Charges dropped against Cambridge students over Strauss-Kahn Union protest vandalism
Two Cambridge students accused of vandalising the Cambridge Union Society building ahead of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s visit to the Union last month have had the charges against them dropped because of “insufficient evidence”.
Naiara Bazin, 21, a 3rd-year Natural Scientist at King’s College, and Theodore Slade, 20, whose college was not reported, were arrested just before 6am on the morning of Strauss-Kahn’s controversial visit to the Union on 9th March for painting slogans such as “Women Deserve Better” and “DSK Die” onto the walls of the Union Society building on Bridge Street.
Bazin and Slade also covered the Union building with hundreds of posters, with messages such as “This House Supports Rape Culture” and “Women’s voices stamped out”, as well as a large banner reading “Only 6% of reported rapes end in conviction. DSK: adding to the 94%”.
Bazin and Slade later pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal damage at a hearing at Cambridge Magistrate’s Court on March 19th.
A trial date had been set for 4th May, but court prosecutors have now dropped the charges because of “insufficient evidence” against the students. A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman added: “We only take a case to trial if there is enough evidence.”
CUSU Women’s Officer Ruth Graham told The Cambridge Student: “I’m pleased to hear that the investigation has closed and that the charges have been dropped”.
Strauss-Kahn, also known as DSK, resigned as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund last year after he was accused of raping a New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo – although charges were later dropped, Diallo is now pursuing a civil case against the man once tipped as a potential candidate for the French presidency. Strauss-Kahn is also accused by French writer Tristane Banon of attempting to rape her in 2003.
Since speaking at the Union, Strauss-Kahn has also been charged in France with “complicity in aggravated and organised prostitution” and “misuse of company assets” in relation to several orgies he attended in various cities including Paris and Washington while at the IMF.
His visit to the Union last term to speak about international economics sparked outrage among some Cambridge students, with over 700 students signing a petition organised by the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) Women’s Campaign calling for his disinvitation. The Union however chose to uphold the invitation.
The morning’s vandalism on March 9th – which the Woman’s campaign insisted it had “nothing to do with” in a statement that afternoon – preceded a full day of anti-DSK events organised by the Women’s campaign. A speaker event that afternoon featuring Nafissatou Diallo’s lawyer was followed by a march through Cambridge to the Union building, where around 200 protesters held a peaceful rally on Park Street, behind the Union building. Several student victims of sexual assault spoke movingly about their experiences.
Just as Strauss-Kahn’s talk began inside the Union chamber, at around 7.30pm, the speeches at the rally ended, and several protesters surged forward and attempted to climb over the barricades at the back of the Union Society building. The ensuing scuffles between police and protesters led to two further arrests. Justin Katko, 28, an English student at Queens’ College, was charged with using threatening words or behaviour to a police officer, and Miles Curtis-Watson, 19, a Cambridgeshire resident but not a student of Cambridge University, was charged with obstructing a police officer. Curtis Watson’s dramatic arrest, surrounded by eight police officers at one point, sparked outrage and distress among his fellow protesters and prompted chants of “Shame on you” directed at police.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. With these charges still standing, Curtis-Watson and Katko will stand trial on June 7th and 15th respectively.
Michael Yoganayagam, Associate News Editor