The District Attorney’s Office has filed formal charges against the UC Santa Barbara professor accused of stealing an anti-abortion protester’s sign then destroying it after a physical confrontation on campus March 4. Mireille Miller-Young is charged with theft, battery, and vandalism, all misdemeanors. Her arraignment is scheduled for April 4.
According to eyewitness accounts and a UCSB police report, Miller-Young had been approached by a group of anti-abortion activists holding large banners with graphic photographs of aborted fetuses. After exchanging “passionate” words with the demonstrators — who are part of a Riverside-based ministry called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust — Miller-Young reportedly took one of the signs, walked with it across campus, then destroyed it in her office with scissors and help from students. A 16-year-old activist said she was pushed and scratched by Miller-Young when she tried to follow her. The incident, which was first reported by The Santa Barbara Independent, has since been covered by national media outlets.
In her interview with police, Miller-Young suggested the activists had violated her rights by displaying upsetting imagery at her place of work and that she believed she had a “moral right” to remove the material from sight. Miller-Young told authorities she is pregnant and was “triggered” by the violent photographs. The police report — parts of which were redacted upon release, including the reporting officer’s name — is reproduced in its entirety below:
At about 1500 hours, I spoke to Miller-Young by telephone. I recorded my conversation with Miller-Young on my digital voice recorder.
In essence, Miller-Young told me she felt “triggered” by the images on the posters. Miller-Young stated that she had been walking through the Arbor to get back to South Hall. Miller-Young said she was approached by people who gave her literature about abortion. Miller-Young said that she found this literature and pictures disturbing. Miller-Young said that she found this material offensive because she teaches about women’s “reproductive rights” and is pregnant. She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images. Miller-Young said that she [sic] situation became “passionate” and that other students in the area were “triggered” in a negative way by the imagery. Miller-Young said that she and others began demanding that the images be taken down. Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused. At which point, Miller-Young said that she “just grabbed it [the sign] from this girl’s hands.” Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, “I’m stronger so I was able to take the poster.”
Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a “safe space” described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was “mainly” responsible for the poster’s destruction because she was the only one with scissors.
I asked if Miller-Young had carried the poster into her office or if she had students carried [sic] it. Miller-Young said that she had carried the poster but that there were students with her. Miller-Young went on to say that because the poster was upsetting to her and other students, she felt that the activists did not have the right to be there.
I asked Miller-Young if she knew the students who had been with her (the students I had seen in the video). Miller-Young said that she was under the impression that I had already spoke to one of the students (Ito). Miller-Young refused to provide me with the unidentified student’s name, stating that she was not comfortable with it. Miller-Young said that she was concerned with protecting her students who she believed were “following” her.”
I asked Miller-Young if she felt anything wrong had happened this afternoon. Miller-Young said that she did not know enough about the limits of free speech to answer my question. Miller-Young went on to say that she was not sure what an acceptable and legal response to hate speech would be. Miller-Young said that she was willing to pay for the cost of the sign but would “hate it.”
I explained to Miller-Young that the victims in this case felt that a crime had occurred. I told Miller-Young that I appreciated the fact that she felt traumatized by the imagery but that her response constituted a violation of law. Furthermore, I told Miller-Young that I was worried about the example she had set for her undergraduate students.
Miller-Young said that her students “were wanting her to take” the sign away. Miller-Young argued that she set a good example for her students. Miller-Young likened her behavior to that of a “conscientious objector.” Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal. However, she acknowledged that the sign did not belong to her.
I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing graphic imagery was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety.
Miller-Young said she felt that this issue was not criminal and expressed a desire to find a resolution outside of the legal system. Miller-Young continued and stated that she had the “moral” right to act the way she did.
I asked Miller-Young if she could have behaved differently in this instance. There was a long pause, “I’ve said that I think I did the right thing. But I acknowledge that I probably should not have taken their poster.” Miller-Young also said that she wished the anti-abortion group had taken down the images when they demanded them to. Miller-Young also suggested that the group had violated her rights. I asked Miller-Young what right the group had violated. Miller-Young responded, “My personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” Miller-Young elaborated that one of the reasons she had felt so alarmed by this imagery is because she is about to have the test for Down Syndrome. Miller-Young said, “I work here, why do they get to intervene in that?”
I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery, and robbery had occurred. I also told Miller-Young that individuals involved in this case desired prosecution.
I later booked the torn sign into evidence at UCPD. I also uploaded the audio files of my interviews into digital evidence.
I request that a copy of my report, along with all related supplemental reports, be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
- UCSB Professor Accused of Assaulting Anti-Abortion Activist [ March 11, 2014 ]
- UCSB Police Department Releases Professor-Protestor Incident Report [ March 18, 2014 ]