Berkeley City Council could weigh in on charges against Occupy Cal protesters

Levy Yun/Staff
Levy Yun/Staff
Levy Yun/Staff

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Next week, Berkeley City Council could join the growing chorus of voices speaking out against the criminal charges filed against Occupy Cal protesters.

Public outcry has surrounded the charges against demonstrators from Nov. 9, and the City Council could become the newest critic of what one council member described as adding “insult to injury.”

At its meeting Tuesday, the council will vote on whether or not to send a letter to District Attorney Nancy O’Malley asking that she drop the charges, as well as letters to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya asking that they request that the district attorney drop the charges. As part of the resolution, the council will also endorse the Berkeley Faculty Association’s petition asking Birgeneau to request that the district attorney drop the charges against the protesters.

Thirteen protesters involved in the Occupy Cal demonstrations at UC Berkeley on Nov. 9 have been presented with criminal charges, including UC Berkeley associate professor of English Celeste Langan. The charges include resisting arrest, battery on an officer, remaining at the scene of a riot and obstructing a person’s free movement in a public place.

All 13 had arraignments this month, and all except Langan were issued stay-away orders from the campus.

Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, who authored the legislation along with Councilmember Max Anderson, both said that after several protesters were subject to police who used batons against them on Nov. 9, pursuing criminal charges against many of the same protesters is unfair.

“Given that some of these individuals were beaten and were the subject of excessive use of force by police in response to the demonstration, these charges should absolutely be dropped,” Arreguin said.

The use of force by police on Nov. 9 was widely condemned, and a review of police procedure that day has been launched at the campus and university level. An additional, recently-released operational review found that the police use of force was warranted but criticized the campus administration’s response to the event.

Videos have circulated from Nov. 9 showing police using batons against students, which resulted in broken ribs and other injuries. But, UCPD spokesperson Lt. Eric Tejada said he hopes the council is not relying on a snippet of what happened and will instead form an “educated opinion of what actually transpired that day.”

“Hopefully, they didn’t base their opinion based on 90 seconds of video, because the D.A. certainly reviewed all the evidence,” he said.

Soon after Nov. 9, Birgeneau granted amnesty under the campus code of student conduct to all students who were arrested and cited that day solely for attempting to block the police.

However, the chancellor has yet to say openly whether he thinks the criminal charges should be dropped.

After the faculty petition was started, Birgeneau and campus Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer did send a letter to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office that drew attention to the faculty petition — which has garnered hundreds of signatures — but did not take a stance on whether the administrators want the charges dropped.

Christine Rosen, associate professor at the Haas School of Business and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said she hopes that that a letter from Berkeley City Council compels O’Malley to drop the charges, especially after Birgeneau’s letter already pointed out the conflict between his grant of amnesty to the protesters and the pending criminal charges.

“The problem hasn’t gone away,” Rosen said.

Rosen said she thinks that as a body of elected officials, the City Council could have a significant voice in appealing to O’Malley, also an elected official. Arreguin and Worthington also maintained the value of the council officially taking a position the issue.

“Collectively, it has an impact in showing the district attorney and the university that … we don’t believe that people who are exercising their free speech rights should be the subject of pending legal charges,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “It (creates) a chilling effect which limits people being able to express their free speech rights.”

Soumya Karlamangla is the city news editor.

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  • reztips

    Doesn’t the Berkeley City Council have more important things to do? Like formulating foreign policy?

  • Completeley Serious

    Dear Council,

    Our City is on the brink of financial disaster.  Willard Pool is now Willard Bog.  You have a whole raft of stuff that you could do to attend to the business of the City.  Please do so now.

    Thank you.

    The voters of Berkeley.  (See you in November!)

  • Eric_Jaffa

    Bogus charges against people exercising their First Amendment rights.

    • Guest

       Camping in a public space is not a First Amendment right.

      • Eric_Jaffa

         They aren’t charged with camping.

        They are charged with ” remaining at the scene of a riot” when the cops were the ones rioting.

        • Stan De San Diego

           You really should try to see the rest of the Magic Kingdom instead of being perpetually stuck in Fantasyland. I understand Bum Country USA (south of Bancroft) is a thrill a minute, especially after it gets dark.

  • Zbrian

    Who gives a rat’s ass what the looney tunes  City Council thinks?

    • Berkeleyprotest

      I do

      •  Based on your handle, you’re probably one of those silly children who actually believes what happens in Berkeley matters to the rest of the world. You will be sorely disappointed if you ever leave your protective little bubble to find out that the rest of the work not only doesn’t give a shit, but regards Berkeley politics as the refuge of the demented and disturbed. But then again, there’s a reason why some of you never stray too far from the plantation…

  • ShadrachSmith

    Either the crimes of Liberal street protesters are above the law, or not.

    Can we vote on that?

    • Guest

       Either the law is fucked up, or not.

      Can we vote on THAT?

      • ShadrachSmith

        More likely the Occupiers :-)

      • Guest

         Yes you CAN vote on that.  The question is do you?  My guess is not.  Quit complaining and protesting and being a pain and get your pals to join together and vote to overturn what you don’t like.  We all have the power, and responsibility.

        Basically, protesting is nothing but whining when you shirk your duty to participate in government and exercise your right to vote.

