Hundreds of protesters who took part in anti-police and Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the East Bay in December will need to wait, possibly up to a year, to find out if they have been charged after they were arrested during the protests.
A group of protesters and their supporters gathered at Oakland’s Wiley Manuel Courthouse on Tuesday expecting to hear whether the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office would take action.
But no charges have been filed, said Dennis Cunningham of the National Lawyers Guild, who was there to help the protesters. The group — a mix of students and community members — learned that, for many of the arrests, police reports have not been filed, leaving the possibility of charges an open question.
Court clerks checked lists of names while the protesters waited in a corridor. Around 80 people, whose names were posted on a bulletin board outside the courtroom, had been told to attend court at 9 a.m. Many of the others who were present said they were there in a show of solidarity.
Cunningham said he thought the district attorney’s office was being “pointedly uncooperative.”
“Attorneys are not doing their jobs,” he said.
Cunningham added that the lack of available police reports was a “ridiculous excuse.”
“Police reports should be completed by officers by the end of the day [of the incident],” he said.
A number of those at the courthouse Tuesday took part in the Dec. 8 march through Berkeley and Emeryville that eventually shut down a section of Interstate 80 and ended in the mass arrest of 210 people. They were taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where they were cited and released.
The California Highway Patrol said it is “working diligently” to expedite police reports that will be submitted to the district attorney.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the CHP said:
The law allows police departments up to one year to prepare a report to present to the District Attorney’s Office for review and consideration of charging in cases like these. Although we are working diligently to expedite these reports being submitted to the District Attorney, we will not sacrifice a complete and thorough investigation for the sake of time. Although we do not expect this process to take the full year allowed by law, we cannot give a specific date in which these cases will be presented to the District Attorney’s Office.
One person arrested Dec. 8, UC Berkeley senior Kyle Cameron, said he was detained in what he described as a police kettle — in which officers surround a group to contain it and sometimes make arrests. The detention took place at the Ross Dress for Less parking lot in Emeryville. Cameron said he had attended the protest largely to document it, as a photographer, and to bring protesters food and water. Cameron said he hopes not to be charged.
Shavontae Williams, a Mills College student and organizer with By Any Means Necessary, which helped organize protests the December protests, was also arrested Dec. 8. She said she was detained for 16 hours, ostensibly for willfully obstructing a public place and for being a public nuisance. She said a police report has not been filed and that, as a result of her arrest, she missed classes during finals.
One Berkeley City College student, who asked that her name not be used, was at the courthouse after being arrested in Berkeley on the night of Dec. 6. She said that after she was arrested on Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way for failing to disperse and resisting arrest around 10:30 p.m., she was kept in a bus with two other people until 2 or 3 a.m. She was then taken to Berkeley's jail and booked into a cell at 4 a.m. She was released at 8:30 a.m.
Ronald Cruz, an attorney and BAMN organizer, says the group wants all charges against protesters dropped.
He said that it was wrong that officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson and New York City were not put under the “scrutiny of justice” while “peaceful protesters” may face charges.
“So long as those two police officers are not charged, the community will stand up and demand justice,” he said.
Cruz also says he thinks it's unlikely formal charges will ever be filed against demonstrators.
“They would be scared of creating a provocation by doing a mass prosecution," he said. "It would look plainly ridiculous.”
The 100-plus-strong group left the court after about two hours. Cunningham said no further court dates have been set in connection with the mass arrests.
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