The University of California in August sent a $225,000 settlement payment to US Bank, quietly ending a dispute over how protests were handled on the Davis campus.
Terms of the agreement — the latest in a series of expensive payouts stemming from campus protests — were released at the request of The Enterprise. As part of the deal, both sides agreed not to discuss the matter with the press.
A dozen of those protesters — the so-called “Banker’s Dozen” — were back in Yolo Superior Court on Friday for a pretrial hearing. They stand accused of obstructing movement on a street or in a public place and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor. Both charges are misdemeanors.
The dispute between the campus and its first-ever banking partner arose after protesters began blocking the branch daily, singling it out as a symbol of university privatization and banks profiting from students and families.
On March 1, the Minneapolis-based bank pulled out of its agreement with UCD, shutting the branch and accusing the campus of doing too little to end near daily protests at its branch inside the Memorial Union. The branch closed early, day after day, during the protests.
On May 4, UCD filed suit in Yolo Superior Court in an attempt to recoup lost revenue from a 10-year deal, inked in 2009, that was to have brought in an estimated $3 million for student services.
The bank accused UCD of a breach of the lease, saying it had been forced to hire a security guard because UCD police refused to act and instead suggested the bank allow in one customer at a time. UCD later acknowledged that its police were treading lightly because of the Nov. 18 incident in which Occupy protesters were pepper-sprayed, but it denied that its officers refused to act.
The university said it was not responsible for the actions of protesters — among them English professor Joshua Clover, who the bank said was leading the protests. Taking part in a sit-in was not within the scope of Clover’s employment, UCD said, and therefore was beyond its control.
Before settling the matter with the help of a mediator, UCD and US Bank each accused the other of not cooperating to solve the dilemma of what to do about the protests, which the bank said included not allowing employees inside.
In court on Friday, attorneys representing the 11 student protesters and Clover indicated in a discussion with Judge David Reed over a motion for discovery that part of their defense may be to argue that UCD police singled out the defendants. As many as 13 other men and nine other women were “similarly situated” at protests yet have not been charged, according to the defense.
Reed said he found the claim that the protesters were part of a protected class “somewhat elusive.” The motion, he said, gave no clear description of the group’s ties to Occupy UC Davis or Occupy Davis.
Many of the protesters did have ties to Occupy UC Davis; however, they started the bank protest independently of the larger group.
Said Reed, “I’m not able to conclude that it rises to the level of a protected class. It’s different than race, sex or religion. It’s different than a labor union. … Tell me what it is about the UC Davis Occupy movement that raises it to level of that of a protected class.”
Reed did not set a trial date, though it appears a trial will come no sooner than February. He gave the six defense attorneys until Nov. 9 to flesh out their argument.
A trial could last upwards of two weeks. Assistant District Attorney Michael Cabral said the evidence includes about 120 hours of security camera footage.
Defense attorney Alexis Briggs said after the hearing that no matter the outcome of that hunt for evidence of selective prosecution, “there are a lot of indications of full defenses to these allegations.”
US Bank will not seek restitution from protesters, according to the settlement. UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi and Provost Ralph Hexter have promised the same in a letter to the campus community.
The deal with the bank brings the cost of settlements and the hiring of consultants by UC and UCD in response to the university’s often ham-handed handling of campus protests over the past school year to at least $2.25 million. That includes a recently announced $1 million settlement agreement, now up for review by a federal judge, with the protesters who were pepper-sprayed or arrested on Nov. 18.
According to a spokesperson, UC Davis Stores will move its Tech Hub and Apple “store” from the bookstore to the 600-square-foot space vacated by US Bank and reopen them by the start of the winter quarter.
— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden