In a hearing Tuesday, UC Berkeley administrators sought dismissal from a lawsuit alleging they were complicit in the police response to the fall 2011 Occupy Cal protests.
Attorneys for the administrators — who include former UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer — motioned to remove their clients as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges UC Berkeley administrators hold partial responsibility for police brutality against protesters on Nov. 9, 2011.
BAMN, an organization that supports students’ rights and affirmative action, filed the $15 million federal civil rights lawsuit in 2011 against police who raided and dismantled a large Occupy Cal protest taking place on campus and the administrators BAMN claims approved those actions. Video footage of police officers beating students with batons received mass media coverage in the weeks after the event.
The lawsuit states the police officers used unwarranted violence in their response and violated protesters’ constitutional rights.
UC Berkeley administrators have acknowledged that violence took place but claim they did not break the law in any way.
“While everyone wishes that the events of that day ended differently, from a legal standpoint, the actions were legally justified,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in a statement emailed to The Daily Californian on Tuesday.
George Washington, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the police response to Occupy Cal was extreme because of the nature of the protesters’ demands, which included stopping tuition hikes and budget cuts.
“We think this is pure political retaliation against the protesters, and a lot of people got hurt as a result of it,” Washington said.
After public outcry stemming from the events, the UC Berkeley Police Review Board released a report concluding that the use of batons against students was disturbing. Birgeneau said he regretted the actions carried out that day in a personal statement issued in June of last year.
Gilmore reiterated that regret Tuesday.
“Clearly what happened that day (in November 2011) does not reflect our values as an institution,” she said in the email. “Since then we have established a Protest Response Team that considers numerous ways to peacefully resolve protests and demonstrations.”
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will make a decision in response to the motion to remove administrators from the lawsuit within the next several weeks.
Regardless of the judge’s decision on the motion, the lawsuit will continue until an ultimate resolution is reached, according to Yvette Felarca, a plaintiff in the suit and a BAMN organizer.
“We’re confident that the university is and will be held accountable one way or another throughout this lawsuit,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure that the university never does this again to any future demonstrators on the campus.”