Charges dropped against UC employee arrested during demonstration

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BERKELEY (BCN) The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has dropped charges against a University of California at Berkeley employee arrested last month during a demonstration at the school, union officials said today.

On Feb. 1, David Cole, a 51-year-old cook at a UC Berkeley dining hall, was protesting when he was arrested near the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way at about noon.

"Today, after weeks of struggle and after thousands of Californians joined protests and signed petitions, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley dropped the absurd and unjustified charges," American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger and Vice President Michael Avant said in a joint statement.

"Mr. Cole was violently assaulted and arrested by police while participating in a peaceful rally to honor the generations long struggle that Black workers have waged against discrimination and unfair treatment on the job," according to the statement.

AFSCME officials said Cole sustained injuries to his head and had to have stitches in his eyes and nose after officers threw him to the ground during the arrest.

Part of the incident was filmed and posted onto social media. But UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher said in a statement released after the incident that Cole had been part of a protest that blocked 
the intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft and that Cole ran toward an occupied vehicle that was making its way through the intersection and threw the sign he was carrying at the vehicle.

Fisher said when a UC police officer tried to detain Cole "he became uncooperative and disregarded instructions from the officer." Fisher said the officer asked for assistance and he and other UC officers tried to detain Cole but Cole resisted so multiple officers were needed to take him into custody.

Cole sustained a cut that required treatment at a hospital and he later was transferred to the Berkeley City Jail, where he was booked, according to Fisher.

Cole was then released from jail because UC police advocated that he be cited and released without needing to post bail, Fisher said.

Union officials disputed Fisher's account of the incident, saying that witnesses said Cole didn't do anything to the vehicle and that the vehicle drove toward the protesters who were in the intersection and made contact with several of them and then someone other than Cole threw something 
at the car.

The protest at UC campuses across the state was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the deaths of two black Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, killed when their truck's compactor malfunctioned, prompting a strike by union workers. Dr. Martin Luther King was visiting the striking sanitation workers when he was 
assassinated in April 1968, AFSCME officials said.