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UC Berkeley alumna pleads guilty to vandalizing mosque

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JUNE 20, 2017

UC Berkeley graduate Lauren Kirk-Coehlo — who pled guilty in April to vandalizing at a Davis mosque — was sentenced Friday to five years probation for the crime.

According to City of Davis Police Department Lt. Thomas Waltz, Kirk-Coehlo broke several of the Islamic Center of Davis’ windows, vandalized some of the nearby bikes and put bacon on one of the doorknobs. The department handled Kirk-Coehlo’s actions as a hate crime.

“I believe her actions were disgusting and reprehensible, and she is a terrorist,” said Rabi’a Keeble, founder and president of the Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque in Berkeley, in an email. “We must begin to use the right terms for these people who try to do harm; not only physical harm, but emotional and mental harm to peaceful, law abiding Muslims.”

Kirk-Coehlo has been prohibited from using social media for five years and is required to attend weekly counseling sessions, participate in cultural sensitivity training and complete 120 hours of community service. She is also not allowed to own guns.

“Though her weapon of choice was bacon, the fact is she took a serious risk by just executing the act itself,” Keeble said. “Who’s to know if something more aggressive was in the works later? She acted with intention and she wanted to terrorize Muslims.”

ASUC Senator-elect Nuha Khalfay said that although she believes the legal repercussions were properly taken care of, she was bothered that Kirk-Coehlo didn’t show “any remorse.” Khalfay added that she felt Kirk-Coehlo’s punishment was not strong enough.

Kirk-Coehlo defended her actions as an effort to protest the mistreatment of women in Islam.

“I think that’s really concerning that she thinks it makes her a feminist,” Khalfay said. “It’s not appropriate for her to be trying to save people from something she doesn’t understand and that they don’t need saving.”

Nancy Kirk, Kirk-Coehlo’s mother, told the Yolo County Probation Department that her daughter has had a history of mental illness and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Kirk-Coehlo had also previously worked at Google and as a legal intern for the Sacramento County District Attorney.

“I feel deeply concerned that a member of our academic community which seeks to pride itself on diversity, inclusion, principles of tolerance, would engage in this level of violence,” ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris said in an email.

According to AbdulQadir-Morris, her mother has discouraged her from wearing a hijab as a result of violent acts and threats toward Muslims. She added that she is worried for her Muslim sisters that continue to wear their hijabs — “their religion,”  proudly during Ramadan.

“We cannot continue to reduce the severity of such crimes to mental health histories since perpetrators from communities of color are not afforded the same consideration,” AbdulQadir-Morris said.

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly called Lauren Kirk-Coehlo an alumnus. In fact, she is an alumna. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Kirk-Coehlo pled guilty Friday to vandalizing a mosque. In fact, Kirk-Coehlo pled guilty in April and was sentenced Friday. A previous version of this article misspelled Lauren Kirk-Coehlo's last name. A previous version of this article incorrectly called ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris the president-elect.
Contact Jamari Snipes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JamariSnipes.

JUNE 23, 2017