UC Berkeley students charged with vandalism but not hate crimes

Two young men have been charged in a Southside vandalism case from late June. This reference to “class war” was spotted on Hillside Court. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Two UC Berkeley students arrested on felony warrants last week related to vandalism and extensive anarchist graffiti near the Cal campus were captured on surveillance footage spray painting, and found with paint stains on their hands, according to court papers.

Ismael Chamu and Peter Estrada, both 21, were charged Monday afternoon with felony vandalism, and possession of spray paint with the intent to commit vandalism and graffiti, a misdemeanor. The warrants from the Berkeley Police Department also included a hate crime allegation, because the graffiti included the phrase “Fuck White People,” but the Alameda County district attorney’s office declined to charge the case as such.

The graffiti — found June 28 and in the days that followed on people’s cars and fences in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood — also included references to class warfare, “Kill Yuppies,” “Fuck the police,” “Fuck frat boys,” “Fuck gentrification” and “Black Lives Matter.” The messages also made reference to “Antifa,” and featured the anarchist “A” symbol. More than a dozen tires were also slashed, and police said Chamu was hiding a knife when officers approached him. He has not been charged in connection with the knife, however, according to court papers.

Police have said they initially stopped Estrada and Chamu at about 3 a.m. June 28 in connection with what turned out to be an unrelated burglary nearby. The pair tried to hide behind a parked car as officers approached, wrote Berkeley Police Sgt. Peter Hong in court papers, and they were detained.


“Estrada had pink, red, and black paint stains on his hands. Estrada had two black spray paint cans in his possession.… Chamu had the lid of a paint can in his pocket,” Hong wrote. Chamu’s hands had black and pink stains on them, too, he wrote.

BPD is classified a spate of vandalism in late June as a hate crime. Photos: BPD
A local resident saw this graffiti in the neighborhood June 28 at Ellsworth and Channing. A car at Ellsworth “had its hood spray painted saying F*#k gentrification.” Photo: Theresa Martin Kalofonos

Hong wrote that the graffiti discovered in the area was done with paint of the same colors, at a university dormitory at Durant Avenue and Dana Street, the Clark Kerr Campus, and in the 2400 block of Hillside Avenue, Prospect Street (a fraternity house) and Durant. More graffiti was found in the 2500 block of Dana, the 2500 block of Dwight Way, at Dana and Haste streets, and at Haste and Ellsworth streets, according to court papers.

According to court papers, the items vandalized included cars, fences, walls of buildings, street signs, electrical boxes, construction barriers, pavement and benches.

Hong wrote that one of the properties that was vandalized had surveillance cameras around it. They recorded some of the vandalism as it took place.

“Chamu and Estrada appeared to be the same two males captured on video footage spray painting the commercial van and a sign. The two males were also captured spray painting Antifa Zone and Kill the Police on several construction barriers,” he wrote. When shown the footage, officers identified the culprits as Chamu and Estrada “based on clothing, physical build, and distinct features.”


On July 7, a Superior Court judge signed warrants, for felony vandalism and the commission of a hate crime, for the two to be arrested. Last week, police arrested both: Chamu at his San Francisco home and Estrada at his home in Berkeley.

Police said Chamu declined to speak with officers when they showed up, and asked for his attorney.

Chamu’s Facebook page, Hong wrote, included many messages that “were consistent with the graffiti messages,” such as “fuck the police, rebellion, Black Lives Matter, God Bless Antifa, White Nationalism and supremacy, tech development and its negative impact on Black and Brown bodies, and others which.”

Chamu initially posted on Facebook that Berkeley police had racially profiled him when they arrested him near campus. That post has since been deleted or is no longer publicly visible.

At Estrada’s home, police said they found many items belonging to Chamu, as well as many others related to anarchism and Anti-fascism.


“Estrada had numerous stickers and literature, but several were notable in their messages: Antifas with the Adidas brand symbol, Defending Our Hoods with a picture of a knife, Die Techie Scum, Attack White Supremacy, and Attack the Police which were consistent with the graffiti messages,” Hong wrote.

Estrada also declined to speak with police and asked for an attorney.

The district attorney’s office did not provide details about why the case was not charged as a hate crime.

“After careful and thorough review, the charges filed against the two defendants were in line with what the evidence shows us,” said an office spokeswoman after publication.

Each young man has been released on $15,000 bail. Chamu and Estrada are scheduled for a plea hearing Tuesday at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to sheriff’s office records online.

This story was updated after publication to include a comment from the district attorney’s office, as well as updated bail and court hearing information.