Berkeley council member condemns UCPD violence against students

The following is an open letter released Saturday by Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district encompasses the UC Berkeley campus.


An Open Letter To the Berkeley and University Community and Friends of Nonviolence Everywhere,

The U.C. Police Department recently used violence against Berkeley students, workers, faculty and community supporters on November 9. This was unprovoked, unexpected, unjustified and unreasonable.  The General Assembly at the event had publicly and clearly committed to nonviolence, and the participants appear to have maintained their nonviolence despite the violence inflicted on them.  The police clearly could have arrested individuals rather than repeatedly hitting them with batons and grabbing them by their hair. There are multiple videos documenting the police use of excessive force. The Stephen Colbert commentary mentions “spearing a small Asian girl in the spleen first” but there appeared to be a true reflection of diversity in Black, White, Asian, Arab and Latino students and workers equally assaulted by the Police.

I believe it is important for the community to stand up and speak out against this injustice. See suggestions below.  To avoid confusion, the City of Berkeley Police have not been reported to be part of this violence, it is the U.C P.D.

U.C. Police also appear to have violated multiple people’s legitimate rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. There are reports of U.C. Police tearing down legally posted notices of the event. U.C. Police also confiscated at least one banner and a banner or poster at the event and the U.C. Police Chief declined to answer my questions why.  Instead the U.C. Police Chief’s unprofessional response was “I know what I am doing. I’ve been in law enforcement for twenty-nine years, and how many years have you done it?” From the antagonistic tone of the response I knew this was an overly stressed person, but I counted on the Chancellor to provide leadership,  so I emailed both the Chancellor and the Chief. Unfortunately the Chancellor was apparently out of town and has subsequently sought to justify the U.C. Police violence by blaming the nonviolent protesters. I was personally present for most of the afternoon and evening and saw only one-sided violence by the Police and none by the students. (Admittedly, some of that time, I was on my cell phone addressing blighted buildings, helicopter noise complaints,  returning calls, and taking care of City business, but I still had my eyes and ears out for any problems on Sproul.)

As I stated in my email to the Chancellor before the U.C. Police violence:  “ These students have made a firm commitment to no violence and no vandalism . The University should be commending the thousands of students that are participating.  For many, this could be their very first political protest of their lives. They are protesting specifically for additional financing for the University of California.  The University should support this enthusiasm and help encourage this to be an effective protest that helps the University and our country. “

I believe it is important for the community to stand up and speak out against this injustice. This is a moral issue, not just a political issue. There are multiple ways to help.  These include:

1.      Writing a letter or email to the Chancellor, and/or the media. [email protected]
2.      Asking your friends or groups to write letters or sign petitions.
3.      Become an observer to reduce the likelihood of violence when more people are watching.
4.      Donate time or money to support these courageous students, and/or hold a fundraiser/educational event.
5.      Show up on Sproul on Tuesday November 15 starting at noon.  2 p.m. is the rally and 5 p.m. is the General Assembly for the follow up event organizers have titled Open University.
6.      Join those of us who are pledging to put our bodies with, or in between the U.C. Police and the students to discourage U.C. Police from further violence. Please email Alejandro Soto-Vigil if you are willing to make this pledge at [email protected]
7.      Advocate for dropping the trumped up charges against these nonviolent protesters.
8.      Please feel free to contact me if you would like to help, or have any suggestions for what we should do.

Kriss Worthington, Councilmember, Tel: (510) 981-7170 Email:[email protected]

Stephanie Baer is the city news editor.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • UCMeP

    Why Occupy Cal when you can Mockupy Cal?
    http://ucmep.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/mockupy-cal/

  • Somebody

    A higher authority like a judge needs to place a restraining order on the UCPD, pending a review board of past actions before we have a first fatality on campus.  Those batons can do some serious internal bleeding.  UC’s negligence in not having an ambulance on site is staggering.
    Some of the police keep assaulting even after the victim goes down is cruel and unusual punishment.  The UCPD is ultimately held responsible for the actions of their peers from the Alameda County Sheriff, BPD, OPD, BartPD, etc.  It’s sickening that grown men in riot gear are attacking women and tossing them to the ground like rag-dolls scarring up their face for life.  Once these perps are prosecuted and arrested, this is the only way other police officers will refrain from launching an unprovoked attack.  If they can’t handle a few dozen people shouting in their face, they need to find other work.  UCPD lacks professionalism, there wasn’t a genuine threat and the overreaction was highlighted by mainstream news.  Parents of UC students are now “lawyering up” using their financial pressure to make this University accountable for their actions.  The lawsuits show how inept the administration is at handling a peaceful protest and the infringement of the constitutional rights of students and faculty.
    Does UCPD officers undergo  psych evaluations to see if they are over-stressed to perform their duty of keeping campus and personnel safe?  As it is now, the UCPD, an entity more known for police brutality in the eyes of the students and faculty are too much of a distraction for normal operations and must be disbanded.

    You would think  UCPD be grateful for the generous overtime these students are generating for their holiday spending!