Chancellor promises inquiry into police tactics, amnesty for some protesters

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau released audio recording Tuesday apologizing for police actions during Occupy Cal.
Barbara Sullinger/File
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau released audio recording Tuesday apologizing for police actions during Occupy Cal.

Upon his return from East Asia on Sunday, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced Monday that he has appointed UC Berkeley School of Law professor Jesse Choper, former dean of the school and current chair of the Police Review Board, to review police actions during last week’s Occupy Cal protests.

Calling videos of the demonstrations “disturbing,” Birgeneau responded in a campuswide email by “granting amnesty from action under the Student Code of Conduct to all Berkeley students who were arrested and cited solely for attempting to block the police.”

All of the 31 students who were arrested Wednesday were cited for resisting arrest and unlawful assembly, with one student additionally being charged on a count of battery on a peace officer.

Birgeneau said in the email that it was only upon returning from his trip that he could view footage of the day’s events on Nov. 9.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, it was this additional information and firsthand accounts of the day that prompted Birgeneau to grant amnesty to students.

“It would be wrong to adjudicate cases in the case of student conduct when so much is unknown and uncertain,” Mogulof said.

He added that the chancellor, other administrators and faculty are determined to prevent a repeat of last week at Tuesday’s Occupy Cal strike.

“The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community,” Birgeneau said in the email. “Sadly, they point to the dilemma that we face in trying to prevent encampments and thereby mitigate long-term risks to the health and safety of our entire community.”

Student Advocate Samar Shah said Birgeneau’s email shows that the administration understands the circumstances of the movement.

“From my perspective, that’s about as strong of a response they’ve made so far in trying to show that they are listening to everyone,” Shah said.

UC Berkeley senior Jared Romero, who was arrested last Wednesday night, said he is thankful that he is being granted amnesty, but he added that he still does not feel that the administration is adequately addressing the issues that Occupy Cal has brought up.

“He needs to take a stance against all the fee hikes at the regents meetings,” Romero said.

Jamie Applegate of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.