Activists Seek Justice For ‘Laya’


Chris Sinclair/New University

A handful of protesters from the Justice for Laya coalition gathered at noon in front of Aldrich Hall on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 to protest the lack of legal action toward Student Regent Jesse Cheng. Among their many signs and banners, one stated their demands in large block letters:

1) University of California Student Regent Jesse Cheng resign or be removed from his post immediately.

2) Laya receive full legal justice.

3) Women’s Resource Centers on University of California campuses be retained and funded.

“No means no, Jesse Cheng has got to go,” the protesters chanted. Their signs reflected similar arguments and frustrations. One sign read, “UC Regent? I see rapist.” Another sign read, “Drake: Prosecute Rapists Not Protesters” and another read, “25% of women will be raped during their college career. 90% of victims know their attackers.” A few of the girls wore nametags with “Laya” written on them.

In a phone interview with the OC Register after the protest, Cheng acknowledged the event, saying, “These protests aren’t healing any of the parties involved. They hurt me deeply.”

In spite of the protesters’ earnestness, many students on campus simply walked by, not noticing the protest at all.

“Ha,” an anonymous woman said as she walked by. “If they’re going to protest at least do it right.”

“Who’s Jesse Cheng?” another student asked as he walked briskly by with a friend.

The Justice for Laya coalition was formed shortly after the publication of the New University article “Student Regent Under Investigation” on Feb. 15 and is comprised of various student and community activists throughout California, including the Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization and Marginalization (AF3IRM), a nationwide organization with operations in Boston, Chicago, Irvine/Orange County, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Riverside/Inland Empire, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area.

“It’s our demand that Jesse Cheng be removed,” said Jollene Levid, national chairperson of AF3IRM, “and that’s a short-term solution. Really, we need a women’s center at UCI. An action like this happened at the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco last month. We’re going to keep protesting. We need to hold decision-makers like Jesse Cheng accountable.”

The Justice for Laya coalition protesters did not file an application to use amplified sound, or reserve a space, but UCI Police were present. However, they were not forced to take any significant action to regulate the protest.

“The only real problem would be if they were blocking the entrance to the [administration] building,” said UC Irvine Police Sergeant Shaun Devlin.

At 1:09 p.m. a campus tour group walked by Aldrich Hall. The high school students and their parents looked quizzically at the band of protesters passionately stationed between the booths selling funnel cakes, clothes and kettle corn.

“And I don’t know what this is,” the UCI campus representative said before quickly ushering her group along Ring Road toward SSLH.