By Jose San Mateo
Lately, one spray painted logo has woven its way into campus culture.
It’s hard to miss seeing the slogan “Defend Alette” considering it has been on numerous T-shirts and buildings all over UC Santa Cruz ever since Police officers arrested UCSC student Alette Kendrick protest six months earlier. What students remember though is the message that administration sent to students in the form three-year suspension for Kendrick.
The university reneged its original decision, reducing her suspension to a single quarter, but only after a drawn out saga between three sides that tell their own version of what happened at the Oct 18 Regents protest that erupted in violence.
Students see this as a clear case of racial profiling on the part of UC Police officers and administration. Fliers all over campus quote Kendrick’s personal narrative which says the Police shouted “That’s what we want, get her!” before they came to arrest her.
“I heard their call at me and the next I know, I was on the ground being forcefully dragged by the arms through the crowd,” she wrote.
Steve Stormoen, now an undergraduate that is graduating in the spring, was arrested alongside Kendrick during the protest. He characterized the event as one in which protestors peaceful.
First we all gathered at Bay Tree Book store and marched to the Humanities building where we held an empowering speak with a broad coalition of students.
“The goal was to get regents outside to address the students,” he said.
Protestors felt that the public comment period the regents are required to allot during large gatherings are a complete farce and it would have been more productive to force the Regents to stay outside and address their needs outside, Stormoen said. Things did not go according to plan when the Regents snuck inside through a back door.
“At that point, we did not have a provision of what to do next,” he said. “Problems started when police started pushing people around.”
Protestors then linked arms and encircled to make sure the Regents saw the protestors on their way out Stormoen explained. “Protestors were not violent but peacefully blocking the entrance,” he said. “Violence seemed out of character based on what I saw.”
Stormoen said he was on the other side of the building and an over to see Kendrick being dragged by Police officers. He ended up getting arrested with Kendrick and one other student.
“I got in the way,” he said. “ At the time it was for resisting arrest and since then they have not decided to pursue the charges.”
When asked about whether was violent that day he said, “I’ve known Alette a long time. That is totally out of character for her.”
The Police have an entirely different view of what happened that day which paints protester in an entirely different light. Nancy Carrol, Captain of the UC police department, said that demonstrators were throwing fruit at Police officers that day.
“When people start throwing, you don’t know whether somebody else is going to pick up a rock and throw it at you at the same time. So we felt like this was planned,” she said. “These people brought this stuff with them, it was not spur of the moment. They had this whole idea of what they were going to do to disrupt the meeting.”
Once protestors started throwing things, the police made the decision to not let any of them in for a public comment period. As a result of the crowd outside, people inside the Humanities Lecture Hall for the regents meeting could not get out and, according to Carrol, police had to force people out of the way with batons in order to get one of the Vice Chancellors and two city officials out of the building.
During that time, Caroll said that Kendrick punched an officer and that was when the decision was made to arrest her. She witnessed much of the action at that point from behind the arresting officers.
“[The officers] kept telling them ‘you’re under arrest, you’re under arrest’ and they kept trying to retreat back into the doorway,” Caroll said. “So they get to the doorway and Allete is being pulled by the protestors and she is being held by our officers.
And there are a couple other people on them.”
It was at this point that Caroll told her commanding officer to use pepper spray because they were “fighting a losing battle at the door.” She said that four or five officers warned the other officers outside before using pepper spray on the crowd, but did not announce anything directly to protesters. Once they backed away, police were able to get Kendrick inside the building.
Carrol said, “That’s where the charges of battery came from. It was that struggle of the officers to put her into custody.”
When Kendrick’s case reached the District Attorney’s Office she was charged with three felonies, the most serious being Assault and Battery against a police officer. David Sherman, the assistant DA in charge of this case, put together an account of the events based on interviews with police, neutral people not associated with protesters or police, and off the record conversations with police officers that were there.
He said that all of his sources gave a consistent account of how the police were not interested in provoking violence, and how they were forced to react to what the protesters were doing to the Regents and to themselves
In a letter written to Sherman’s office and read in court shortly afterwards, Kendrick apologized for her conduct that day and for endangering the safety of anybody at the protest.
