Charges dropped over pro-Palestinian rally

On June 7, members of the pro-Palestinian group accepted the district attorney's offer made earlier in the week, which resulted in a small fine for most of the 79 arrested demonstrators. Those who rallied peacefully were charged $25, those who refused to leave were charged $50, and one accused of biting a police officer was charged $750.

According to Stuart Hing, an Alameda County deputy district attorney, more than 90 percent of similar cases are resolved before going to trial. In this case, he said, those charged remained crime-free, which is why the district attorney made such an offer.

"Cases involving property damage or injury to a person will be charged, but the vast majority of cases like this are not charged," said Hing.

The activists faced charges of obstructing or intimidating an employee of a public agency by taking over Wheeler Hall while calling for the university to divest from Israel. When protesters failed to disperse, they were arrested one by one.

Adam Weisberg, executive director of U.C. Berkeley Hillel, called the settlement "totally dismaying and extremely frustrating."

"It suggests that in the D.A.'s eyes, there was nothing wrong done on that day, and it sends a clear message that 'rules are made to be broken.'"

Weisberg recalled Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," noting its power comes from the fact that it was written from behind bars.

"The message that ought to be sent is that while civil disobedience is accepted and even lauded as a noble act in this country, it comes with responsibility as well."

"I'm disappointed, but I understand," said Yitzhak Santis, director of Middle Eastern Affairs for the local Jewish Community Relations Council. Santis added that while he supported free speech and the rights of students to make their views known peacefully and lawfully, "we would urge the university, however, to enforce its own rules. Failing to do so will only encourage similar if not more extreme kinds of demonstrations."

Karen Zatz, associate director of the regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, said that "since the university appears to still be proceeding with disciplinary actions against the students involved in this, we will await results of that."

A representative for Students for Justice in Palestine could not be reached for comment.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."