UC student leaders disappointed by Janet Napolitano’s lukewarm response to rally arrest

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Rachael Garner/File

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University of California President Janet Napolitano said UCPD’s tackling and arrest of a UC Berkeley employee during a UC workers’ union rally Feb. 1 was “unfortunate,” leaving some UC student board members disappointed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting with the UC Student Association.

At the rally, UCPD tackled and arrested David Cole, a campus employee and member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, on suspicion of vandalism and resisting an officer. Cole, who sustained a cut on his forehead, was then taken into UCPD custody and released later that day.

During the Tuesday meeting, Napolitano said she will wait for the results from an independent review before making any further statements on Cole’s arrest.

“It was disappointing that President Napolitano would only describe the David Cole situation as ‘unfortunate,’ ” ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson said in an email. “Instances like this call for a much closer look at UCPD oversight.”

Campus officials announced their plans to hire an independent and external organization to review UCPD’s actions during the Feb. 1 UC workers’ protest in a campuswide email sent Feb. 6. The review is meant to help officials understand how the events on the day of the protest unfolded and whether the actions of the UCPD officers were consistent with UCPD guidelines, Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher said in the message.

“We believe Berkeley can and should maintain a positive relationship between our police force and the community it serves,” Fisher said in the message.

Zoë Broussard, External Vice President of Associated Students of UC Irvine said in email that Napolitano focused on the things that may have led to an arrest, but not on the fact that UCPD was “seen and recorded arresting with excessive force.”

Broussard said in the email that she wanted Napolitano to publicly state that the way the arrest occurred was unacceptable, regardless of the case’s outcome.

A majority of the board, Broussard said in an email, agreed that Napolitano should make a statement including the same remarks she made in the meeting.

“When the UC is spending so much energy on Free Speech,” Robinson said in in email, “it must also be committed to ensuring ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble.’ ”

The UC Office of the President could not be reached as of press time.

AFSCME spokesperson John de los Angeles said the lack of comment from Napolitano was “unsettling.”

“For that protest to end the way that it did only underscores the issue that we were trying to highlight,” said de los Angeles.

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.