Artists claim responsibility for depictions of apparent lynchings hung from Sather Gate

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Ariel D. Hayat/Senior Staff

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Update 12/14/14: This article has been updated to reflect new information from an anonymous art collective claiming responsibility for the effigies and from a statement by the chancellor and the executive vice chancellor and provost.

Effigies of black figures suspended in what resembled a lynching hung from Sather Gate and other locations on campus Saturday morning.

About 9 a.m., UCPD received reports of an effigy hanging from Sather Gate and removed two such effigies, according to Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs. The clothing in one of the cutout images read, “I can’t breathe,” a reference to the last words of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer put him in an apparent chokehold.

Another cutout depicted Laura Nelson, a black woman who was kidnapped and lynched with her son in 1911 in Oklahoma.

“No one knows who put them up,” said Michael McBride, a Berkeley pastor at The Way Christian Center. “But the images evoked terror and reminded us that the bodies of black people in this country are still vulnerable.”

On Sunday, a Bay Area collective of artists released a statement taking responsibility for the installation of the effigies.

The group identified itself as AnonArt Oakland and described its members as consisting of queer and black members. According to the statement, the group intended the project to be in “unambiguous alignment” with the affirmation of black lives and apologized for the disturbance it caused.

The statement emphasized that the images of historical lynchings remain relevant today, as the recent deaths of black men, such as Garner, illustrate the consequences of systemic racism.

“For those who think these images depict crimes and attitudes too distasteful to be seen — we respectfully disagree. Our society must never forget,” the statement read. “We apologize solely and profusely to black Americans who felt further attacked by this work. We are sorry — your pain is ours — our families’, our history’s.”

The statement comes after campus administrators and police urged the entity responsible for the effigies to come forward.

“We are unclear what the intent of this was. It could be related to police violence, but we’ll certainly be investigating it from all aspects,” Holmes said Saturday. “This obviously is against our values and our rules on campus.”

Zaynab AbdulQadir, a UC Berkeley freshman and intern at the Black Student Union, said she first saw a photo of the effigies and immediately left her residence hall to see them herself, later helping to remove a third figure located down Bancroft Way.

“It’s a numbing feeling of shock and disbelief,” AbdulQadir said about how she felt upon seeing the figures.

UCPD said Saturday that police were investigating the incident as a hate crime or a crime based on racial bias.

The incident comes in the midst of ongoing protests in Berkeley and around the Bay Area against recent grand jury decisions in the deaths of Garner and Michael Brown, a black man who was shot by a white officer. Another rally began at noon Saturday at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue.

A campuswide email sent Sunday that was signed by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele called the figures “deeply disturbing.”

“We must all be vigilant to ensure that we are creating a campus environment that allows for the free exchange of ideas and doesn’t frighten or intimidate people,” the email read.

Staff member Ariel Hayat and staff writer Arielle Swedback contributed to this report.

Contact name Melissa Wen and Heyun Jeong at [email protected].

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  • transpac10

    No Problem, they’re not white……move along

  • Kazuki Sasaki

    It’s so surprising that many Americans are determined by racial-bias even today.
    They don’t know what is thought to be ashamed ? It’s so disgusting to see such a retarded issue.

  • EbolaJenkins

    Move along white-people… Just another case of the black-community race-baiting each other again… Just like the black suspects who put a pillow-case on Dr. Seuss’ head at UCSD after a black-comedian hosted the “Compton Cookout”.
    ….They’ll eventually take it out on you, later, white-people… but for now, go back to minding your own business….

  • Me

    Well, there goes the usual “racist whities did it” screech.

  • SMH

    I CAN’T BELIEVE how the people, “artists”, who put of the “art installation” lynching effigies on campus didn’t know how easily their “art installation” could be misinterpreted and deeply offensive — for one, as white racists making fun of Eric Garner, as well as Black lynching victims in general.

    At first I thought it was a bunch of clueless white people who tragically didn’t know any better and who’ve never had any meaningful Black friends they could consult, but then — according to the TV news this morning (KTVU, Channel 2, in Oakland) — some of the “art installation” people were “Black lesbian artists”, along with “white lesbian artists”? For goodness sakes, I hope the morning TV news (KTVU, Channel 2, in Oakland) got it wrong, or somehow just made it up, or were tragically misinformed, about the “Black lesbian artists.”

