Five assumed unarmed black college students, one of which were from UC Merced, were arrested on July 8 for assault and battery on police officers and resisting arrest. Their classmates are calling for Merced, CA District Attorney's office to drop the charges, saying these men were racially profiled.
A petition is being passed around for everyone to sign. Everyone who has signed the petition wants the police to go "unchallenged" and held "accountable" for their actions that night.
The five black men arrested were Isa bey, a mechanical engineering major at UC Merced, former Black Student Union Vice President and the current Student Body Associate Justice; Nedir Bey, an electrical engineering major from Laney College, an electrician and project manager; Ciazonne Foster, a student from Diablo Valley College and valet worker; Yakub Bey, a student at Merrit College and published author; and Majied Bey, a business major and accounting minor at Bethany College, the treasurer for the Black Student Union and an athlete.
The arrests took place off-campus at Chandelier's Hookah Lounge in Merced.
"From the videos floating around, it looks pretty bad. However, none of us were present and can validate what actually happened," Lisa*, a senior majoring in applied mathematics, said. "I don't necessarily think it was police brutality against black classmates. I think we should focus on the bigger picture of what had lead up to it, whatever that may have been. I know the campus is pretty split on opinions, but the illusion of the video has some of us misunderstanding the situation. I'm not excusing what the police did, though."
"It just looks like another case of police getting caught up in the moment and doing things they probably shouldn't have. It's just another cops said/ people said situations. My thoughts are it could've been handled better. [It] doesn't seem like a racial issue, but the media loves to play into racial controversies. After all two wrongs doesn't make a right, the crowd could've reacted different when the police showed up and the police could've reacted differently if the crowd wasn't cooperating."
Continuing on she said, "I recognize one of the students, though. [I've] never seen him act out--involved in peaceful protests every so often when I see them. [This] seems out of character from what I know of him."
"It is a tremendous tragedy to have witnessed what occurred at the Chandelier this past Saturday," said Maty Boury, a recent biological sciences graduate of UC Merced, who was there that night. "The cops aggressively entered the premises with the apparent intention of searching for someone. Flash lights were on and the scattered through the crowd to the back of the building. As they made their way back, the situation escalated quickly. A female friend of mine accidentally bumped into an officer. He quickly grabbed her by the neck, asked her who the hell she thought she was, and put her hand behind her back."
"As he pushed her through the crowd, colleagues scattered causing the police's behavior to quickly shift from agitation to pure aggression. They had their BB guns pointed at the crowd, police officers used unnecessary and brutal force to arrest the victims. I watched as one of the brothers had his hands in the air when he was shot with the bean bags by one of the officers; resulting in him enduring two broken ribs."
"Merced was my home until the night of that incident," Boury said. "I can no longer view the city as the place where I became the individual I am today. Merced will now always be a reminder of the prejudice and injustice my fellow brothers and sisters are still facing today. Merced will remind me that despite my endless accomplishments and ambitions to thrive, the color of my skin is all a police officer will ever see."
UC Merced's Associated Students office sent out an email regarding the incident, but Sarah Cruz, a freshman at UC Merced majoring in political science, doesn't think that's enough. She attended the protest on campus July 13.
"ASUCM [Associated Students of UC Merced] sent a school-wide email regarding the incident today, and when I mentioned it to classmates, they said they never check their emails. The issue hasn't really been made a 'huge deal,' unfortunately," Cruz said. "During the actual protest, the atmosphere was very serious and it was apparent that everyone was there for a reason: to put a stop to police brutality, to bring attention to the situation and to express our discontent with the charges."
Doraelia Bahena, a freshman majoring in business at UC Merced, agree with Cruz. "The police are supposed to be here to protect us, not be the ones to cause harm."
The investigation is still ongoing.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Lead Image Credit: Mercy Maina via Facebook