Protesters Urge Merced Police to ‘Drop the Charges’ Against Arrested Black Students

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Photo by Alex Yam

Shomik Mukherjee
News Editor

Nearly 30 students and staff members marched in protest Thursday afternoon across campus after an incident near UC Merced led to the arrests of five black college students.

The protesters, who marched from Cheadle Hall to Storke Tower and back chanting, “It could have been you, it could have been me — stop police brutality,” called for criminal charges against the students to be dropped. All five of the students arrested are related and one of them attends UC Merced.

Video taken of the incident early Sunday morning shows Merced police in a physical confrontation with patrons of Chandelier’s Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop, a location about seven miles from the campus.

The incident reportedly started after police entered the lounge to search for a man wanted for arrest on a warrant, according to the Merced Sun-Star. At the time, a party celebrating the release of a fashion line was nearly finished, organizers of the protest said.

The police arrived in riot gear, said third year sociology and black studies double major Zenzile Riddick, who helped lead Thursday’s protest. The man wanted for arrest was never found, according to the Sun-Star.

A lounge security guard told the Sun-Star that an officer “put his hands” on a black male, which “provoked” others to run towards the scene. In the ensuing “melee,” an officer was injured and sent to the hospital. None of the detained men, two of whom were medically examined before being brought to jail, suffered any serious injuries, the Sun-Star reported.

During the confrontation, a different officer fired a non-lethal anti-riot weapon. Officers told the Sun-Star that the Merced Police Department is conducting both a criminal investigation and an investigation into the police’s use of force in the incident.

Riddick said two of the students have been charged with Class C felonies and could face multiple years in prison.

“The felony they are being charged with is assaulting an officer,” Riddick said. “While the officer was beating them to death, he sustained an injury.” She said the arrested students were injured themselves, and that the police did not allow for the students’ injuries to be tended to before their arrests.

Riddick knows all five men personally and attended high school with them, she told The Bottom Line. Four of the men are brothers and the other is a first cousin, she said.

“They were always outstanding students and community members,” Riddick said. “One of these men published a book before he graduated high school. Most of them are engineering students — they have very high GPAs.”

The men will appear in court on August 14 for a hearing, Riddick said. She urged her fellow protesters to share videos of the incident to raise awareness for the men involved. She also said the UCSB Black Student Union (of which Riddick is the internal vice president) will organize a caravan trip to Merced to attend the hearing.

Shomik Mukherjee
Shomik Mukherjee has worked at The Bottom Line since the first week of his first year at UCSB. In his spare time, he enjoys telling people that. Mukherjee can be reached at news@bottomlineucsb.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like a one sided story, the cops were serving a valid warrant, it’s always best to submit to the request of any law enforcement officer. From the video, and real reporting of the incident it looks as though most everyone there was rejecting the authority of the officers, and obstructing justice. Interesting that these brothers all came to the defense of someone for some reason. Guess what? When an office gets injured, people get arrested.
    Even acting as your own lawyer, a simple plea of no contest to obstruction of justice is usually dismissed, sentence time served. If it turns out one of the brothers was involved in injuring the officer, he should do time. let it go through the court process before its required all the universities of calif. need to declare a racial BLM Issue. Inflating this case of the city of Merceds policing activity, into a charged racial incident requiring the intervention of the UCSB chancellor, because missy Riddick went to elementary school with the boys and might have an emotionally charged perspective, is ludicrous. But let’s feed her ego and the small group of SJW’s who view life through racial rose colored glasses. (Wait ….. she’s gone to school to establish a career doing this, never mind)