  • 1kenthomas

    BerkeleySide appears to say that only anonymous notes claim responsibility ? :
    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/12/13/effigy-hung-from-sather-gate-before-berkeley-protest-march/

  • Guest

    UPDATE: anonymous note claims created by art collective: non-conclusive:
    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/12/13/effigy-hung-from-sather-gate-before-berkeley-protest-march/

  • 1kenthomas

    The above is a blatant misrepresentation of facts designed to deceive (“a lie”). As such, I believe it is inappropriate for publication on a Daily Cal page.
    That is all.

  • M2000

    I think it’s some Leftist group doing this.

  • Borracha Linda

    Please don’t remind the oligarchy of their racist past, and present. It’s just so upsetting.

  • UCBAlum

    I have seen four black eyewitnesses speak publicly, repeatedly. My sense is that you believe what you want to believe and you say what you hope to be true with little regard if any for what is actually true. That’s not how life works.

    • peepsqueek

      The fact that more than a half dozen black witnesses, whose testimony matched both Officer Wilson’s and the forensics, have asked to remain anonymous. That tells us a little more about Ferguson, while all the loud mouths are free to run their mouths in front of the camera’s, while the eye witnesses have to hide their faces, like the equivalent of a snitch.

  • bsu42

    It’s clear what this is:

    If done by a black person, it’s a piece of art with the intent to draw attention to the atrocities of what has happened in the past and try to connect it to what is going on in the present. It’s for the all the victims of alleged police brutality, and it’s a display of the freedom of speech.

    If done by a white person, it’s racist.

  • UCBAlum

    We’ll never know because it never went to trial. It never went to trial because the prosecutor didn’t want a trial. If deciphering or reacting to conflicting evidence was the charge of our grand juries, nothing would ever go to trial.

    Interesting that you require “proof” of social injustice but absolve those you agree with of the same test, and ironic that you argue against the process we as a society have established to determine what is true and what is not.

  • Sandy_Sanders

    After reading everyone’s comments and seeing two of the effigies, let’s consider a black-op style intervention by state/1%er contractors. The CIA’s main objective is confusion, enabling divisiveness and paranoia to disable useful action by the “opposition”. This “artwork”, it is not the work of amateurs, is fatally inappropriate. Where postmodern artists have appropriated outrage and confusion as a tableau for discussion, these effigies exhibit such poor quality decision making, i’m tempted to believe it’s not a genuine work of art. The idea that BAMN or other group would want these pieces to push comparisons of police killings with lynchings (the names and dates identify the works as consciousness pushers) may validate them as supposed acts of the left. But if I were to make works to provoke awareness of racist state killing i would not place such volatile knee jerk visuals of terror that lynching immediately evoke from a casual observer. We need to be getting a handle on terror. Instant terror is counterproductive in communication. Political art is generally very clear and instantly empathetic to the portrayed victims. These lynching props do such a very poor job of provoking discussion, they lack useful ambiguity, and it seems to me they are either really bad art, or the work of hired provocateurs trying to divide and conquer solidarity. Aside from the above it is inconceivable the hegemonic UCPD presence on campus does not have surveillance video or any witnesses to the “hanging” or their manufacture.

    • SMH

      .

      “…it is inconceivable the hegemonic UCPD presence on campus does not have surveillance video or any witnesses to the “hanging” or their manufacture.”

      YYYEP…, in this Snowden revelations era, I bet the campus cops have more cameras on campus than we’d ever be aware of. Especially in this police & government fear-mongering age of, ‘al-Qaeda/Isis is gonna get your *momma*!!!’

      (When, actually, the overwhelming majority of, so-called, “terror plots” in the U.S., since 9-11, are U.S. GOVERNMENT MANUFACTURED! And I’m not putting 9-11 past that either — directly, indirectly, either causing, or provoking, 9-11 to happen, or *letting* it happen, using set-ups or patsies! Condoleeza Rice was forced to admit, testifying in front of a committee of the U.S. Congress, with her briefing book and its title right on the table, that the U.S. [and probably Israeli] government knew that could — or is it *would* — happen. Whatever you do or don’t believe, a smart person *never* believes the *government’s* story — and especially not the imperialist *U.S.* government’s story on how anything *actually* happened relating to war or its domestic agents.)

      And *WHY* couldn’t the Oakland or Berkeley cops — certainly gun-wielding UNDERCOVER COPS (and who were they going to *shoot* and how *many* would they have shot?), *themselves* disguised as ‘Black Bloc’ protesters/*PROVOCATEURS* — catch any of those (predominantly *white* youth, and suspiciously *not*-so-youthful, “Black Bloc”) looters beating nonviolent protesters or busting into and robbing electronic shops? Hmmm!!???… Huh???…

      .

  • 1kenthomas

    You *are* aware that the police often won’t respond to such crime? No?

