Remember this video of the brutal arrests at the 11 November Occupy Cal encampment. At 14 seconds in, a woman is grabbed out of the crowd by her hair and thrown to the ground:
Would it surprise you to learn that the woman, Professor Celeste Langan, is now under indictment, charged with resisting arrest and remaining at the scene of a riot?
Who is this dangerous academic, whose hair feloniously resisted being yanked out by the roots?
From her biography at the University’s French Studies Program:
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.
Three students — Ricardo Gomez, Zakary Habash, and Ramon Quintero — also face charges. Interesting, isn’t it, that out of all the students present that day, those charged are two men with Hispanic names and a third with an Arab name. How was it it that none of the far more numerous anglo students were charged? Curious, no?
Monday protest called for Cal campus
With the first arraignments set for the coming week, one group is taking action, calling for a noontime campus protest Monday in the form of a picket of California Hall, where Chancellor Robert “Grinnin’ Bob” Birgeneau closters himself.
Here’s the call to action, via reclaim UC:
As many of you no doubt know, our colleague Celeste Langan and 10 students have been formally charged by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in connection with the protests on November 9th. Crucially, those charged are not limited to those who were arrested that day, and there is reason to believe that those singled out within this category were chosen for their prominent roles in the movement to restore public education. This is to me nearly as disturbing as the events of November 9th themselves, and potentially far more chilling of free speech than any specific instance of police brutality. In effect we are being told that:
– Any protester on campus is at risk of prosecution, regardless of her level of involvement in an event and/or arrest.
– The UCPD, ostensibly designed to protect and serve campus values, of which free speech must be one, will routinely invoke mutual aid, invite riot cops onto our campus, and then hand over evidence to public bodies with no commitment to campus values whatsoever.
– Chancellor Birgeneau’s declaration of amnesty under the Student Code of Conduct is rendered at once moot and cosmetic because it does not apply to those who were not arrested but face public charges and because it doesn’t protect any protester from those charges.
– Processes like the Police Review Board must be seen in a new light as strategic sites of data collection, since those who have testified there may have their testimony and that of others used against them.
At the very least, it seems to me we should put pressure on Birgeneau to take a public stand on the issue of these charges. Ideally he’d publicly request of O’Malley that the charges be dropped, but at the very least the administration should not be allowed to separate itself from this development merely because it is technically beyond a UCB purview.
To that end, several concerned people (undergrads, grads, and faculty) met informally last night to discuss possible responses. In addition to identifying the need for a swift editorial campaign (I believe the first arraignments, including Celeste’s, are scheduled for 3/16), we decided on a picket of California Hall starting Monday at noon. It’s not being called for by any particular group, nor should it have to be; it’s a spontaneous response to this latest outrage by those in the community who are at risk (namely, all of us) and who stand in solidarity with those charged. I urge you all to come on Monday at 12pm so that our numbers are meaningful and our voices loud enough to reach those inside. 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.
And then there’s the placebo protest
This one’s the classic bit of slacktivism, the kind of protest that';s only a mouse click away, sent to a Friend of the Blog in the form of an email with a link to the inevitable petition, one which can only be signed by Cal faculty:
Dear Colleague,The Berkeley Faculty Association is circulating a petition asking the Chancellor to take a stand against the Alameda County District Attorney’s decision to bring criminal charges against several students and a faculty member involved in the events of last November 9th – which were the subject of the Senate resolutions condemning the administration’s heavy-handed policing.The D.A.’s actions just made a bad situation worse. The administration needs to rise in defense of campus self-governance and tolerance of free speech and free assembly.Please take a moment to read and sign the petition, and pass it on to other colleagues if you agree with the sentiments. The petition is on-line at:http://www.change.org/petitions/berkeley-faculty-association-birgeneau-should-condemn-criminal-charges-against-nov-9-2011-protesters#Because of the way the website works, the boxes are prescribed. So, please put your DEPARTMENT under ‘address’ and UC BERKELEY under ‘city’ and 94720 under ‘zipcode’.This petition is only for Berkeley faculty members.Thank you.Wendy BrownChristine RosenRichard Walker
Here’s the text of that faculty-only petition:
We, the undersigned faculty of the University of California, are dismayed by the criminal charges brought by the Alameda County District Attorney against several students and faculty engaged in campus protest on November 9th, 2011. We call upon Chancellor Birgeneau to request that the D.A. drop all charges against the campus protestors.
The D.A.’s decision represents a significant chilling of free speech and an undue restriction of rights of free assembly on campus, values officially enshrined in UC Berkeley’s Principles of Community (“We are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” http://berkeley.edu/about/principles.shtml). Our administration must condemn any legal actions that undermine these values.
Indeed, as some of the students now being prosecuted were not even arrested on November 9th, these legal actions seem designed to criminalize those who are exercising basic rights of protest. We note as well that the faculty member now scheduled for arraignment was practicing non-violent civil disobedience and, after voluntarily offering herself for arrest, was dragged by the hair and thrown to the ground by police, sustaining injuries.
Moreover, we remind Chancellor Birgeneau that the faculty Senate has stated in the resolutions of November 28, 2011, that the university administration and the police were in the wrong in their handling of the November 9th demonstrations. Hence, should the prosecution go forward, the legal and financial responsibility for the defense of the students and faculty charged falls squarely on the university.
Finally, we ask that the administration reply in the affirmative to any student request to enter into a public discussion of these issues, and we support efforts to open up dialogue to find resolution for these events rather than the prosecution of rights of protest.
Yeah, that’s real forceful. Askin’ Grinnin’ Bob to make a request. We’re sure the District Attorney is quaking in her designer boots.
As an old reporter once told an esnl, “That’s like peein’ your pants while you wearin’ a blue serge suit. You feel all warm and tingly for a while, but nobody notices.”