Protesters recount experiences at Nov. 9 Occupy Cal demonstration

Yvette Felarca (left) and Monica Smith (center) were at Monday night's BAMN meeting in Wheeler Hall.
Derek Remsburg/Staff
Yvette Felarca (left) and Monica Smith (center) were at Monday night's BAMN meeting in Wheeler Hall.

Poised to file a federal lawsuit against UC Berkeley for alleged police brutality, Occupy Cal protesters met in Wheeler Hall Monday night to recount, in vivid detail, their experiences of the police violence at the Nov. 9 protest.

About 50 people attended the 2.5-hour meeting, which was organized by BAMN, a national minority rights and pro-affirmative action group. Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN, and Monica Smith, a BAMN attorney, led the meeting. Smith said the group intends to formally file its lawsuit in federal court this week.

The meeting was dominated by protesters’ accounts of the brutality they said they suffered at the hands of the police.

“It was like a war,” said Robert Slaughter, a senior at St. Mary’s College who participated in the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protests.

He said officers pulled him to the ground, handcuffed him and continued to kick him and jab him in the ribs with batons even though he was not resisting.

“For the first few days I couldn’t sleep on my side,” Slaughter said.

He said he was taken to Santa Rita Jail, underwent a strip search and held in a maximum-security cell until he was released.

Morgan Crawford, a UC Berkeley senior, said that he suffered emotional as well as physical injury as a result of the police violence on Nov. 9.

“My anxiety and depression have gone through the fucking roof,” Crawford said.

Crawford was at the front of the mass of protesters when officers used their batons to try to force the crowd to disperse.

“We couldn’t move,” he said. “They’re telling me to move, but there’s nowhere I can go.”

He said the experience has made him afraid of large crowds of people and that he has sought help at a support group.

Crawford, who arrived at the BAMN meeting on crutches, said he was unable to walk himself home after the protests.

“I’ve been on crutches for two weeks,” he said.

Matt Williams, a UC Berkeley senior, said he was standing in a Sproul Hall windowsill taking video of the clashes.

Williams said he felt helpless as he saw officers grabbing young women by the hair and pulling them to the ground.

“That affected me profoundly,” he said. “I had that feeling of this is not right, this is not right. This was a traumatic experience just witnessing this.”

Most protesters said that campus Chancellor Robert Birgeneau should be held responsible for the police violence, and Felarca said she hoped the lawsuit would force Birgeneau to testify or resign.

Though videos documenting the police using batons were taken in the afternoon, most people at the meeting said that officers were more violent at night.

“If what happened (in the afternoon) was scary, what happened at night was terrifying,” Crawford said.

Felarca said police officers were “pumped up” and “ready to beat some heads” at the nighttime protest.

Birgeneau said in a Nov. 14 email to the campus that he was disturbed by “the videos that were made of the protests on Nov. 9” and has asked the Police Review Board to immediately launch a review of police conduct.