On March 20, 2012 BAMN leader Yvette Felarca slammed the political witchhunt against her and other Occupy Cal protesters, after being arraigned and issued a stay-away order to be more than 100 yards away from UC-Berkeley campus and all UC property. (Video and transcript below.)
YVETTE FELARCA: My name is Yvette Felarca, and I’m with BAMN. I’m one of the 13 people who’s been charged by the District Attorney and also by the UC-Berkeley administration.
I want to make clear that this is a political witchhunt that’s being leveled against me and the other defendants, but also the entire movement. These are absolutely politically-motivated charges that we’re demanding be dropped now.
This is an attack on the rights of this movement, of students, of the community to continue to fight for the future and existence of a public university system.
I am proud to have stood on November 9 in defense of public education, against the fee hikes, for the right of black and Latino students and Native American students to have an equal access to the University, for the right of immigrant students to have an equal right to go to a public university system in the state where they grew up. These are right and just demands that we fought for, and we intend to keep fighting for them.
The stay-away orders that were issued against myself and other students who have been charged are clearly politically-motivated attacks on free speech and political activities at the home of the Free Speech Movement which is UC-Berkeley’s reputation. For students and community organizers like myself to be issued stay-away orders on that campus is nothing but an attempt to try to censor our right to criticize policies by the administration and by the governor to attack public education and to censor our ability and right to organize on the basis of defending public education.
We refuse to accept their right to censor free speech and critical thinking and action. We are fighting these stay-away orders.
My next hearing is April 2, and we intend to reverse that stay-away order then. And in the meantime, we call on everybody across the State of California and across the nation, to whom free speech means something to them, who stand proud on not just the reputation of universities like UC-Berkeley, but who stand proud on what should be a tradition—and one that we have to continue fighting for—of political organizing and activity in the interest of democracy, to stand with us to get these charges dropped.
They cannot prevail. We won’t let them. We’re gonna keep fighting until we get them dropped, and continue this fight and this movement to defend public education.
On April 6, we’re organizing another rally and another direct action to stand up for public education: to drop these charges, and to double black and Latino and Native American student enrollment. We invite everybody to join us for that and make clear: free speech, political activity, organizing in defense of our rights and the future of this state’s education is something that will not be repressed.
NICK SMITH, KGO Channel 7: Ms. Felarca, you mention that it was a witchhunt. But was there some latitude given by still allowing students to attend classes?
FELARCA: Students still have the right to attend classes. I think that would’ve been completely impossible for the judge to have gotten away with prohibiting.
But that even makes clear that this is political censorship. Because if you can only go to class as a UC-Berkeley student at the most politically active campus in the whole country, then these stay-away orders are is clearly censorship of students to do everything else that goes with being a UC-Berkeley student.
Being part of political discussions, organizing, rallies in defense of public education, in defense of affirmative action, you name it—that is also and should be the right of every student.
ALLIE RASMUS, KTVU Channel 2: University faculty members signed a petition, several hundred of them. Some university administrators have said that they didn’t want the DA to go ahead with these charges. But the DA’s office says they act independently, and the University can’t influence them in their decision. What do you make of that, the fact that the University faculty and some administrators there seem to be at odds with what the DA has decided to do?
FELARCA: We are very happy for the faculty’s support. I think Birgeneau and the UC-Berkeley administration need to withdraw these charges. They have the power to do that. This is clearly coming from them, and they need to withdraw them if they actually don’t intend to pursue this prosecution. So we’re—
RASMUS, Channel 2: —don’t have the power to withdraw them. The DA is strictly doing—
FELARCA: —It’s completely… It’s their police that filed the complaints and supplied all the testimony and the reports. UC-Berkeley administration needs to withdraw these charges, and the District Attorney needs to drop them.
SMITH, Channel 7: Ms. Felarca, one of the things that made this so popular is the fact that the video went viral of you literally being clubbed and beaten. I mean, what has been the response to that of family and friends who are saying to you, “Yvette, step away because this is not what we wanted for our ‘most dangerous daughter in the world’?”
FELARCA: I’m proud to say that all my family and friends are supporting me 110 percent in this fight. A whole bunch of my friends, of co-workers are completely supportive, because what we did standing up for public education is absolutely crucial and vital to this entire state, and we’re gonna keep doing that.
KCBS reporter: You were arraigned today?
FELARCA: I was arraigned today.
KCBS reporter: And you pleaded…
FELARCA: I pleaded not guilty.
KCBS reporter: So you’re out on bail of some kind? Own recognizance?
FELARCA: Most of us, including myself were not even arrested on that day.
KCBS reporter: So you posted bail?
FELARCA: There’s no bail! This is completely politically motivated. They didn’t even arrest or most of us who are facing charges. This all came after the fact. I think at the top levels of the University of California administration, namely the UC Regents and President Yudof, as an attack on the movement to try to chill the movement. And we’re here making clear that’s not gonna work.
RASMUS, Channel 2: So you weren’t arrested, but after the fact you guys get these notices, citations saying you must appear in court. Were you blindsided by that? Was it a surprise for you, that it came out after the fact?
FELARCA: I was angry, and I thought that just made the DA’s office of Alameda County and the UC-Berkeley administration look weak and desperate.
REPORTER: So you think you were singled out?
FELARCA: I absolutely believe that these charges are politically motivated. A number of us are people who either, one, have been very prominent and public organizers, activists, and leaders in this movement. And two, people who the UC-Berkeley police were caught on videotape beating.
And myself and a number of us have already filed a civil lawsuit against the University and against the police for brutality and abusing and violating our free speech rights. And I think this is retaliation. It’s illegal retaliation and malicious prosecution by the District Attorney and the administration to try to attack us for having stood up and standing up for our right to continue to rally for public education.
SMITH, Channel 2: Yvette, specifically about November 9: I was at the after that, that Birgeneau apologized to students. He was out of town. He said that he had no idea … simply wanted to make sure that there was a peaceful demonstration… Did that apology mean anything to you, and what do you make of his subsequent resignation?
FELARCA: Birgeneau’s apology was an admission that it was his policy and his police that led to the abuse and brutality on us on November 9. That’s 100 percent what it was.
I think his resignation is a continued admission of the fact that he was in the wrong, that the administration was in the wrong for what they did. And I think he had to leave under political pressure from the movement. Because we do hold him responsible, and these administrators need to be held accountable.
SMITH, Channel 2: Do you still have faith in the University?
FELARCA: I have faith in this movement and in the students and the community and faculty who have been fighting for the right to public education. That is truly what UC-Berkeley is and should be about: fighting for public education, fighting for civil rights against racism, fighting for the right of all Californians to attend the best public university system in the world.