OAKLAND -- A doctoral student in anthropology pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he smashed the window of a downtown Men's Wearhouse store during a protest last week.

Tanzeen Doha, 34, who studies social anthropology and critical theory at UC Davis, is one of only two people charged in the late-night vandalism that erupted in downtown Oakland on July 13, 14 and 15 after protests against the Florida acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed an unarmed black teen.

Oakland police and city leaders have pledged to crack down on the post-verdict vandalism that damaged stores, restaurants and community centers, but finding those responsible has proved difficult. Many wore masks.

Windows and doors are boarded up and broken glass swept up by Gaudencio Ramos at the Sears store on Telegraph in Oakland, Calif. on July 16, 2013 after a
Windows and doors are boarded up and broken glass swept up by Gaudencio Ramos at the Sears store on Telegraph in Oakland, Calif. on July 16, 2013 after a night of protest and vandalism in downtown Oakland. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

The chaotic events have also added to an ongoing debate over whether Oakland's frequent protests are fueled by youthful rage against racial injustice or more academic and anti-capitalist causes that attract activists from throughout the region.

Doha, listed in police records as a San Jose resident, and his lawyer, Gabriela Lopez, declined to comment on the misdemeanor vandalism charge after a hearing at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. Police officers said in a written complaint they saw the storefront window spider and crash down after Doha swung an object at it with his right arm at about 10:45 p.m. on July 15, the third night of protests..


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The former philosophy lecturer and teaching associate at San Jose State University has described himself as a member of the Occupy movement on the UC Davis campus, where he has been a student since 2010.

"Capitalism cannot sustain itself," Doha said in an interview with an online publication last year, "but we cannot be spectators either. We must act to accelerate this process, so we can open up a different future. ... The task is to identify certain points in the crisis and intervene accordingly to dismantle capitalism."

Also charged in the Men's Warehouse vandalism is Oakland resident Lamar Caldwell, 27, who is scheduled for a hearing next week on a more serious felony vandalism charge.

Caldwell, who also goes by the name Hannibal Shakur, protested his prosecution in a missive published online and asked for help paying his legal costs.

"A window is made of sand and can be replicated exactly," Caldwell wrote. "A rectangle window, of the dimensions I am being charged with breaking, doesn't need to be replicated because the manufacturer keeps spare windows around for replacement."

In contrast, "a human life is priceless because it can never be replaced," he said in reference to the Florida slaying of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.