Sherman said he took this as an implicit admission that she did in fact behave badly that day. “She promised to avoid bad behavior with campus police and that students led by her initiated and provoked this unfortunate confrontation,” he said.
In the end, the Sherman weighed Kendrick’s letter of apology as well as a letter to the DA’s office sent her mother in which Mrs. Kendrick pleaded of the DA for Alettes’s future; she wants to become a teacher, he offered her a plea bargain that would dismiss her felony charge.
“ ‘Battery on a Police Officer’ that was the one she did not want to admit to the most because the lawyer saying she did not want to admit to assaulting a police officer, she would have a lot of difficulty for the rest of her life of getting a teaching certification,” Sherman said.
Kendrick was finally charged with two misdemeanors and asked to pay a $120 fine. The charge of assault was substituted for the misdemeanor charge of disturbing a public assembly.
“We were willing to compromise because if its true that this would affect her teaching certification, that is potentially a life-long sanction,” Sherman said. “I took into account that this is a young woman with the rest of her life in front of her.”
The official sentencing will happen on June 22, but as far as Sherman’s case is concerned it is resolved.
However, twenty-seven days before the DA finished his case, the university gave Kendrick a campus sentence.
Many think that the three-year suspension was severe, and it has been strongly and openly contested by the UC Activist Defense Committee, (UADC) a group of students that is advocating for Kendrick’s rights. Josh Sonnenfeld, spokesperson for the UADC said that the suspension is sending a message to students of color on this campus.
“It’s about the administration sending a message to an entire community on campus that it’s not ok to come out to protest,” He said.
Paul Ortiz, a Community Studies Professor on campus, acted as a mediator between campus police and protestors after Kendrick was arrested. He viewed the sentence in a similar fashion.
“When I heard it was a possible three-year suspension I was shocked; and if it is a message [from the administration] then it is a scary one,” Ortiz said. “Whether it is intentional or unintentional, the message is that this is an unmerciful campus. If you are judged to be out of line, you’d better watch it.”
Ray Austin, outgoing chair of the Student Union Assembly, viewed the administration’s decision as one for the sake of safety and image.
“Right now the campus has a pretty bad image. They are trying to attract more support for the campus,” he said. “When you have protests in the past being labeled violent. There is a feeling that they need to show the outside world that they can control the situation but at the same time they want to be accepting of free speech.”
According to UADC, they took issue with Kendrick’s appeal hearing and decided to sue the university over the UCSC judicial process. Doug Zuidema, Director of Student Judicial Affairs at UCSC, explained how UCSC handles student cases. Though he was not allowed to speak about the specifics of any case due to the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of a students educational records.
He said that students usually receive a summons letter that is a summary of what the student has done wrong and lists the rules that violated. Then the student is given a certain time frame to respond to the violations. Once the student is allowed to respond, the judicial officer makes a statement.
Sonnenfeld said that Alette was never informed of an appeals process and that they had to look through the university handbook in order find out about an appeals process through the student judicial board.
According to Zuidema, the student judicial board can convene with a minimum of three members: an Associate College Administrative Officer (ACAO), who chairs the committee, and two student representatives nominated by the Student Union Assembly and Graduate Student Assembly respectively. He added that the legal requirements of a courtroom do not apply in this case.
The UADC and Kendrick’s 3 lawyers and 12 legal researchers, based their lawsuit on the fact that Kendrick would have to argue against Zuidema in front of the judicial board herself. Although a lawyer could be present during these preceding, he would not be allowed to speak for her.
In an interview with City on a Hill Press, Chancellor Blumenthal stood behind the judicial process to some degree.
“I don’t have any reason to believe that the process is flawed,” he said. “But also believe that everything can be improved.”
Blumenthal elaborated by pointing to the faculty judiciary process—of which he is very familiar–that that the accused in this case does have the right to a lawyer but that he or she would be arguing against a University lawyer.
He said, “My assumption was that at a student judicial hearing, the goal was to keep it at a more informal level, which is why the process is such so that neither side is really a lawyer doing the advocacy.”
David Cobin, Kendrick’s lawyer, threatened the university with a lawsuit last Wednesday and received word of a reduced suspension that Friday.
The university maintains that Alette Kendrick and Doug Zuidema came to a “mutual agreement.”