  • Before this gets nuts

     Before Libsrclowms and Stan start blowing up with comment feed with views that have no merit in today’s society, I would like to say that these charges should be dropped immediately. I’m sure Libsrclowns and Stan were not present on Nov 9th at these protests to see the police brutality but they seem to feel obligated to pass judgement on this situation in other articles. It seems that we have become desensitized when we hear or see police brutality especially against protesters. I’m not saying that I have never seen a group of protesters get out of line and stir away from their main objectives, but it never helps the situation when people come out to protest and are met by police in riot gear. I don’t know about anyone else but the fact that the protestors are always met with police in riot gear makes for an intense environment for both the police and the protestors. I guarantee that protests will not get out of hand if the police just stay out of the situation unless they are truly needed. Collective action should never be met with police or military action.      

    • Guest

       I couldn’t disagree with you more.  MANY in the community, the city, the state and across the nation disagree with you.

      You claim brutality.  You don’t get to decide.  The officials the entire community elected get to.  If you don’t like their choice, rally your compatriots to vote them out.

      You make a guarantee that protests will not get out of hand…  You don’t have that ability.

      You say collective action should never be met with police or military action.  Tell that to the students in Alabama who needed physical protection from protesting zealots just to go to school.  Tell that to the residents and shop owners in downtown Oakland when recent protests turned into riots and their bodies and property needed protection.

      You state that others’ views have no merit.  With that, you’ve discounted your own view 100%.

      • guest

        Im just saying that meeting protesters with intense police presence instigates situation and presents a problem for the protesters and the community. The Oakland protesters would rather be expressing their concerns than fighting with the police. People view the incidents related to protesting as the protesters fault but exciting a passionate crowd with police in full riot gear is not the best way to sustain a healthy protest. We might not have a guarantee that protesters will not get out of hand but the use of force is never the reason why we protest, the police instigate the crowd and thus creating an unstable environment. Like I said people would be astonished at how peaceful the protests would be if the police limited their overall presence.     

        • Guest

          What you’re failing acknowledge in your posts is that the authorities (who the community elected) determined that the protestors were breaking the law.  When that happened, it’s no longer a free speech, peaceably assemble issue.

          And the police in Oakland didn’t show up until the protestors became rioters (and broke the law).

          In both cases, you’re claim that the police are the instigators is weak at best.  In both cases, the protestors were the instigators, and they were met with police response.  Response, not instigation.

        • Stan De San Diego

          So what you’re saying is anyone who agrees with your point of view should be allowed to run amuck? Most law-abiding people don’t fear the police, certainly not the UCPD, because they damn well know that these people are used to protests and demonstration, and generally only do what’s necessary to protect public order. OTOH, the Occupy crowd as already gained a reputation of being a violent, unruly, criminal mob. The cops showed up in riot gear for a reason: NOT to deny you or anyone else the exercise of their Constitutionally protected right, but to protect the property of the State of California and the interests of the taxpayers, from vandalism and mob rule.

          You need to stop wasting your time with peddling bullshit here – we all know what your little movement is all about, and it has NOTHING to do with state funding, college tuition, freedom of speech, or whatever excuse you’re floating today. It’s about the use of violence and coercion to force a left-wing agenda, nothing more.

    • ShadrachSmith

      What if Republicans started doing it?

      • guest

         Im not limiting this to any particular political party.

      • Guest

        Republicans wouldn’t do it, because when Republicans protest against the government they do so peacefully and in accordance with local laws and regulations.

    • Stan De San Diego


      And they have “no merit” for what reason? Merely because you disagree with them?

      You silly child. You have NO idea what “police brutality against protesters” is.  Why don’t you go to Libya or Egypt or Iran or Syria, where police shoot real bullets at protesters, and lock them up on phony charges without benefit of an attorney or a jury trial of their peers? 

      “Collective action” = mob rule. Is that what you’re defending?

    • Guest

      Occupy Cal was not a “peaceful” protest. The protesters knowingly violated the campus rules, and then ignored the orders of law enforcement and resisted arrest. They instigated a situation where the Police had no choice but to respond in the way that they did.

      • Guest

         The protestors DID violate campus rules…rules that they believed were unfair. That is the premise of civil disobedience. This in turn did create an interesting conundrum for the administration: let them continue or somehow stop them. Naturally, the administration chose the latter. Thus, the police intervened and used force to break up the protestors (not particularly well since more people ended up coming afterwards and the whole thing was national news, but whatever). THIS IS a logical chain of events for an originally peaceful protest in which people take part in acts of civil disobedience. However, it is interesting to note that while the protestors were NOT endangering anyone’s safety or even pedestrian traffic (hell, you could have driven a truck through Sproul that day if you felt like it) before the confrontation, the police DID by swinging batons left, right, and center. This escalation of peaceful disobedience to armed assault is what most people are concerned about (similar to the police response to the sitting protestors at UC Davis).

        • Guest

          So your solution to this is that people should be allowed to break the rules however they see fit, as long as it agrees with your personal political agenda? Well what the hell do we have rules for, then?

          Using tents to camp out isn’t necessary for free speech. People have somehow managed to protest against “the man” for countless decades without using tents.

          The protesters brought this on themselves, and while I agree with many of the overall goals of the Occupy movement I feel not the tiniest shred of sympathy for these agitator asshats who just want to set of fights with the police.

        • Calipenguin

           Not all acts of civil disobedience are noble.  Taking over a public park, a private building, or a university plaza is theft.