BAMN hosts tribunal, talks ongoing trial over Occupy Cal protests

Michael Wan/Staff

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On Monday, the UC Berkeley chapter of BAMN held a public tribunal in Wheeler Hall during which it discussed its ongoing lawsuit regarding the 2011 Occupy Cal movement and encouraged campus and community members to join its cause.

The lawsuit — which names the campus and district police as well as the administration — accuses certain individuals of alleged “first amendment violations and use of excessive force.” It was first filed Nov. 29 of that year, a few weeks after the demonstrations. The two parties are waiting on a final decision from the court.

According to Shanta Driver, BAMN national chair and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys on the case, the case has been ongoing because such polarized court cases “tend to get dragged out.”

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that campus leaders have taken numerous steps to improve protest management on campus since 2011. The Protest Response Team, led by senior campus administrators, was created in early 2012 to respond to future protests in a time and manner that would help de-escalate the situation.

“I think everyone wishes that the events of that day had unfolded differently and we have taken steps to address that,” Gilmore said in an email. “The lawsuit, however, is unfounded.”

During the tribunal, a panel of four of the plaintiffs from the case, along with Driver, gave background on the case, all addressing their own experience during the protests. Besides Driver, the panel consisted of Yvette Felarca, a former campus graduate student and a BAMN organizer; Benjamin Lynch, a campus astrophysics doctoral student; Anthony Morreale, a campus graduate student at the time of the protest; and Max McDonald, a campus undergraduate during the event.

The plaintiffs also played video footage from the event of interactions between police and protesters.

“That day and that night of protest were life changing,” Felarca said after the footage had finished playing. In the video, she had been near the front of a crowd of protesters when the crowd and police converged. “This is not just four years ago — this is right now. The law was not set up to be on our side, but history is on our side. It’s going to take winning in the streets and on campus for us to win this lawsuit.”

Some members of the audience reacted viscerally to the video clips of the protest, saying the footage reminded them of their experience with alleged brutality at the event. For Ergoat Oneiric, a Berkeley community member and a former organizer of Occupy Cal, this was the case.

“This lawsuit will hold administrators accountable in a way that no previous settlement ever did, and that’s why it’s so important,” Oneiric said.

Contact Harini Shyamsundar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.