Campus administrators send out message responding to Occupy Cal demonstrations

Read the text of the CALmessage sent by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and other administrators to the UC Berkeley community regarding Wednesday’s events and Occupy Cal: 

To the Extended UC Berkeley Community:

As you know, yesterday an effort was made to establish an encampment on Sproul Plaza, by the “Occupy Cal” movement. This followed and marred the aftermath of an impressive, peaceful noontime rally on Sproul on behalf of public education, which was attended by some 3,000 participants and observers, including many campus leaders. We compliment the organizers and speakers for setting an example of peaceful protest and mobilization. As we informed the campus community earlier this week, we understand and share the concern of the Occupy movement about the extreme concentration of wealth in US society and the steady disinvestment in public higher education by California and other States.

We want to clarify our position on “no encampments” so you better understand why we do not allow this to occur on our campus. When the no-encampment policy was enacted, it was born out of past experiences that grew beyond our control and ability to manage safely. Past experiences at UC Berkeley, along with the present struggles with entrenched encampments in Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City, led us to conclude that we must uphold our policy.

This decision is largely governed by practical, not philosophical, considerations. We are not equipped to manage the hygiene, safety, space, and conflict issues that emerge when an encampment takes hold and the more intransigent individuals gain control. Our intention in sending out our message early was to alert everyone that these activities would not be permitted. We regret that, in spite of forewarnings, we encountered a situation where, to uphold our policy, we were required to forcibly remove tents and arrest people.

We want to thank our student leaders, faculty, and community members who worked hard to maintain a peaceful context last night. We have been in discussions with the ASUC, Graduate Assembly, and other student leaders who have provided a number of alternative proposals for working with the student protesters. One such discussion led last night to our offering protesters the opportunity to use Sproul Plaza 24/7 for one week, as a venue for gathering and discussing the issues. However, we stipulated that no tents, stoves, and sleeping bags would be allowed. They could gather in Sproul for discussion, but not for sleeping. This was rejected by a vote of the mass of the protesters.

It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience. By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested. They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent. These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.

We regret that, given the instruction to take down tents and prevent encampment, the police were forced to use their batons to enforce the policy. We regret all injuries, to protesters and police, that resulted from this effort. The campus’s Police Review Board will ultimately determine whether police used excessive force under the circumstances.

We call on the protesters to observe campus policy or, if they choose to defy the policy, to engage in truly non-violent civil disobedience and to accept the consequences of their decisions.

We ask supporters of the Occupy movement to consider the interests of the broader community—the tens of thousands who elected not to participate in yesterday’s events. We urge you to consider the fact that there are so many time-tested ways to have your voices heard without violating the one condition we have asked you to abide by.

Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Harry Le Grande, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

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  • JANDANOE

    HYPOCRISY AT ITS WORST

  • Dsfjsdlkfj

    So are we living in the UK or the USA??? I’m confused. BP kills the ocean…. gets away with it free and clear, possibly killing millions very slowly.  The same UK owned businesses pollute our air, again, possibly killing millions. Now we are calling the heads of our colleges Chancellors and not Deans? I checked the definition of the word chancellor, because I thought it meant the head of a government, not a college, and was not surprised to find that it had not changed. I guess the confusion sets in when one cannot figure out whom one answers to anymore. Should we curtsy to the Queen now?????????

  • senselocke

    Robert J. Birgeneau: “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.”

    So not from an educator, not from a college educator, not from an educator at a college that is the most consistently well-ranked college in the world, not from an educator at a college whose alumni have won 70 (seventy!) Nobel prizes, but from the chancellor of the college that can name those distinctions, comes this completely and utter failure in logic. 

    Standing still and refusing to move is as non-violent as you can get. It has been the definition of “non-violent protest” for decades. And yet you side with the police in brutalizing students who have done nothing more than linking arms. 

    Bobby, that’s the definition of non-violent. The fact that you think standing still and holding hands is violence, and the bludgeoning of students by cops isn’t, is extremely worrisome, and illustrates that you are not only fit to fill your position, you are not fit to be affiliated with your university, or any university as highly regarded, or anything even remotely resembling a place o higher learning whatsoever. You are a complete and utter failure and disappointment, and I hope you are pressured right out of a job by year’s end

  • Brian Fejer

    It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by
    linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from
    gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.

    The hell it isn’t!  RESIGN

  • UC Irvine guy

    –“the no-encampment policy was .. born out of past experiences that grew beyond our control and ability to manage safely.”–
    I’m wondering what were the concerns were Birgenau felt he could not manage.  Health? Safety?

    I heard that as of Nov 2011 now there are now 2,400 Occupies around the world.  (data from occupytogether.org)  Many of these are being allowed by their local governments to stay and pitch tents as long as certain requirements of maintenance and health and safety are met.  So is Birgenau really saying that he — the Chancellor of ostensibly one of the most intelligent places in the world — cannot manage as well as many of the other average cities?

    And moving forward (since hindsight is 20/20):  How can we all learn from this going forward?  I say: in the future, why not take the opportunity to create partnerships, not battles?   Why not offer:, “Look, here are my concerns (health, safety, etc.).  Now, how can you guys/gals help me/us to prevent these things from happening?  How about you can stay if you can help me take care of these issues? Instead, it was just an inflexible and absolute position he took.  Of course, he can prove himself correct, legally.  But the better and more useful question is: How could he have managed it better?

