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.

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  • Abc

    Everyone who is shocked and outraged and appaulled at how the police handled it, I ask,  how would you have done it?  and remember, anything that you ask them to do, they refuse.  Just asking, How would you have handled it?

  • Corvidae78

    Not sure if it makes a difference, but the officers in the video look like they’re from Alameda County Sheriff’s not UC. 

  • pinniped

    RE Mr. Birgenau’s “Baby, you made me hit you……but please come home”  letter and recent police violence.

    Mr. Birgenau, a nice chunk of change came my way recently, and I thought it would be best to send it along to a Cal fund.   The students need it.  But I can’t.  I can’t approve of brute thuggery by campus police against peaceful protesters.  I can’t approve of the obvious misfeasance by you and your administration.  I can’t approve of your disturbing inclination toward violence as a means
    of controlling insignificant variations in the public order. 

    If you’re going write an apology, do it.  Without bureaucratic clap and insincerity.  Take the twenty lashes yourself on the steps of Sproul.  

    Better, stop the pattern of retreat, consolidation, and retrenchment with regard to the needs of your students and the University.  As an alum with a scar from days as a body in the divestiture movement, I know Berkeley is best when the journey is justice.

    The check is ‘in the mail.’

    • Completely Serious

      Oh yeah, that’s TOTALLY believable!
      I bet you were going to donate soooo much money, right?
      Oh man, how will the UC system ever survive without your near-infinite generosity?

      • pinniped

         The batons were excessive and unnecessary.    Passive resistance is not aggression.  Now. of course, Mr. B shields his screw-up behind the delay and attenuation of an inquiry.

        I never said anything about sooooo much money, Mr. Straw.  But continue tilting,  

  • A Cal parent

    I was so shocked at the police brutality. It was unnecessary,excessive and unjustified. The students were there for a common cause. My son was a part of the human chain and he got hit w/ a baton on the face and stomach.Those students got hurt. Shame on you UCPD for using violence to quell the voice of the students!

    • Sounds like you did a pretty shitty job of raising your child if you told it was OK to participate with a crowd of people who were only interested in getting into a confrontation with the police. Hopefully get hit upside the noggin knocked some sense into him that his parents could never provide…

      • I think you don’t know what human rights really means “Tony M”. Students or anyone else have the  rights to raise their concerns in  a peaceful way. Its shameful and inhuman how police treated these children and shameful for all people to react it like “take it easy, its on youngsters”.

        • [I think you don’t know what human rights really means “Tony M”. Students or anyone else have the  rights to raise their concerns in  a peaceful way.]

          And I don’t think you have a clue what “peaceful assembly” means, little child. Exercising one’s rights to freely speak and assemble do NOT grant a likewise right to trespass, camp illegally, obstruct law enforcement and public safety people from doing their jobs, or give an excuse to get in a confrontation with the cops. Neither do such rights compel others to provide you with a forum. The so-called “student protesters” chose to set up tents then engage in a confrontation with the police, acts which were neither necessary nor served a productive purpose.

  • UCMeP

    Why Occupy Cal when you can Mockupy Cal?

  • The usual lefty groups complain, the police defend their actions, and the administration gets mealy-mouthed. No surprise there…