Protesters in front of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley. Flickr photo by Pye42.
As most of you know, I’m not one to send out mass appeals for letters or signatures, but in this case, I spent a little time outside of Wheeler Hall at Berkeley on Friday and was truly shocked to see Alameda riot cops standing guard, aiming and ready to shoot those rubber bullets at us, and who knows what else (tear gas?). Surely there were way more cops around than protesters inside the building. It was fortunate that we had some committed faculty (Ananya Roy, George Lakoff, Judith Butler and others) inside and outside defusing the situation, which was greatly aggravated by the chief of police and the Chancellor’s refusal to exert any leadership (except to let the cops have their way). If you haven’t seen the news, here are some links:
If I could just trouble you to take a look at the info below and let the chancellor’s office know that in times like these, when tuition and fees have been raised through the roof, the world is watching. Below is a letter drafted and signed by Berkeley geograds following Friday’s deplorable acts by Alameda County riot police on the UC Berkeley campus. A link to the letter is also here:
The campus community has been asked to write to the following people, and it would be useful to have support from the larger academic world and alumni(!) letting them know their conduct has not gone unnoticed. A quick two lines would suffice to say you have read the reports and are concerned about this. “Write to the chair of the Academic Senate and the Chancellor’s office about the use of excessive force – both visual and narrative testimony – and to send the same documentation to a systemwide effort.
Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (Chris Kutz, chair of the Academic Senate who is also chair of the Police Review Board). The idea is to compel an investigation into specific incidents and assaults but also into the broader questions of why this police presence.”
Youtube videos of assaults and rubber bullets:
OPEN LETTER TO THE CHANCELLOR
by 40 Geography Graduate Students
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau,
We write this letter in response to your email sent out on Friday, November 20, 2009, at 10:49pm (posted at http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/11/20_wheeler-rjb.shtml), regarding Berkeley’s campus-wide protest of UC fee hikes, lay-offs and other cuts that have decreased the accessibility and quality of public education across the University of California’s campuses. We feel that this email misrepresented Friday’s protests and is a disservice to the democratic debate that continues over the UC regents’ actions.
While we understand the spirit of your email, it does not bear much resemblance to the events that took place. Indeed, we are insulted by the euphemistic claim that “a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers.” What we observed, and what is well-documented, was the police indiscriminately striking, shoving, and knocking over unarmed and non-aggressive students who were fully within their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Further, to argue that the protests “necessitated significant police presence to maintain safety” makes a mockery of the fact that the only threat to safety on Friday was the police presence itself. The broken fingers sustained by two protesters and the bruises and welts sustained by many were not inflicted by their fellow peaceful demonstrators, but by the police themselves. We deplore these actions, as well as the entrance of heavily armed Alameda Sheriffs onto our campus at a time when faculty and students were engaged in peaceful negotiations.
Such a misrepresentation of the events does not speak to the good faith of the Office of the Chancellor, particularly in how it deals with democratic protests on campus. No irony was lost in the fact that Friday’s protests and police violence took place steps away from UC Berkeley’s “Free Speech Café”. We believe that the student body and the general public deserve to hear a more honest summation of events from Berkeley’s administration, particularly regarding the violence inflicted on students.
The undersigned UC Berkeley Geography graduate students,
Javier Arbona, Jenny Baca, Teo Ballvé, Rachel Brahinsky, Sandy Brown, Liz Carlisle, Jennifer Casolo, Erin Collins, Alicia Cowart, Shannon Cram, Juan David de Lara, Lindsey Dillon, Sapana Doshi, Zoë Friedman-Cohen, Anthony Fontes, Sapna Elizabeth Gardner Thottathil, Jennifer Greenburg, Ju Hui Judy Han, Katy Guimond, Leigh Johnson, Julie Klinger, Sarah Knuth, Jessica Lage, Miri Lavi-Neeman, Nicole List, Seth Lunine, Nathan McClintock, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Diana Negrín, Youjeong Oh, David Pieper, Shaina Potts, Tim Rowe, Kao-Shih-Yang, Rajshekhar Singh, John Stehlin, Jason Strange, Alex Tarr, Alberto Velazquez, Max Woodworth