Senate Passes Statement of Solidarity with Five Students Arrested at Merced

Chandelier's Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop, where the incident occurred. Image taken from Google Street View. (copyright: Google, May 2016)

Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter

The Associated Students Senate unanimously voted by email over July 19-21 to pass a statement of solidarity with five black college students who were arrested near the University of California, Merced on July 9.

Off-Campus Senator Alexandra Gessesse authored the statement, which passed with an email vote of 16-0-0. The statement, which Gessese wrote on behalf of both the A.S. Senate and the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (E.V.P.S.A), calls the arrests an “affront to basic civil and human rights” that “targets the most vulnerable in our institutions of higher learning.”

Video of the incident shows police officers dressed in riot gear pointing non-lethal, anti-riot weapons at patrons of the Chandelier’s Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop, located downtown from the UC Merced campus. The Merced Sun-Star reported that the police entered the shop in search of a man wanted on warrant for arrest.

Within the crowd, a confrontation occurred involving an officer who “put his hands” on a black male, which caused a rush of people to try and see what was happening. “Several people punched officers,” a police captain told the Sun-Star, and an officer was sent to the hospital.

Police arrested the students on counts of Battery on a Peace Officer Causing Injury. Some call the arrests unlawful and claim that the police used an excessive amount of force during the arrests. In the weeks since, the students’ arrests have been protested at multiple UC campuses, including UC Santa Barbara. Protesters have called the actions of the Merced police during the arrests police brutality.

Pictured above: Excerpt of Off-Campus Senator Alexandra Gessesse’s statement.

The resolution further calls “for action from the UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland, along with our own Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and the UC Regents, to aid the Bey family and scholars of UC Merced in their efforts to have these unlawful charges dropped.”

On Tuesday, Senator Gessesse told The Bottom Line that she hopes the chancellors will use their influence with the UC Regents to provide legal and financial support for the affected students.

“The important thing is that the chancellors stand beside the family and utilize their position of power to directly talk to the Regents,” said Gessesse, a second year history of public policy and sociology double major.

“As an off-campus senator, I was elected to represent students in Isla Vista and all over UCSB,” Gessesse said. “If that means that a student wants me to push to shed light on an issue that has happened, that is what I’ll do to the best of my power. I think the solidarity statement is a mere reflection of that on behalf of the entire Senate and the E.V.P.S.A office.”

Currently, each of the five students arrested faces up to 25 years in prison. On August 14, there will be a hearing for two of the students, Isa and Nedir Bey. The two were released after they posted bond the morning of the arrest, the Sun-Star reported. Gessesse hopes to attend the hearing alongside other Black Student Union members who already plan to go.

“It really is a powerful thing that the Senate has done right now,” Gessesse said. “The senate is moving together as a collective unit. This statement is something that’s near and dear to my heart. I can’t stress enough how happy it makes me that this is something we will uphold and push for, and the fact that everyone is on board with it is very heartwarming.”

Shomik Mukherjee contributed reporting.