All REBUILD candidates publicly drop party amid allegations against party leadership

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Update 4/5/2020: This article has been updated to include information from ASUC Academic Affairs Vice Presidential candidate Nicole Anyanwu and senate candidate Naomi Garcia.

All of REBUILD’s candidates publicly disaffiliated from the party Sunday after sexual harassment allegations against party leadership surfaced.

Transfer student representative candidate Valerie Johnson and senate candidates Alexis Aguilar, Chaka Tellem, Apoorva Prakash, Natasha Ham, Naomi Garcia, Tessa Stapp and Suhyp Youssef are now running as independents for the April 6-8 elections. Academic affairs vice presidential candidate Nicole Anyanwu and external affairs vice presidential candidate Derek Imai will also be running independently, according to Anyanwu. Many of the senators have paired up to run independent campaigns as “running mates,” but they said in various Facebook posts on their respective campaign pages that they would no longer be supporting or accepting resources from REBUILD’s coalition.

“(Sexual violence and sexual harassment) is an issue that plagues every community and is, unfortunately, just as present in the Berkeley* community as many other university campuses,” Stapp said in her Facebook post. “There are no excuses for supporting, endorsing, or ignoring sexual misconduct.”

Youssef, Johnson, Ham, Prakash and Stapp all said in their Facebook posts that they were unaware of the allegations until Saturday night. Anyanwu also said she was not made aware of the allegations.

According to the Facebook posts, the candidates will not be able to remove their party affiliation from the ballots, which were finalized Saturday. They will, however, continue to disaffiliate from the party and have taken the REBUILD logo off of their social media profile pictures.

“I am disheartened by this situation and want to be clear that survivors should be believed and accountability measures should be taken against those responsible,” Johnson said in a Facebook post. “I want to reiterate that I consider myself completely independent from here on out. If I am elected, I will disaffiliate.”

REBUILD is a new party, and this is its first year running candidates, which it considered to be a slate of independent candidates more than a political party.

When it announced its formation, its plan was to dissolve after the election, and Johnson said in her post that the party will fulfill this promise. Anyanwu added that she feels the candidates of REBUILD have “good values and intentions” and hopes that the disaffiliation sends the message that the candidates support survivors.

“I am disaffiliating from the Rebuild* coalition as it no longer represents my values nor was I satisfied with the nature of how this information was communicated to us,” Youssef said in his Facebook post. “We should all stand with survivors.”

Garcia, along with several other senate candidates, requested that the community not reach out to ask for details about the allegations. Garcia said she felt it wasn’t “her place” to provide specific details and added that she hopes survivors are able to regain full control of their stories.

“It is impossible to know every detail of a person’s past, but we must never question the narrative of a survivor,” Imai said in his Facebook post. “I have and still believe survivors should have full autonomy over their own stories and how they are told.”

REBUILD co-founders Josh Lewis and Varsha Sarveshwar declined to comment.

Check back for updates.

Kate Finman is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all REBUILD candidates left due to sexual assault allegations against the party’s leadership. In fact, the allegations were of sexual harassment.