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Charges dropped against students arrested in immigration protest

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has dropped charges against the nine college students who chained themselves to the Arizona state Capitol building on April 20 to protest Senate Bill 1070.

Seven of the students were from ASU, and two were from South Mountain and Pima community colleges, respectively.

The protesters, known as the Capitol Nine, were charged with disorderly conduct— charges that were dropped by interim County Attorney Rich Romley’s office last week.

“It gave us new faith in the system,” said Antonio Bustamante, lawyer for Gregorio Montes de Oca, an ASU student.

When they received the news, some students said they felt “indifferent” to the decision from the attorney’s office because they were prepared to accept the consequences of their actions.

“I just kind of wanted to get it out of the way so I could keep on taking care of whatever’s in my life I need to take care of,” Montes de Oca said. “It wasn’t about living in fear of my court date.”

Montes de Oca, who graduated in May studying political science and chicano studies, said getting the charges dropped was a “very minor victory” in the battle being waged.

“These issues, they’re not going to go away anytime soon,” he said.

Another ASU student, Ruben Lucio Palomares, Jr., said the charges being dropped are “less of an inconvenience.”

“For me, it was never about the charges being dropped,” said Palomares, a political science and chicano studies junior.

Though he doesn’t know how long the Capitol Nine’s effect will last, Palomares said he believes the message was sent out.

“We’ve voted. We’ve lobbied... Our voices have been ignored,” Palomares Jr. said. “We did something that would get our voices heard.”

Jaime Brennan, spokeswoman for the attorney’s office, said the decision to drop the charges came because the students were incorrectly charged.

“They were charged with disorderly conduct, but they really should have been charged with trespassing,” Brennan said.

The students could not be charged with trespassing, she said, because the predicates required to make that charge were not met.

At press time, the charges had been dropped without prejudice, meaning they could be filed again at a later date, though a decision to re-file has yet to be made.

Montes de Oca and Palomares said the arrests and the charges hindered their lives but were necessary to send their message.

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