    And how about us?  In our own lives — When we are presented with challenges, and even when people get emotional  — when we are operating at our best, can we not try to stop, take a deep breath, and think about how we might all gain through turning our adversaries into partners?   Isn’t that potential for higher functioning within each and every one of us?

    Let’s try *consensus decision-making*, not dictation.   The protesters themselves are giving us the model.  Maybe we could try out using it.

  • Anonymous

    I also “regret…” that “the police were FORCED(?) to use their batons” against students who were engaged in non-violent protest.
    I regret even more, that you defend the actions of these police (individuals) whom should be publicly reprimanded, charged and prosecuted for assault.

    Mr. Bergeneau,

    While I agree with you, that as a practical matter, permanent camps should not be allowed on Sproul Plaza, this is a trivial point.  I do not agree, however, that forming a human chain is a VIOLENT form of civil disobedience.  The tents that the students were obstructing were not an urgent or eminent threat to anyone.  The police could have achieved their objective in many ways without the use of violence.  They could have began arresting the students one-by-one.  They could have, firmly but gently forced their way past the protestors.  They could have waited until later in the evening, when most of the protestors had left.  They could have done a great number of things that didn’t require the use of violence.  Yes, these approaches may have taken longer to achieve, but to advocate for the actions taken by the UCPD, is to advocate for the egregious beating of students for wasting time and/or money.  

    Please reconsider your stance.  It is not only abhorrent, but dangerous.  We are very lucky that when the police started beating students, that cooler heads (those of the students) prevailed.  The students were not acting violently, quite the opposite.  Had the students not acted with such grace, bravery, and commitment to peace in the face of the detestable display by UCPD, it is likely that the police action would have escalated this into a full blown riot in which many more could have been injured.  These students should be commended for acting so bravely and peacefully while being assaulted by these officers.  You should personally commend them for that.

    Your response makes me wonder if you had been there, would you have started beating the students yourself?  Probably not.  But this is exactly the action you are defending.  While you may condemn the students’ defiant actions of putting up tents, you should realize that this was a form of speech (perhaps against your policy of banning tents).  But just because it is your policy that they are defying, that doesn’t justify your defense of the violence committed against them.  

    As we have seen in some of these occupy movements, a few dumb (violent) protestors can ruin the reputation of the majority.  The same is true for the actions of these officers, whom are ruining the reputation of otherwise good officers.  However, I do not believe these officers are acting in a vacuum.  I believe that they are subtly encouraged, and that encouragement is coming all the way from the top.  Your position on this matter, is one such example.  I think we will see much more of this unfortunate violence if those at the top do not start finding ways to facilitate protests (protected by our first amendment), even when inconvenient, instead of trying to find ways of fighting them.  

    It is possible to remain strong in your stance against the encampment, to show solidarity for the police whom are charged with the difficult task of enforcing school policy, yet condemn the actions of these several officers whom acted like thugs.  Please do so!

  • Anonymous

    I also “regret…” that “the police were FORCED(?) to use their batons” against students who were engaged in non-violent protest.
    I regret even more, that you defend the actions of these police (individuals) whom should be publicly reprimanded, charged and prosecuted for assault.

    Mr. Bergeneau,

    While I agree with you, that as a practical matter, permanent camps should not be allowed on Sproul Plaza, this is a trivial point.  I do not agree, however, that forming a human chain is a VIOLENT form of civil disobedience.  The tents that the students were obstructing were not an urgent or eminent threat to anyone.  The police could have achieved their objective in many ways without the use of violence.  They could have began arresting the students one-by-one.  They could have, firmly but gently forced their way past the protestors.  They could have waited until later in the evening, when most of the protestors had left.  They could have done a great number of things that didn’t require the use of violence.  Yes, these approaches may have taken longer to achieve, but to advocate for the actions taken by the UCPD, is to advocate for the egregious beating of students for wasting time and/or money.  

    Please reconsider your stance.  It is not only abhorrent, but dangerous.  We are very lucky that when the police started beating students, that cooler heads (those of the students) prevailed.  The students were not acting violently, quite the opposite.  Had the students not acted with such grace, bravery, and commitment to peace in the face of the detestable display by UCPD, it is likely that the police action would have escalated this into a full blown riot in which many more could have been injured.  These students should be commended for acting so bravely and peacefully while being assaulted by these officers.  You should personally commend them for that.

    Your response makes me wonder if you had been there, would you have started beating the students yourself?  Probably not.  But this is exactly the action you are defending.  While you may condemn the students’ defiant actions of putting up tents, you should realize that this was a form of speech (perhaps against your policy of banning tents).  But just because it is your policy that they are defying, that doesn’t justify your defense of the violence committed against them.  

    As we have seen in some of these occupy movements, a few dumb (violent) protestors can ruin the reputation of the majority.  The same is true for the actions of these officers, whom are ruining the reputation of otherwise good officers.  However, I do not believe these officers are acting in a vacuum.  I believe that they are subtly encouraged, and that encouragement is coming all the way from the top.  Your position on this matter, is one such example.  I think we will see much more of this unfortunate violence if those at the top do not start finding ways to facilitate protests (protected by our first amendment), even when inconvenient, instead of trying to find ways of fighting them.  

    It is possible to remain strong in your stance against the encampment, to show solidarity for the police whom are charged with the difficult task of enforcing school policy, yet condemn the actions of these several officers whom acted like thugs.  Please do so!

    T.K. (PhD Berkeley)

  • T.K.

    ddd

  • T.K.

    Why was my comment deleted?