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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Police State and Prisons
The aftermath of "terrorism"
After being charged with multiple felonies for attending a night-time march to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's home, the arrestees were held on $132,000 bail. But when the people charged appeared in court — three of whom had already paid more than $10,000 for a bondsman to bail them out — the Alameda County District Attorney decided not to press charges at this time.
The night-time march to Chancellor Robet Birgeneau's home, which the governor described as "terrorism" after a handful of students damaged property outside University House, resulted in eight students facing serious felony charges.
But witnesses say that the people arrested on Dec. 10, which include a journalist, two UC Berkeley students, two UC Davis students and others, weren't the instigators. Instead, the people arrested were the ones who refused to flea from the cops, they say.
After being charged with multiple felonies, the arrestees were held on $132,000 bail. But when the people charged appeared in court — three of whom had already paid more than $10,000 for a bondsman to bail them out — the Alameda County District Attorney decided not to press charges at this time.
Zach Bowin, 21, a sociology student at Berkeley, was one of the eight arrested. Following his arrest, he was immediately banned from campus and unable to complete his finals on schedule. Under the terms of his suspension, Bowin was prohibited from communicating with all faculty, staff and students at the university.
During a hearing last week to modify the suspension, about 80 supporters, including students, faculty and staff, gathered outside the student conduct building on the 2500 block of Channing Way.
Rosenbaum described the order barring all communications with anyone associated with the university as an illegal infringement on Bowin's rights.
When asked about the restriction, university spokesman Dan Mogoluf said he couldn't speak about individual student's disciplinary records but said he does not know of any situation in which the university took action against students for breaking their silence.
"The provisions in the letter are primarily about setting expectations regarding the student's conduct while under the interim suspension," said Mogoluf. "At this point the university understands that there is a concern. ...That language is now under review in order to ensure it is correctly interpreted in the future."
Outside the hearing, Steve Rosenbaum, a Berkeley Law lecturer and Bowin's advisor during the hearing, told the crowd. "He wants to finish his final exams. ... He's got a paper due tomorrow. All of this could have been avoided with informal negotiations."
The hearing's administrator allowed Bowin to bring a legal advisor and one family member into the hearing, according to Rosenbaum. During the hearing, which lasted more than two hours, Bowin's father and brother stood outside while his mom joined him inside. About 10 UCPD officers watched the crowd outside and guarded the doors to the student conduct office. One officer in police uniform, and another UCPD employee who was not wearing a uniform videotaped the hearing, according to Mogoluf who directed all further inquiries about the police department surveillance to police spokesman Lt. Alex Yao.
"We don't comment on police operations," said Yao.
At one point the officials told Rosenbaum to leave the hearing because he was being "disruptive."
"It is a secret tribunal. I can't believe the greatest public university in the world in the year 2009 — we're almost 2010 — conducts procedures this way," said Rosenbaum, who helped revise the student conduct code 30 years ago, "I tried to figure out what it means, you can't because they make up the rules as they go along. The sole evidence is a press report that he's going to be a threat to the campus,"
About 40 minutes after Rosenbaum addressed the crowd, Bowin and his mother left the student conduct office. His mother quickly flashed a thumbs-up before joining the rest of her family and Rosenbaum to huddle about the hearing's outcome.
"The suspension was, I'd say 99 percent lifted," said Rosenbaum after meeting with Bowin. "I think at the end of the day basically it was a victory. Zach maintained his status as he should."
Ronald Cruz, an organizer for By Any Means Necessary, asked the panelists to identify themselves as they left the building, but his attempts were rebuffed. A woman believed to be the student representative on the panel told him her identity is confidential.
"I'm glad to be able to contact people," said Bowin. "It's not something someone would really say, but I'm happy to get back to my studies."
David Morse, 41, a reporter for Indymedia, who was also arrested during the Dec. 10 protest, told the Planet he was standing back taking photographs when police took him into custody. He said that he was targeted as a journalist and that his camera and photographs were seized as evidence by a court order.
While no one is currently facing charges for the incidents outside the Chancellor's home, the university is continuing to investigate. Several students have reported receiving calls from UCPD detectives. But despite the specter of "terrorism" raised by the governor, Mogoluf said the university has not called on state or federal law enforcement to assist in its investigation.