Reactions to the police response to Occupy Cal on Nov. 9

Police line up outside Sproul Hall in riot gear.
David Herschorn/Staff
Police line up outside Sproul Hall in riot gear.

The following are statements issued or comments made by various officials and community members regarding the police response to Occupy Cal on Nov. 9.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer in an email to the campus community: 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.

UCPD Captain Margo Bennett: Once we began moving towards the tents the level of resistance from the students is what generated the arrests. It was the willful obstruction of the officers: the body blocking, the pushing, the yelling, a couple times things were thrown … those were the kinds of things that prompted the arrests of individuals.

Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan: 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. They could have taken the time to arrest us for refusal to disperse without violence, but instead seem to have been instructed to get to the tents as quickly as possible. Since the tents posed no immediate threat to public safety, their haste and level of force were unwarranted.

American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California Staff Attorney Linda Lye: The legal standard is what is reasonable under the circumstances. We have grave concerns about the images we saw when we saw people hit in the stomach with a baton.

Associate Professors of History of Art Julia Bryan-Wilson and Gregory Levine, and Associate Professor of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Peter Glazer’s letter expressing “no confidence” in the UC Board of Regents and UC Berkeley administration and signed by 1,063 people as of the writing of this post: We are appalled by the Chancellor’s account, in his November 10 “Message to the Campus Community,” that the police were “forced to use their batons.”We strenuously object to the charge that protesters—by linking arms and refusing to disperse—engaged in a form of “violence” directed at law enforcement. The protests did not justify the overwhelming use of force and severe bodily assault by heavily armed officers and deputies.

Coalition of undergraduate and graduate students calling for top UC Berkeley administrators’ resignation: They have told us that the protesters overstepped their bounds by attempting to set up an encampment on University property. We ask how the enforcement of a University policy could trump the Constitutional protection of free speech and free assembly.

Stanford University students expressing solidarity with Occupy Cal in an op-ed: We are dismayed that the conviction, courage and intellectual inquiry shown by the Cal students was met with patronizing brutality when it was these qualities that garnered their admission in the first place. We find it hard to fathom that students who care so passionately about current economic inequality, the state of affairs at their University and the world beyond their campus are not lauded for their audacity and yearnings for social justice, but are instead met with police batons and cold indifference from the university’s governing body.

UC Student Association press release: Wednesday’s demonstration at UC Berkeley was overwhelmingly peaceful and nonviolent.  The only major violence came as a result of excessive force used by the UC Police Department against the student demonstrators.  UC students are outraged by the brutal tactics used by the UCPD against students.  UCPD is supposed to protect students and ensure their safety. UCPD’s behavior on Wednesday at UC Berkeley was shameful, and only served to put students in greater danger.

UC Student Association President Claudia Magana: Unfortunately, excessive force by the UCPD has been all too commonplace. UCPD is not our enemy, and students are not theirs—UCPD must review its policies and practices on how to handle student demonstrations. The Regents, our Chancellors and UC President Yudof must stand up and protect students against violence on our own campuses.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington: 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.

Comedian Stephen Colbert: When they say Berkeley is crunchy, I didn’t realize they meant the students’ rib cages.