Despite UC Berkeley’s history of large-scale student demonstrations and controversial police responses, reports investigating recent protests suggest little has been done to change response policy between protests.
A report released in May by the campus Police Review Board investigating the campus’s handling of the November 2011 Occupy Cal protests found that use of police batons against student protesters at UC Berkeley was a result of the campus’s failure to successfully adopt and implement recommendations from a report released by the board two years prior, following the occupation of Wheeler Hall in November 2009.
“The repetition in these two reports of similar mistakes is cause for major concern, as is the similarity that some of those missteps have to the handling of November 9,” the board’s May 2012 report states.
Similarly, the final version of a UC-commissioned report on protest response policies systemwide — written by Christopher Edley, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, and Charles Robinson, UC general counsel, and released Thursday — also outlined recommendations that were already suggested in the Wheeler Hall occupation reports.
Following the Wheeler Hall occupation, the Police Review Board recommended that campus administration “identify several different means by which it could communicate to peaceful demonstrators.” And in their report, Robinson and Edley also recommend the administrators “establish a communication link” with protest organizers.
Likewise, the Robinson-Edley report recommends that an administrator remain on site during protests with instant communication to the police. The Wheeler Hall report also suggested that during protests, one senior administrator be present at all times.
In January — two months after the Occupy Cal protests and more than two years after the Wheeler Hall occupation — administrators formed a Protest Response Team, which, among other new strategies, designated an on-site senior administrator to authorize police action in the event of a future protest.
Lynn Tierney, UC associate vice president for communications, will lead a one-year assignment to coordinate the systemwide adoption of the Robinson-Edley report’s recommendations. Over the next couple weeks, Tierney said she will hold meetings with officials at each UC campus to use recommendations from the report to develop campus-specific protest management strategies.
“There’s a drive to create an accountability on the administration side for the actions that occur during a large protest that involves civil disobedience,” Tierney said.
Before the Wheeler Hall occupation report was released in June 2010 recommending that campus administrators define the roles and responsibilities of campus representatives responding to protests, campus officials told the board that the members of the administration had taken “significant positive steps” to respond more effectively to future protests, according to the report.
But email communication between campus and UCPD officials during Occupy Cal protests indicates that although the campus was fully aware of the growing number of protesters gathered on Sproul Plaza, coordinating a response to deal with the escalating situation remained difficult.
“The fact that the two reports are very similar is indicative of the university’s failure to adopt rules and take proper actions,” said BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca, who was involved with Occupy Cal protests last November. “What they did in November 2011 is simply an extension of what they did during the 2009 protests.”
Afsana Afzal is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]
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