Readers may remember campus police battling, beating and arresting students protesting fee hikes at a CSU trustees meeting last November 16, 2011, and seeing television coverage of a door breaking. The original felony charges against one of the student protestors, Seth Newmeyer of UCLA, were dropped. But then the charges of “misdemeanor vandalism” and “failure to disperse” were reinstated – along with a required $32,000 restitution for the door he didn’t break! $32,000 for a door? Here’s the story and video account. To follow up, please sign Newmeyer's petition below:
My name is Seth Newmeyer, and I'm a student activist at UCLA deeply involved in the fight for public education. On November 16th, at the CSU Long Beach protests against a 9% fee hike, police illegally removed us from the anti-democratic Trustees' meeting, forced us outside, and brutalized us with fists, batons, and pepper-spray indiscriminately, while we remained entirely peaceful. They wrongfully and violently arrested several of our wounded comrades, and pulled them inside, closing the doors to the building to keep us out, at which point police and students engaged in a tug of war over one of the doors, which caused it to shatter. I was arrested for four violent felonies stemming from the breaking of the door--including assault and battery on an officer with a deadly weapon (the door)--and held on $30,000 bail. Soon after, numerous videos--including this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVGa2oz8oGM--surfaced, which clearly exonerate me of all wrongdoing, and the D.A. explicitly dropped all charges, stating that, though I was the initial suspect, "once [Seth] let go of the door, another suspect then used a device to shatter the door."
However, after pressure from the CSU Trustees and their police, the City Prosecutor is now pursuing charges against me for misdemeanor vandalism and failure to disperse. These would not be troubling, except for the fact that, stipulated in the vandalism charge, is mandatory full restitution for the price of the plain glass door--which the CSU Trustees have declared is $32,000, an amount that should strike us all as deeply offensive, especially in a budget crisis and while student fees are being excessively hiked (and especially when one considers that this was a door to a meeting that, by the Bagley-Keene Public Voting Act, had to be open-door). Additionally, it should strike us all as deeply troubling that activists are being so clearly targeted: video evidence clearly exonerates me, and the D.A. decisively stated that someone else shattered the door, and I was never arrested for failure to disperse--they never gave an official order to disperse, I couldn't have initially dispersed because I was blocked in by people on all sides (including police), and I was arrested away from the scene without fleeing, so I clearly did disperse once I was able to. Please, sign this petition, and call into the numbers listed therein, to help me avoid serious penalties for acts I clearly did not commit, to help protect political speech and action from arbitrary persecution and prosecution, and to show these corrupt bureaucrats that we will stand up against abuses of power.