Police Review Board meeting involves testimony of Nov. 9 protest

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Videos and verbal testimony from the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protests were presented to the UC Berkeley Police Review Board by UCPD representatives and advocates for student and faculty protesters Monday night.

At the public meeting, participants had the opportunity to explain to the board — which will eventually make  recommendations to the campus administration regarding future responses to campus protests — their differing understandings of what occurred on Sproul Plaza on the day of the protest. Three hours into the meeting, Jesse Choper, chair of the board and campus law professor, called to reconvene at 5 p.m. Tuesday to continue hearing testimony.

Faculty advocates for the protesters Judith Butler, professor of rhetoric and comparative literature, and law professor Jonathan Simon presented a 20-minute video that showed pictures and videos of the events that unfolded on Sproul Plaza from various angles in a sequence.

“It is important to note that the video presentation (by Butler and Simon) might be understood to suggest that there was unmitigated violence and confrontation from the afternoon to the evening, and that was not the case,” said Janine Scancarelli, a lawyer from Crowell & Moring LLP hired by the UC Regents to represent the police perspective of the protest.

The videos presented by Butler and Simon appeared to show police jabbing protesters with batons, taking down tents and holding a man to the ground in order to arrest him. Protesters in the video linked arms in a line and chanted “We’re doing this for your children” and “Stop hitting students,” among other phrases.

“As the videos show, new norms have come into place that show excessive use of force by the police on students, staff and faculty,” Butler said after the video presentation.

Following the presentation, Scancarelli and UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett showed the board a PowerPoint presentation that outlined UCPD regulations on use of force in crowd-control situations, depicted the police plan of action for dealing with protests and removing encampments and explained how the plans were altered because of protester resistance.

During one of the multiple videos shown in the presentation, Scancarelli said the crowd was being “aggressive and disrespectful” by disregarding repeated requests by the police to take down the encampment and that protesters trapped and pushed police officers who were attempting to remove tents.

She also mentioned the safety problems and high costs associated with monitoring previous encampments in Berkeley, such as in People’s Park and during tree sits in 2008.

“It was an unpredictable crowd that was becoming more and more restless,” Bennet said. Butler called for discussion on why the norms that rule UCPD response to protests should be “rethought, discussed and remade.” She said that there was no evidence that protesters were or intended to be violent, urging the board to request information about how the campus administration authorized police use of force.

Butler told the board that most student protesters she spoke to were not present at the meeting because they were legally advised not to present testimony. They see the board as nonresponsive, she said. Choper said at the meeting that the board will welcome anonymous statements — to be submitted through Butler and Simon — from students who were charged on Nov. 9 and are now hesitant to say anything publicly.

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.

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