after a student has been informed with a violation of the Code of Student Conduct, they have the opportunity to resolve the issue through a meeting with a conduct coordinator or a hearing. Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell would then make the final decision.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said he could not speak about the specific case to protect students’ privacy but said that student action has historically been influential when it draws broad support across the campus community.

Students organizing is “an important part of student life” and an “honored part of our tradition,” Ratliff said.

Campus junior and Student Labor Committee member Christian Alejandre said the protest also aimed to bring continued attention to the workers that are in the process of being insourced by the campus.

“(Workers’) experience is a violent experience greater than jumping on the stage in Zellerbach Hall,” said campus sociology professor and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association Michael Burawoy at the protest, citing the March incident that led to Penilla’s arrest.

The campus decided to officially insource some of its subcontracted staff March 18 after more than a year of demonstrations.

“Students have the power to make change on this campus,” Penilla said, adding that his experience with arrest has increased his determination to organize.

City Council will vote in its next meeting on whether to send a letter to the Alameda County District Attorney requesting charges against Penilla be dropped.

Contact Haruka Senju and Hannah Lewis at [email protected].