Letters to the Editor: Occupy Cal

Coverage of Occupy Cal disappoints.

We are deeply disappointed by the recent Daily Cal coverage of the Occupy Cal events of Nov. 10.  The headline piece, titled “Occupy Cal: Protestors, police violently clash,” is factually incorrect or lacking on at least two counts:

1. It suggests that protesters were just as culpable as police for any violence that took place, when any competent witness could easily discern who was violent and unjustifiably so.

2. It fails to specify the stark disparity in the lethal capability and legal entitlement of armed UC police in riot gear to harm unarmed, unarmored UC students.

As events of this week unfold, we hope that the Daily Cal will be as factually accurate as its profession prides itself to be.

— Eric Morales-Franceschini, doctoral candidate in rhetoric at UC Berkeley; and Rebecca Matthew, Ph.D. student at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. 

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To the editors of the Daily Cal:

Your headline and your news report, “Occupy Cal: Protesters, police violently clash” is a gross distortion of what hundreds of us witnessed or experienced on Nov. 9 at Sproul.

What happened was an administration-sanctioned police repression of students, not a “clash.” To say that it was a “clash” suggests that the violence was mutual, and that both sides were as guilty of it.

In fact, there was no “violence between protesters and police,” as your lead paragraph claims. As is amply documented by videos and by your own reports, violence was inflicted exclusively by the police on the students; despite this, at no point did students hit back or attack the police.

You may claim that you are simply being “balanced” or “objective” by making it appear as though both sides were equally to blame. In fact, by stating that violence was mutual, you help legitimize the administration’s use of violence on students and you also dissuade students from joining the protest.

To say that what we saw and experienced was a “clash” rather than an unprovoked attack on students was therefore an unfortunate choice of words at best, and a regrettable abuse of media power at worst. It adds insult to the injury many of us have already experienced in the hands of the administration and the police.

We demand an explanation of your coverage and we demand the kind of responsible, accurate reporting that we deserve.

— Submitted by Herbert Docena on behalf of Jessica Astillero, Alex V. Barnard, Dan Buch, Honest Chung, Barry Eidlin, Katy Fox-Hodess, Gabriel Hetland, Justin Kim, Zachary Levenson, Michael Levien, Marcel Paret, Manuel Rosaldo and Sara Smith.

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Protesters should have submitted to arrest.

Dear Editors,

I’m writing this letter in response to a youtube video of Occupy Cal students titled “Occupy Cal 11/9/11,” showing anti-riot police using batons against protesters. The video was also nationally televised on the The Colbert Report. In an email response to the student body, Chancellor Birgeneau said, “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.”

There is widespread confusion over why Chancellor Birgeneau claimed the human chain was not a form of non-violent civil disobedience.

Chancellor Birgeneau was likely referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha and Code of Discipline, which states “when any person in authority seeks to arrest a civil resister, he will voluntarily submit to arrest.”

According to Gandhi, instead of resisting by forming of a human chain, protesters should have submitted and even requested arrest. Gandhi rationalized that when someone refuses to be arrested or obstructs their own arrest (e.g. becoming a limp body), they are acting out of fear of punishment.

An individual practicing nonviolent civil disobedience does not fear arrest; they “suffer the anger of the opponent,” including beatings, arrests and full punishment under the unethical and immoral law or public policy. In fact, they request to be arrested en masse and receive the highest punishment to expose the illegitimacy of the law (in this case protesting laws) and public policy (in this case income inequality).

The Occupy Cal protesters had the right to hold their ground. However, when the police gave the protesters an option between dispersing so the “encampments” could be taken down or be arrested, the protesters

should have immediately submitted to arrest.

Yes, the police did use excessive force. Yes, the human chain was not violent. But the human chain was not a form of Satyagraha.

Anger is not just physical attack. Anger is also the use of verbal assault or passive-aggressive physical resistance (e.g. creating a human chain).

The 3,000 protesters could have used their submission to arrest as a “weapon of the strong,” an act of Satyagraha to convert (not coerce) Occupy Cal’s opponents.

— Brandon Li, UC Berkeley senior