Letter From the UC Berkeley Law Faculty to Chancellor and Administrators Condemning Police Violence

Letter From Berkeley Law Faculty Condemning Police Violence (click on the link to see the signatories; zunguzungu points out that John Yoo is not among them):

Dear Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice Chancellors Breslauer and LeGrande,

We, the undersigned members of the Berkeley Law faculty, write to condemn in the strongest possible terms:

1) the violence directed against non-violent student, staff and faculty protesters at Sproul Plaza on November 9, 2011;

2) the temporary detention by police of two law students near the law school on the same day; and

3) the Chancellor’s public and explicit defense of the police action of November 9, 2011, which madeinaccurate distinctions between violent and non-violent civil disobedience and which he apparently signed without having viewed the videos of the incidents at issue

Sproul Plaza. The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances. Interference with these rights, particularly in the form of violence that was visited upon protesters in Sproul Plaza last week, is inexcusable by any government entity, but is particularly troubling at a public university. While the University may enforce its rules, including citingor arresting those engaged in acts of civil disobedience (such as linking arms and refusing to disband), there isno place for instigating violence in a community dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.
Kroeber Plaza. On November 9, in separate incidents, a group of officers detained two Berkeley Law students who were attempting to return to class after participating in the peaceful demonstration at Sproul Hall. The officers detained each student near Kroeber Plaza, though there had been no protest activity at the Plaza or the law school, and the students were simply walking back to class. Ostensibly, the officers wereasking for identification. However, the accounts of these incidents provided by the two students and other witnesses – law students and law school faculty and staff – describe police actions that were unwarranted and excessive.
Going Forward. The police conduct at Sproul Plaza, and the humiliating and frightening police activity at Kroeber Plaza, have caused a number of our students to question whether they can safely come and go fromthe law school, much less exercise their First Amendment rights at our university. In addition to the urgent need for a thorough review of these events – including holding accountable those parties responsible for anyactions that violated the civil and political rights of our community members – we call on the administration to:
1) implement immediately the recommendations of the June 2010 Brazil Police Review Board Report;
2) publicly support and defend the rights of community members – and especially our students – to engage in non-violent political expression; and
3) take all other actions necessary to reestablish Berkeley’s reputation as a beacon of peaceable assembly and free speech.

Documenting the Brutality Against UC Berkeley Students and Faculty on Nov. 9, 2011

See zunguzungu for an even more exhaustive list of links:

Students and Faculty Beaten, Including 70-Year Old Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Robert Hass: An exhaustive account of what happened on Nov. 9, 2011, complete with video clips, as told by graduate student Irene Yoon.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington Denounces Police Violence Against Peaceful Students

Berkeley Leaders Refuse Mutual Aid Agreement with UCPD in the Wake of Violence Against Students: “Citing excessive force and free speech violations by police during protests in Oakland and at UC Berkeley, the Berkeley City Council this week refused a mutual aid agreement with university police and nixed agreements with other police agencies on regional domestic surveillance.”

Police Absurdity: UC Police Department officials cite a student for carrying a sign, then start a policy of demand student IDs from any sign-carriers. The pretext: so as to determine whether the person is subject to the student Code of Conduct. The real object: to stop them from carrying any signs bigger than 30 in x 30 in which, according to UCPD Lt. Alex Yao, are “not allowed on campus.” Their behavior is so disruptive that the Law School advises students to avoid the West entrance of their building for their own safety.

Dear Chancellor: Please Stop. A moderate graduate student voices her concerns to the Chancellor. “I am not unsympathetic to many of the difficult decisions that you as administrators are facing in response to the Occupy Cal protest.  I understand the reasons behind the campus prohibition of camping, and I share your concern that outdoor spaces on our campus do not have the infrastructure to support protestors living in them for an extended period of time.  However, I remain firmly convinced that, in order to maintain American, Californian, and Berkeleyan traditions of free speech, you must clearly instruct the UCPD on our campus to exert absolutely minimal force, to favor inaction over rapid response, and to give protestors the benefit of the doubt.”

The Director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities (who was yanked to the ground by her hair and arrested), recounts her experience: “The organizers of Occupy Cal asked those who were willing to stay and link arms to protect those who were attempting to set up the encampment; I chose to do so. I knew, both before and after the police gave orders to disperse, that I was engaged in an act of civil disobedience. I want to stress both of those words: I knew I would be disobeying the police order, and therefore subject to arrest; I also understood that simply standing, occupying ground, and linking arms with others who were similarly standing, was a form of non-violent, hence civil, resistance. I therefore anticipated that the police might arrest us, but in a similarly non-violent manner. When the student in front of me was forcibly removed, I held out my wrist and said “Arrest me! Arrest me!” But rather than take my wrist or arm, the police grabbed me by my hair and yanked me forward to the ground, where I was told to lie on my stomach and was handcuffed. The injuries I sustained were relatively minor–a fat lip, a few scrapes to the back of my palms, a sore scalp–but also unnecessary and unjustified.”

Colbert Comments on the Police Attack on Students: “When they said Berkeley was crunchy, I didn’t realize they meant the students rib cages!”


zunguzungu: “The Grass is Closed:” What I Have Learned About Power From the Police, Chancellor Birgeneau, and Occupy Cal.