    • Sounds like the officers should have started by MAKING a request, rather than walking in with guns drawn and scaring the partygoers. I agree it’s best to do what the police say, but in this instance the police entered silently, give no instructions, and then physically confronted a person because he happened to bump into an officer by accident while dancing. The guy may not have even been aware of the police presence (dark room, loud music, pretty girl in front of him) until he was confronted. It could have been that all he knew was that someone was instigating a physical confrontation with him for some unknown reason and he fought back before he understood the situation. He also may have been drunk or tipsy (something college students often are on the weekends, especially at clubs) and therefore his judgment wasn’t up to par. The police knew they were entering a party with young people who had been drinking and weren’t at all prepared for their presence. The police’s decision to create a volatile situation by their actions showed a deplorable lack of judgment. It is the duty of the police to exercise good judgment when deciding when and where to initiate actions and how those actions will be carried out so that innocent people are not frightened or harmed (and everyone at the party was innocent prior to the police action). And that’s where race enters. Would the police have silently entered a white college party outfitted in riot gear, guns drawn, with no explanations and ready to start fights with partygoers? These kids were treated like criminals or people with criminal intent. Why, exactly, do you think that is? When you say it’s not about race, just for one moment imagine your white 19-year-old son at a party full of other white people and this happening at that party. It wouldn’t. Forget how the kids reacted and think of what the police did in the first place; that’s where the problem lies. When people see black people on “reality” TV getting arrested at higher rates than others it’s not because they’re more criminal but because black neighborhoods–black people–are targeted and treated as criminals by police whether they are or aren’t. There are white people who will never come in contact with a police officer in life and black people who lead the exact same straight-and-narrow lives but live in black neighborhoods so they will come into contact with police numerous times in a month. Most young men make mistakes all the time. It’s just a man thing. White young men get breathing room to fk-up and grow up without the police jumping on their every mistake. Because black neighborhoods are over-policed and black people are perceived by society as being more criminal in general, black young men don’t get that breathing room; black young men get criminal records. The more contact the police have with a community, the more likely it is that young people within that community will be turned into criminals by irresponsible police actions like the one we’re looking at now. The police shouldn’t have been there at all but they decided to go forth with this action because they felt it was okay to, essentially, harass these kids at this party (because intensive police scrutiny for no reason can certainly feel like harassment) because they were black/non-white. Despite my comments, though, in order to see this as a racial incident they (and you) would have to open their minds and hearts to the possibility that what black people are saying might be true. Unfortunately, though, most white people just aren’t willing to do this.

      • It sounds like your making a disjointed argument for the boys behavior and justification for their actions. Even if we concede your assumption of unconscious racial bias, and habitual portrayals of racial stereotypes,(although statistically cops go where the crime is, arrest and convict criminals). Its difficult to conclude by the evidence in this case that law enforcement was to blame, or the police tactics were malice in an attempt to “harass” or entrap anyone for any reason. The police were enforcing a warrant for a concealed weapon, the worst kind of warrant to serve. It’s a very dangerous idea, confronting people you assume are armed, tactical procedures are a must. Physical confrontation because you feel “dished” on the dance floor is inappropriate, and once it’s aware law enforcement is participating, there’s is no reason for resistance. Pleading they were just “drunk or boys on drugs” (at a drug and alcohol free venue) is dismissive of the seriousness of their reactions. It doesn’t matter what color, race or nationality you are, there are three things you never do with law enforcement; lie, fight them, or run away,(Cops have this unique drive and dedication, thought admirable by some, to always get their man, and take prisoners. That’s what they do, and always have done.) I think your projection onto the police at the scene as insensitive or bias, enforce by your perception of how you think they should have acted, is commentary, and secondary to the fact that law enforcement was obstructed in serving a high profile search warrant. “You’ve” second guessed the police actions and attributed a racial component.

        Since you asked, yes my 20 year old son has had contact with law enforce several times over the last two years, so have I. (It could be considered harassment when your stopped because your license plate light isn’t bright enough, or you went down a dead end road, or diving late, to close to the local bar at closing time.) No one was arrested for resisting or obstructing justice, because you always respect authority. Generally, contact with suspicious law enforcement has more to do with the people your with, the car your in, or the place your at. Cops make search and seizures, on white groups or racially mixed groups of young men quite often, and arrested are made. Seldom do you see a racial bias presented for law enforcement actions, or university system wide condemnation, for publicity sake. Chances are if they were white frat boys, no one would care. Young men need to be responsible for the actions they take, when they take them. Admit Infractions and accept the punishments. Regardless of the color of their skin, judge them on their character. Let the courts handle it. (Or maybe give as much benefit of the doubt to law enforcement, as you do to the Bays)

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