An American River College student was slapped by a man collecting signatures for a petition on Tuesday, March 4 just after 1 p.m.
Theater major Peter Messick, was speaking with a fellow theater major near the Fine Arts division office, when he was approached by the individual.
“I was talking with my friend Andy about theater things, and one of the petitioners was under the impression that I was talking, and I quote, ‘s— about him,’ then he proceeded to go on and wanted to know if I wanted to ‘fade’ (fight),” Messick said.
“I said no, I didn’t want any trouble, and then he goes back to his station, and about five minutes later, he comes back, says the same thing, almost verbatim and then he slaps me. I said ‘we’re not talking about you, we’re talking about theater stuff,’ and then he slaps me and was threatening to fight me,” Messick said.
According to Messick, the suspect left the area immediately after the confrontation. Messick stated that he was unsure of what to do, explaining “(I) talked with a couple friends and they said ‘No, you need to report this.’”
Later that day, the suspect, a man named Pavel Postelnyak was apprehended by campus police and charged with battery. Postelnyak was in possession of brass knuckles and a knife, according to the police report.
“(The suspect having weapons) was very concerning for me. I’m lucky that he didn’t reach for the knife, or reach for the brass knuckles and hurt me more. I’m lucky to just get out with a slap in the face. It was definitely unnerving to see that when they were patting him down he had brass knuckles,” Messick said.
Messick believes that the incident should raise questions among the administration regarding the advisability of petitioners on campus.
“I’m hoping the administration locks down, and kind of says ‘ok, well, let’s look at this as a lesson of should we let petitioners back on campus?’ Or should we just have them from a reputable company that can do background checks on them, that can make sure that they’re not criminals, that can make sure that they’re not going to carry weapons,” Messick said.
Some petitioners may be paid to collect signatures, according to Donte Sloan, an ARC student currently working on campus circulating multiple petitions.
“Well, actually yeah, we get paid a dollar per signature,” said Sloan, who initially denied being paid.
Sloan, however, disagrees with the tactics of some of the more aggressive petitioners on campus.
“I don’t advocate that,” Sloan said, in response to the slapping incident. “You gotta be more civil with these types of things like that. If people don’t wanna sign the petition, just go ahead and let them go about their business. Everyone has their own opinion, their own right to believe in what they want to believe in.”
Some students have noted an increase in petitioners on campus this semester.
“Some of them are (too aggressive). They keep saying like, ‘oh, come on,’” said Vinson Saldivar, an ARC student who works in the counseling center.
“They should be screened,” said Saldivar, regarding the slapping incident. “Something should be done.”
In an interview with The Current, ARC Dean of Student Services Manuel Perez addressed groups using the American River College campus to distribute information and materials.
“Anybody can come on campus. We kind of operate like a public park. People usually ask ‘Where can I protest? Where can I pass out information? Distribute materials?’ And the answer is really anywhere on campus,” said Perez.
There are certain restrictions–visitors are not permitted inside buildings, and cannot disrupt the learning environment.
“(The situation) has gone to the point where it’s questionable whether this school should let petitioners back on campus, because it is a danger to the students, to the student body,” said Messick. “I feel that the number one priority for a school, for the American River College campus, is the safety of the students.”
Under the first amendment, visitors have the right to assemble at public locations, meaning American River College can’t restrict petitioners from coming on campus. However, Perez wants students to be aware of the proper channels for reporting violent behavior by visitors.
“If there’s ever any suspicion or allegation that this person could be a violent person, or has anything that’s potentially breaking our campus policies or visitors standard of conduct, police should be notified right away.”