    • peepsqueek

      That is not true across the board, but I can see why they don’t respond in some cases. One hundred police officers were killed in the line of duty last year. Not one march or protest on their behalf.

  • PsychLab

    What do you think about Cal’s response to recent events?

    The psychology department is conducting a survey to understand how people feel about UC Berkeley’s response to recent events.

    We are offering $5 to those who complete a 30 minute online survey that asks about your attitudes towards race, the protest movement, and UC Berkeley’s response. We are particularly interested in understanding the views of students from under-represented groups (e.g., Blacks/African-Americans and Latino/as). After the survey, we will email you the $5 payment through google wallet, amazon payments, or paypal.

    To qualify for the survey, you must:

    1. Identify as White, Black, African-American, or Latino/a. (We will distribute surveys for other racial/ethnic groups in the near future.)
    2. Be an affiliate of UC Berkeley, (students, alumnus, staff, or faculty)
    3. 18 years or older

    To participate, please follow the appropriate link:

    Link for Black and African-American respondents:tinyurl.com/ProtestSurvey1

    Link for Latino/a respondents: tinyurl.com/ProtestSurvey2

    Link for White respondents: tinyurl.com/ProtestSurvey3

    • 1kenthomas

      Did you guys delete your original of this? You did. Was that to delete criticism?

      Exactly how should a black Jew born outside Mexico City, react to your racial categorization?

      That said, how is someone to EASILY verify that this survey is conducted by UCB, and that data will be private? (You should get that right if you really are a UCB entity.)

      • 1kenthomas

        Looks more likely that the above is UCB Psych at this point, but haven’t confirmed. Standard disclaimers still apply FWIW.

    • 1kenthomas

      Did you guys delete your original of this? You did. Was that to delete criticism?

      Exactly how should a black Jew born outside Mexico City, react to your racial categorization?

      That said, how is someone to EASILY verify that this survey is conducted by UCB, and that data will be private? (You should get that right if you really are a UCB entity.)

  • At first when I saw this story I thought “terrorism” . It felt like it was Nazis or other Racists letting Blacks and others know that Blacks were at one time lynched and could be lynched again. They were I saw the effigies had names and the dates of their deaths, I thought it was a reminder of what Blacks have gone through before in America not so long ago…then it appeared to be more of a history lesson….a reminder to racist America that we know what you are all about.

  • smokepainter

    As Lamm noted, this is an artist or group of artists performing guerrilla acts of expression. Seen in context with Kara Walker, Banksy, Basquiat, and the grand post WWI tradition of ironic and political art, the creator(s) of this bombast succeed in making a visual and visceral metaphor and placing it in the geographic center of liberal ideology to prompt changes in the discourse. Let’s remember the still reverberating effect of Foucault on academic practices at Cal, and his advice from the introduction to “Ant-Oedipus” (please read the entire piece):

    “Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.”

    Or as Richard Rorty wrote “Take care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself.” The creators of these graphic and provocative works have the intrinsic right to express themselves as they see fit. That freedom, exercised 50 years after the Free Speech Movement, belongs on campus. These are not the works of racists, they are imaginative images doing what art is supposed to do. “Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia” – MF. Lynching is an act of totalizing paranoia. These effigies are acts of free political action.

  • Stephen Lamm

    Cal grad and leftist here: YoungJ had it right, I think – this act was meant as a statement, my sense is the artist wanted to make us think about how far we’ve come (or not come) since the incidents depicted in the cutouts. It was a powerful use of media. It was shocking – but I assume that’s exactly the kind of reaction the artist intended to elicit. The “I can’t breathe” words on one of the cutouts makes it unlikely this act was perpetrated by anti-black racists, but instead by somebody with an artistic bent who wanted to question the Scalia’n rhetoric that we’re a color-blind society, and who understands the power of images – and they were right about that power, since it is now making national news.

  • mogden

    Isn’t it pretty obvious that these figures are trying to draw the parallel between historic lynchings and the recent police violence? Not really seeing a huge racist bogeyman here…

    • 1kenthomas

      It’s unclear. Without knowing who made them, it’s unclear if it’s a leftish leaning student artist, or a right-leaning person or group looking to discredit (as well as potentially scare some people). In the end, it looks poorly done.

    • Prosper

      exactly what i thought – and I’m glad the people responsible has confirmed it

  • 1kenthomas

    Careful with your ledes, please.
    While I understand that there is still some confusion as to what was done an by whom, the above article as it appears in teaser on Facebook, seems to have made many reading, think that effigies of lynched black people were on Sather gate, not effigies of a lynching.
    I know it’s hard to convey detail in the short space of a lede– and I certainly understand all the reasons that the latter, may still be very problematic– but there’s a BIG difference between the two, that the reader deserves to be warned of.
    Thanks!

