Case dropped against M.E.Ch.A. members

Carlos Jimenez and a campus policeman during last semesters protest that lead to their detention near the Cerritos College Elbow Room.

Carlos Jimenez and a campus policeman during last semesters protest that lead to their detention near the Cerritos College Elbow Room.

Alicia Edquist, Advertising Manager/Lab Aide

The Los Angeles District Attorney/Bellflower area office has refused to file a case against three students who were cited last October for disturbing the peace on school grounds after participating in a protest on the war in Iraq.

Bardo Martinez, Hulmaro Agustin and Carlos Jimenez appeared in court on Friday at the Bellflower Courthouse and found out the case against them was dropped.

The case was dropped because of a legal obstacle to prosecution, according the Rebecca Noblin, deputy in charge at the District Attorney’s office.

Jimenez, math major, said, “It’s empowering. It motivates us to go out and do it again. We won’t be scared to do it again.”

The three students went to look for their names on the board at the Bellflower Courthouse, but found it was not there. They next went to the clerk’s office, where they were sent to the District Attorney’s office to find that the D.A. had never filed the case.

The original citation was for disruptive presence on school grounds under California Penal Code 626.8 a. It was later amended to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace on schools grounds according to California Penal Code 415.5 (a) (2)

Students were cited on Oct. 14, after student organization, M.E.Ch.A., protested the war in Iraq and other issues. According to campus police, the students were detained for disturbing the peace due to the fact that the protest made its way through the Administration Building and through hallways.

For about a month after the protest, other students began to protest as well.

“Students were able to show their feelings and I think we were justified in our cause for protesting,” Martinez, latin american studies major, said. “This has set a precedent for the school and students will be more willing to speak out at school.”

At first, Martinez felt powerless, not knowing the laws; however, by seeking legal advice and looking up the California penal code in the college library, he felt more powerful with the knowledge that was researched.

Furthermore, the students now know where they can and can’t protest on campus.

Agustin, chicano studies major, said, “A Lot of people have fear about speaking, this shows them that they have the right to speak their minds and have the freedom of speech to protest.”

After the protest took place, the students were sent a letter by Patrick Callahan, coordinator of judicial affairs, stating that they were to meet with him last November to talk about the inappropriate nature of such an incident and its possible consequences.

The students were put on disciplinary probation by Cerritos College for the violation of the campus rights and responsibilities policy that states “Students and student organizations should be free to support causes by orderly means which do not disrupt the regular and essential operation of the college.” The probation period will last until the end of the spring 2005 semester.

However, at the courthouse, the students came prepared with a researched defense. Their defense included California Penal Code 415.5 (f), which states, “This section shall not apply to any person who is a registered student of the school, or to any person who is engaged in any otherwise lawful employee concerted activity.”

“Out of the whole negative ordeal, we got a lot of positive feedback from others and met a lot of people that supported us,” Jimenez said.

Agustin added by saying, “All we wanted to do with the protest was to raise awareness and we did that.”

Agustin also gave a special thanks to Officer Castillo who cited the three for bringing awareness of free speech to Cerritos College.