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[UPDATE:] 19 UC Irvine Students and Supporters Face Criminal Charges for Protesting

Update, December 10, 12:41 p.m.: Occupy UCI!--"an autonomous body in Orange County attempting to subvert hegemonic, state-supporting/ed protest by promoting radical discourse and militant action"--is accusing campus administrations of conspiring with prosecutors when it came to the timing of charges filed against 19 protesters.

"It is important to note that these charges were filed DURING FINALS WEEK and the arraignment will be during Winter Break, while many students go home to see their families," reads an Occupy UCI! statement titled "UC Irvine Administration is Out for Blood."

[UPDATE:] 19 UC Irvine Students and Supporters Face Criminal Charges for Protesting

The statement continues, "Not only is this the greatest intensification of political repression coming from the UCI administration yet, it is also a deliberate attempt to disrupt the course work and family lives of students involved in dissent."

Read the full statement on the Occupy UCI! page.

Original Post, December 9, 12:47 p.m.:

The Orange County District Attorney's Office this morning filed misdemeanor charges against 19 students and sympathizers who participated in a February protest against the dissolution of contract talks between UC Irvine and a janitorial union and myriad issues plaguing the UC system including proposed massive tuition hikes and officials' lukewarm response to a racist UC San Diego student television production.

Convictions could bring sentences ranging from probation to a year in jail, depending on the counts against particular students, who are identified in the OCDA statement on the next page.

Among the issue that had the students fuming outside Chancellor Michael Drake's office on Feb. 24 was his administration's plan to perform citizenship checks on its workers, some of whom are students working off tuitions.

The most serious charges were filed against John Bruning, 24, of Santa Ana, and James Eric Lagergren, 23,of  Irvine. They each face misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and obstruction of a public place. Lagergren is also charged with one misdemeanor count of being a public nuisance.

Eric Kitayama, 26, of Anaheim Hills, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing, and one misdemeanor count each of disturbing the peace and refusal to disperse. The other 16 accused face misdemeanor counts of trespassing, disturbing the peace, and refusal to disperse.

"They are accused of chanting, yelling slogans from their various protest groups, blowing whistles, and pounding on the walls and floor," reads the OCDA statement below. "They are accused of disrupting approximately 400 UCI employees working in Aldrich Hall, who were evacuated at 11:00 a.m. due to the protests."

"No racist police! No sexist police! UC Regents, UC racists" and "Whose university? Our university!" were among the chants, according to media reports at the time that noted 14 students planted outside Drake's office were eventually removed in handcuffs by campus and Newport Beach police officers.

It was a busy time for campus police; 11 students were arrested two weeks earlier at the UCI speech by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Those arrests sparked yet more protests.

The OCDA statement follows on the next page . . .
 

December 9, 2010

OCDA FILES CHARGES AGAINST 19 STUDENTS AND SYMPATHIZERS FOR DISORDERLY CONDUCT OUTSIDE CHANCELLOR'S OFFICE AT UCI

SANTA ANA - The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) filed charges today against 19 students and sympathizers for being disorderly outside the Chancellor's Office and refusing to leave the University of California, Irvine (UCI) campus. John Bruning, 24, Santa Ana, and James Eric Lagergren, 23, Irvine, are both charged with one misdemeanor count each of false imprisonment and obstruction of a public place. Lagergren is also charged with one misdemeanor count of being a public nuisance. Eric Kitayama, 26, Anaheim Hills, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing, and one misdemeanor count each of disturbing the peace and refusal to disperse. The following 16 co-defendants are charged with one misdemeanor count each of trespassing, disturbing the peace, and refusal to disperse:
        Moosa Matt Azadian, 21, Anaheim
        Rachel Denice Burton, 21, Irvine
        Juan Antonio Castillo, 48, Santa Ana
        Fernando Chirino, 28, Irvine
        Ryan Sinclaire Davis, 22, Santa Ana
Saron Ephraim, 22, Tustin
        Sandra Flores, 20, Irvine
        Dennis Lopez, 32, Irvine
        Evangelina Nevarez, 36, Los Angeles
        Sylvia Van Pham, 22, Fountain Valley
        Celene Perez, 28, Los Angeles
        Whitney Lauren Shepard, 22, Irvine
       
Indar Smith, 22, Irvine
        Aida Belaynes Soloman, 21, Irvine
        Irendeep Kaur Srai, 22, Irvine
        Samiyyah Jowharah Tillman, 22, Irvine

All the defendants are UCI students except Castillo, Nevarez, Perez, and former student Kitayama. If convicted on all counts, they face a sentence ranging from probation to one year in jail. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 29, 2010, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. The Department and time are to be determined.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 24, 2010, 17 defendants except Bruning and Lagergren are accused of trespassing onto the UCI campus, entering the fifth floor of Aldrich Hall, and gathering outside the Office of the Chancellor. The defendants are accused of disorderly conduct involving over 40 people inside and outside the building. They are accused of chanting, yelling slogans from their various protest groups, blowing whistles, and pounding on the walls and floor. They are accused of disrupting approximately 400 UCI employees working in Aldrich Hall, who were evacuated at 11:00 a.m. due to the protests.

While the 17 defendants were inside Aldrich Hall, Bruning and Lagergren are accused of pushing a dumpster against the doors of the west exit outside the building. Lagergren is accused of heaving a dumpster into the middle of Pereira Street, one of the main streets on the UCI campus, and blocking traffic.

At 11:15 a.m., UCI Police read a dispersal order using a portable bullhorn. The 17 defendants inside are accused of refusing to leave, sitting down in a single-file line, continuing to yell, and banging on walls. The UCI Police arrested each defendant. The Irvine Police and Newport Beach Police assisted in dispersing those gathered outside. Bruning and Lagergren were not arrested at the scene.

UCI has designated areas to practice free speech in a safe and effective manner without disrupting the normal operations of the University. The UCI Code of Student Conduct places appropriate limitations on where demonstrations may be held without discrimination, and all students are expected to adhere to this Code. In California, entering any land with the intention of interfering with or obstructing lawful business is misdemeanor trespassing.

Deputy District Attorney Lynda Fernandez of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.


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