Students arrested last March during a protest against education budget cuts appeared in court Friday. CSUN students Jonnae Thompson, Justin Marks, Anthony Garcia, Jose Gomez and Los Angeles Valley College student, Angel Guzman, face charges ranging from battery to failure to disperse.
The defendants’ attorneys motioned to postpone the pretrial hearing for February 16, as they hope to resolve the case and avoid going to trial. During prior negotiations, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich offered to drop charges against all defendants except for Gomez.
They refused the deal, choosing to fight the charges collectively.
Lead defense attorney, John-Michael Lee, a CSUN alumnus, drew a parallel between the students’ arrests and the waves of protests in the 1960s.
“Some of them [defendants] didn’t even know each other before the arrest,” Lee said. “Now there’s this movement on campus that was just starting to take place on the day of the demonstrations. It’s like what we did in the sixties. They repress you, thinking they will stop you, and what they do is build movements that didn’t exist.”
Students and activists protested the proceedings outside the courthouse.
Christine Knight, a member of Todos Somos Arizona (We are All Arizona) accused the city attorney’s office of engaging in a witch-hunt.
“We went into it knowing we could be arrested, whereas the CSUN students didn’t assume they would,” said Knight. “There are different circumstances, but what we see is this politicized attack on resistance coming out of the attorney’s office. …that’s given us a catalyst to come together as a united front against him.”
Gomez said he is encouraged by the support that he and the other defendants have received from the activist community, especially at CSUN.
“In the beginning we thought we were alone,” said Gomez. “But it [the support] gives us hope to keep struggling. Unity overcomes any obstacle and we need to unite for education.”
Lee hopes the students will not have to face trial; he is optimistic about the case.
“This is going to be pretty unique—two generations of activists in the same case,” Lee said.
Hansook Oh contributed to this report.