  • US_POLICESTATE

    The article seems to have left out exactly what crime the police are investigating; is it vandalism? Something else? Since the figures depicted are dead already it’s certainly not something that could be considered a death threat.

    Seems to me this falls under free speech however offensive it is.

  • nulltransform

    The real lynch mob are the ones who want to see Darren Wilson hang for doing his job.

  • LaShonda K

    ABOUT THIS… Just MY Thoughts…

    http://www.dailycal.org/2014/12/13/effigy-apparent-lynching-hung-sather-gate-saturday-morning/

    There were several cardboard cutouts depicting lynching victims found on various parts of UC Berkeley’s campus this morning. We (Black Folks at Berkeley) don’t know who placed them there and what the motive was behind it. I have verified this Myself with Black student leadership!

    During the #BlackLivesMatter and #Ferguson2Cal movement on UC Berkeley’s campus and in the surrounding area, non-Black led groups have latched onto the movement as well. Some have turned this movement into other movements and some are just using their privileges to irresponsibly protest ‘a cause’ because they can…

    While it is true that #AllLivesMatter … That statement is synonymous to statements such as #IDontSeeColor and I am #ColorBlind . These statements water down the focus that #BlackLivesMatter . Historically we were considered a ‘fraction’ of a person, and we are talking about BLACK lives at the moment…Although All Lives DO matter, some people don’t even consider My life, or any other Black person to constitute a ‘full’ life…or a life worthy of Mattering.

    There is a Peaceful and Well-Organized Rally & March being held right now by our Black Student Union and other things scheduled for this weekend.

    I am almost willing to bet a certain extremist group may have had something to do with it. There were more than one and they depicted actual lynching victims with names. OUR Black student leadership did not do this and it was not part of anything I am aware of.

    It’s really difficult when ‘Other people’ take ‘OUR’ matters into THEIR own hands and do things like this. Ultimately, lynchings are a very sensitive subject and I wish people would STAY IN THEIR LANE when trying to ‘support’ a cause or movement. Putting up things like this overnight, with no people or literature to explain the history is Reckless and Inciting Confusion and Anger on a #NationalDayofAction… We don’t know if this is in “Solidarity” or a Sign/Threat… Again, I appreciate true “ally-ship”, but people need to chill… #LetUSTellOURStory #StayInYourLane

    #BlackatCal #Ferguson2Cal #BlackLivesMatter #Berkeley #BerkeleyAlum

    • mogden

      If we could get some more hashtags into this comment, that would be awesome. Thanks.

      • LaShonda K

        #ThankYou

    • 1kenthomas

      Thank you for taking the time.

    • ThatLibertarianGuy

      #Interesting#Comment#You#Have#There#HashtagFORLIFE#Don’tHate

      • LaShonda K

        #ThankYou Too! :)

      • LaShonda K

        PS. You can’t add punctuation in #Hashtags

    • ThatLibertarianGuy

      #Interesting#Comment#You#Have#There#HashtagFORLIFE#Don’tHate

  • Russell Blank

    It’s not a stretch to see a connection between the states failure to prosecute those officers who participated in the killing of black American citizens in the past with impunity and those officers who have killed black men more recently with impunity. The roots of the problems we are confronting today run deep and didn’t begin with Eric Garner, or Trayvon Martin, or Abner Louima, or even Emmett Till. In each case someone with state sanctioned authority abused that authority — with impunity.

    Between 1882 and 1968 nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress. This legislation was aimed at state and city officials who had the power to protect those being lynched but failed to act. None of these bills were ever approved by the Senate. In 2005 the US Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact anti-lynching bills “when action was most needed.”

    While provocative it would be a shame to miss the message, and act when action is needed, because we are overly concerned with the painful feelings of those who are unable to see or acknowledge the racist cancer that has infected us.

  • Tom_in_SFCA

    This is obviously leftist agitprop. If the UCPD are genuinely “investigating the incident as a racial bias or hate crime” then they are stupid. In truth they are probably just playing dumb for political reasons.

    • 1kenthomas

      Unless it’s right-wing agitprop. Or something else. Insufficient evidence at this point.

      • Tom_in_SFCA

        Figured it out yet, Kenny?

  • YoungJ

    This is a statement. Not an act of racism, but an idiotic one most likely done by the protestors especially BAMN. Mere racists would have not gone through printing out “I can’t breathe” or the name Laura Nelson on the effigy. Extreme leftist protesters are surely dividing this campus up and trying to stir up issues. The campus authorities must do something about these lunatics acts of late.

