UC Berkeley School of Law faculty condemn police actions at Occupy Cal

In an open letter released Wednesday, more than 70 faculty members at the UC Berkeley School of Law expressed their strong condemnation of actions taken against protesters last week by campus administrators and police, calling for a reestablishment of the campus’s reputation as a beacon of free speech.

In the letter — addressed to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry Le Grande — the faculty members decried the violence directed against non-violent protesters present at Sproul Plaza on Nov. 9 and the temporary detention of two law students near the law school that same day.

In addition, the letter strongly criticizes Birgeneau’s response to the police violence that day, condemning what they characterize as his “public and explicit defense of the police action … which made inaccurate distinctions between violent and non-violent civil disobedience and which he apparently signed without having viewed the videos of the incidents at issue.”

“The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances,” the letter reads. “While the University may enforce its rules, including citing or arresting those engaged in acts of civil disobedience … there is no place for instigating violence in a community dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.”

Moving forward, the letter calls on the administration to publicly defend and support the rights of students to engage in non-violent political expression and to implement recommendations made by the June 2010 Police Review Board Report, which was issued in response to police violence at the Wheeler Hall protests of November 2009.