SAN DIEGO — Hundreds of protesters from the University of California system rallied on the steps of the downtown San Diego Central Courthouse on Monday demanding charges related to the arrests of two UCSD graduate students and an alumnus be dropped.

The trio were arrested for allegedly vandalizing the Marine Conservation and Technology Facility on the UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus on May 30, reportedly writing pro-student workers union slogans in chalk outside the building.

Nearly a month later, on June 29, the three were arrested and booked into jail overnight on two counts of felony vandalism.

“My colleagues who are arrested with me, study the ocean to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We care about our scientific work, and our collective future,” said one of the postdoctoral scholars arrested, Jessica Ng.

Ng, along with her two colleagues, were scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, but the San Diego County District Attorney’s office said that the case had not been submitted to their office for review.

Student workers from all over California — including postdoctoral scholars, graduate students and other academic researchers — nonetheless gathered outside the courthouse on Monday, decrying the arrest.

They argued that the trio’s actions were intended as a peaceful protest to uphold the contracts the university negotiated with the union representing the academic workers, UAW 2865.

“These charges are meant to intimidate and isolate not just three people, but every person who dares to stand up for themselves, and their fellow workers,” Ng added during the rally.

Demonstrators maintain the University of California has not fulfilled its contractual obligation after signing a new deal late last year with academic workers following last year’s systemwide strike — considered one of the largest labor actions of its kind.  

“The have been violating that agreement,” said third year mathematics graduate student, Adu Vengal. “We have filed many ‘union grievances’ about this and so far, they’ve been stonewalling everything and pushing it to the last step.  They’ve been doing everything they can to circumvent the contractual obligation.” 

UCSD officials said in a statement that the school supports their students’ rights to “voice concerns lawfully.” However, they claim that this incident caused $12,000 of permanent damage that had to be professionally repaired.

The full statement, issued on July 4, can be found below:

UC San Diego Police have arrested three individuals, two of them students and one a recent graduate, in the felony vandalism of the Marine Conservation and Technology Facility on May 30. This new facility is designed to increase critical marine conservation research and its opening marked an important moment for our university community dedicated to this work. 

Before the opening ceremonies, vandalism was discovered on the building that caused permanent damage, necessitating replacement of building materials in excess of $12,000. The vandals used materials that defaced the walls of the new facility, and those materials seeped into the concrete. The concrete had been specially treated to withstand the marine environment and had to be professionally repaired.

In addition, official campus events had to be moved to other locations at the last minute, changing the planned events associated with the facilities’ opening.

UC San Diego supports its community members rights to voice their concerns lawfully. UC San Diego does not tolerate vandalism or other damage to university property.

UC San Diego via University Communications

No charges against the three arrested in connection with the incident have been filed by the District Attorney’s Office, a spokesperson said. It is not clear whether the UC San Diego campus police department plans to file any charges in the coming weeks.