    • 1kenthomas

      Again: do you have evidence we don’t? “Either side” could “stir up issues” with something like this.

    • Bob

      I think you’re right. Not only would racists not go to the trouble of adding “I can’t breathe” or “Laura Nelson” to the effigy, I would expect them to use the n-word on the effigies. Plus, I doubt many racists even know of Laura Nelson.

    • So Kali

      Counterintelpro. It never went away….

  • blahblah98

    That is extremism, which divides the middle and strengthens the opposition. Sorry protest organizers, as a life-long liberal, ACLU member, unionist, etc. your tactics are appalling and offensive beyond the pale. The middle will not support extremism on either side.

    • 1kenthomas

      Do you have evidence we don’t? Why are you blaming this on “protestors” at this point? Or are you right-wing AGITPROP?

  • More BAMN hooliganism. So much for peaceful and productive protesting

    • Joseph Watkins

      I think there is much more to it than that. The ropes and strings of capitalism. Also that POC may not be being “hung” but they are still systematically being killed daily. Look at Detroit and the “blight removal” project for God’s sake. Idk what to feel about these effigy’s, very triggering and intense but still horrifyingly relatable to this day.

      • 1776

        People of color are being systematically killed. I’m triggered by your gross misunderstanding of what that looks like.

        • Me

          Yes they are………By fellow blacks.

      • peepsqueek

        Capitalism, the whole world sells its resources to the highest bidder or biggest customers, regardless of what they call themselves.

    • UCBAlum

      BAMN does not claim to be peaceful. And if you have information you should probably contact the police.

      As I see it the bigger issue is the need on behalf of some to dismiss these “hands-up” protests altogether. Don’t know if you’re doing it, but there seems to be some of that going around.

      • nulltransform

        There’s no need to dismiss the “hands-up” meme. The grand jury evidence already debunked that false narrative.

        • UCBAlum

          It did nothing of the sort and that claim betrays your intentions.

          • peepsqueek

            Why would anyone want to use the Ferguson case to prove societal injustice, when more than a half dozen black witnesses testified matching both that of Officer Wilson and the forensics? A case where Michael Brown only minutes earlier was found to have aggressed a tiny asian store owner over a few cigars on video, showing his aggressive mind set on that given day. And then a 6’4″ 300lb young man beating an Officer around the head, [armed] with his fists, is enough to give Officer Wilson, a solo cop in a high crime area, the benefit of doubt. Remember, this is a cop, who had never pulled his gun in the line of duty. Also remember, Brown physically aggressed two adults within twenty minutes in unrelated incidents. A young man that big, who cannot keep his hands to himself was going to find himself in a very negative situation, so to use this case as a banner of societal injustice is beyond me. The people who believe that this was a murder and not self defense, will never be convinced by contradictory evidence.

    • buricco

      The one I was shown could have been either BAMN or kluxers, it was somewhat ambiguous.

    • SMH

      .

      For info on BAMN’s destably unsavory past, google: “BAMN’s BAD BEHAVIOR”, online.

      Btw, not only does BAMN claim credit for other people’s organizing work and demonstrations, not only does BAMN promote indiscriminate and unintelligible vandalism and property destruction, Yvette Falarca — being the credit-grabbing media hound that she is — even hoodwinked a PBS Newshour TV correspondent and in an on-air interview she took full credit for Occupy Cal!

      BAMN even once claimed that it organized a march of 50,000 people! ‘Yeah’…, ‘rrrrright’…

      Also see (reference in the article cited above) Asian Week: _”BAMN’s Bad Behavior”_,

      And (reference in the article cited above) The Daily Cal: _”Not With a BAMN, But With a Moan”_

      There was also an East Bay Express *series* about all the problems BAMN and a few of its gadfly members once created in the Oakland School system (as if the Oakland schools didn’t already have enough to deal with).

      BAMN counts on a new 4-year generation of college undergrads — as well as any local or national TV reporters (including a TV host or two at Russia Today network, another BAMN media hoodwinking score) — not knowing who/what BAMN is and was.

      The SELF-AGGRANDIZING BAMN and its EGO-DRIVEN hierarchy make a lot of noise, and even kicks up a lot of dust and blow a lot of smoke making legal noise in the courts (one of its members, Ronald Cruz, had since graduated from law school, so they are quick to file a lot of papers in court), but they actually accomplish very little on their own. They’re ‘good’ at PR too: check out the article they wrote at Wikipedia about themselves, wrapping themselves in glitter & glory!

      BAMN IS A DEAD END.

      .