A student describes yesterday’s first police assault
We posted videos yesterday showing police clubbing students, so now here’s an RT interview with Cal student Erick Uribe with a first-hand account of the police attack:
We also have to wonder why campus police weren’t issued shields, which they could have used to push demonstrators back, rather than clubbing them into submission.
First up, a recap
UPDATE: The Daily Californian liveblog reports 39 arrests as of midnight last night:
Thirty-nine protesters have been arrested so far, according to UCPD Lt. Alex Yao. Seven were arrested earlier in the day while 32 were arrested during the second round of clashes between police and protesters. All of the arrested demonstrators have been sent to Santa Rita County Jail for processing. All of those arrested were arrested on two charges: resisting and delaying a police officer in the performance of their duties, and failure to disperse when given a dispersal order. Over the course of the day officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Oakland Police Department and UCPD responded to the protest. Yao could not confirm which forces are still at the protest and would not disclose the number of police officers dispatched during the protest.
And UC Berkeley professor of Computer Science and Vision Science [title corrected] Brian Barsky has some superb pictures of yesterday’s first confrontation here.
Here’s the lead of this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle report by Nanette Asimov and Justin Berton:
Dozens of police in riot gear descended on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza on Wednesday in two violent confrontations with student protesters that prevented them from building an Occupy encampment on the campus.
Campus police arrested seven protesters during an afternoon altercation at the plaza after protesters set up three tents, which police promptly tore down.
By evening, protesters had once again erected tents – this time there were seven. Students joined arms and chanted “hold the line” and “the whole world is watching” while police approached with batons and bean-bag guns. After a brief scuffle, police broke through their line and pulled down the tents. Then officers formed a perimeter on the steps of Sproul Hall.
Six UC Berkeley students and one faculty member, English Professor Celeste Langan, were arrested for resisting and delaying police officers, said Lt. Alex Yao of the UC Berkeley Police, which got help from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and other UC police.
Read the rest.
Celeste Langan and the curious case of Bobby B
UPDATE: See our later post with the video of her arrest and mistreatment by campus police.
We don’t know the details of Langan’s arrest, but we note with interest this excerpt from her bio on the university’s French Studies Program website:
Professor Langan specializes in the literature of the Romantic period and regularly teaches a course on the French Revolution. Her research interests focus on an assortment of French theorists, including Diderot, de Stael, and Stendhal. She is currently at work on a project analyzing Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, as well as writing an essay in public culture, entitled, “Mobility Disability.” She is the author of Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom.
In addition to Romantic poetry and the French Revolution, Langan also serves as acting director of university’s Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities.
She’s also thought deeply about the nature of the university, as demonstrated an essay [“The Humanities, Plural”] posted on the Townsend Center website, which includes this interesting excerpt:
More than the so-called “disciplines,” departments at a large research university can function like “continents”—containers—rather than offer, as in Thoreau’s ideal vision, a “foundation” that is also a “port.” The intellectual resources of each department are sufficiently rich, and the obligations placed on its faculty and students sufficiently demanding, that without a Townsend Center only the most intrepid of new faculty and graduate students would have more than occasional or random contact with faculty and students from other departments.
In such a context, perhaps the greatest value of constituting a “center” around so vague a concept as “the humanities” is the incongruity of that term itself. The question Jean-Luc Nancy posed in The Muses—“Why are there several arts and not just one?”—might be applied to “the humanities” as well. In its plural form, the term de-centers and gives “buoyancy and float” (Thoreau’s words) to a concept that might otherwise congeal into an apparently solid substance: humanity. The plural form’s insistence on “several” humanities offers a wonderfully dangerous opportunity to think about the differences among past, present, and future “species” of humanity, to consider not only different cultures, languages, and generations (first- and second-generation Romantic poets, Issei and Nisei, the echo boom) but also new (and old) social movements as productive of new forms of humanity. As a multiple, moreover, the “humanities” suggests the relevance to the humanities of non-biological forms of reproduction (digitalization, for example), leading us to question prevailing organic and genealogical models of “culture,” “language,” and “generation,” and making the “posthuman” a relevant critical concept.
We’ve never met Langan, but we already know we’d like her, as we respect anyone willing to put her body on the line in support of deeply held humane beliefs.
The university’s version
Now let’s go to the university’s Public Affairs office website for their recap:
At about 6:30, with some 300 people gathered on the Sproul steps, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande conveyed the administration’s willingness to allow the group to have a constant, 24/7 presence on the plaza for the next week, but restated campus policies that prohibit activities associated with the planned encampment such as erecting tents, cooking and fires.
“We hope that you will work with one another and us to maintain these guidelines,” Le Grande told the crowd, adding that if protesters failed to comply they would receive a 10-minute warning prior to any enforcement action by police.
The remaining protesters voted to reject the offer and continue their efforts to establish an encampment on campus property. The UCPD is currently evaluating the situation.
Meanwhile, police said seven protesters — six Berkeley students and one faculty member — were arrested today on charges of resisting and delaying a peace office in the performance of their duties and/or failure to disperse upon being given a dispersal order. One student was additionally charged with battery against a police officer.
The curious case of the callous chancellor
And now to Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, the fellow who had told celebrants gathered for the 8 October 2004 40th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement a story about one of the highlights of his life, as we reported for the Berkeley Daily Planet:
Birgeneau recounted the events after his graduation from Yale in 1964 —where he’d done volunteer work in inner-city New Haven.
Birgeneau and his spouse headed to the deep South as a volunteer in the civil rights movement, where they shared a dwelling with two FSM leaders.
“I had only been out of Canada for two years, and it was an extraordinarily valuable experience,” he said.
As one who remembers that era vividly, we recall that the campaign Birgeneau so proudly joined was premised on civil disobedience, often met with police and mob violence, centered on the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.
So here’s Bobby B laying down the law yesterday, in an excerpt from his proclamation issued before the day’s events unfolded:
We understand and share your passion about the important topics that are at stake in these debates, and want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to exercise their rights – whether that is to protest, teach, or go to class. With that goal, it is important to remind our community of some of the basic expectations for our campus.
- Encampments or occupations of buildings are not allowed on our campus. This means that members of our community are free to meet, discuss, debate, and protest, but will not be allowed to set up tents or encampment structures.
- Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to conduct regular activities — go to class, study, carry out their research etc., — will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct.
- As always, our normal operating hours on this campus will be adhered to; this means that most buildings will be closed by 10 p.m.
In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism. Rather, these funds should be spent on urgent needs such as financial aid for low-income students including those who are undocumented, increased numbers of GSI’s, increased library hours etc.
Wonder how it feels to Birgeneau to be on the other side now, the side that lays down the law and deals out all that police violence directed at the people seeking greater equality?
Hats off to Celeste Langan.