We begin with news of a singular victory for the campus Occupy movement, the closure of a bank on the UC Davis campus, a bank which had literally stamped its brand on students.
A victory, for now by Occupy UC Davis
For the last two months, Occupy UC Davis had been blockading a campus branch of U.S. Bank. Now, in a victory for Occupy that potentially gives birth to a new movement tactic, U.S. Bank has capitulated and permanently closed the branch.
U.S. Bank has been a visible symbol on campus of the corporatization and monied corruption of education in part because, as The Aggie, the UC Davis campus newspaper, explains, “in 2010, all students were required to get new ID cards with the U.S. Bank logo on the back.”
The tactic of the occupiers was simple, nonviolent and highly effective. The Aggie describes the scene: “the blockade became a daily ritual. Protesters — typically numbering around 15 — would arrive around noon, followed by an officer from the campus police department. Thirty minutes later, bank employees would leave and the entire process would be repeated the next day.”
As Occupy UC Davis explains on its website:
The bank blockade was an autonomous action from individuals within Occupy Uc Davis. The blockade of the US Bank is part of a history of the student struggle against the privatization of public universities and international austerity. Days like November 18th may become infamous in the public eye, but the blockade of the US Bank was a real battle against the privatization agenda, and its closure is a victory. Every step away from capital in our education is a step toward freedom.
Some background from Richard Change of The Aggie:
U.S. Bank arrived in September 2010 after Student Affairs explored the idea of welcoming a bank on campus as an alternate source of funding. After surveying the campus, many students and faculty expressed interest in having a bank on campus. The 10-year agreement was expected to generate $3 million for the university. The campus received $167,000 last year to go toward student activities, on top of the $8,000 in rent paid each month.
Bank officials have said that they were upset with the university’s handling of the situation. At one point, the bank hired private security guards to stand watch outside, but they were recalled after the university intervened.
The final tipping point came in a March 1 letter notifying UC officials of the bank’s intent to terminate the agreement. In the letter, Senior Vice President of U.S. Bank Daniel Hoke called the situation “intolerable,” noting the bank had been “constructively evicted” and that its employees were “effectively imprisoned.”
The bank has already announced its intention to sue the university to recoup its losses.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Aggressive law enforcement
While the bank is preparing to sue, the Yolo County District Attorney is preparing to prosecute, pushed by the UC Davis Police Department.
From Corey Golden of the Davis Enterprise, who notes that a segment of NBC’s Dateline
revealed that campus police had referred six cases to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. UCD is recommending that the protesters be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of obstructing free movement of people in a public place or interfering with a lawful business.
The DA’s Office told Dateline it planned to decide whether to file charges by Monday or Tuesday. Wildanger said he knew of no protesters being arrested.
For them, the bank branch symbolized at once the greed of big banks — which kept profiting while families lost their homes and students struggled to pay back loans — and UC becoming less of a public good, Wildanger said.
Some may be upset that UCD could lose money from the bank deal. Their thinking is short-sighted, he said.
“They want to auction off the university, bit by bit, to the highest bidder,” [Occupy activist and UCD grad student] Geoffrey Wildanger said. “That’s a trend that cannot be allowed to continue, unless their ultimate goal is for UC Davis to be a public-private partnership.”
Meanwhile, here in Berkeley, prosecutions begin
And with the prosecutions comes a new strategy in law enforcement aimed at both campus protesters and Occupy activists, an ominous sign of further repression to come.
From Susie Cagle of The Guardian:
Authorities in California’s Alameda County call it “smarter policing”, but critics say new legal approaches meant to curb Occupy protesters are infringing on first amendment rights.
Over the past two months, the Alameda County district attorney’s office has issued temporary restraining orders, or “stay-aways”, to more than 30 protesters charged with misdemeanor and felony behavior at Occupy demonstrations in Oakland and at the University of California at Berkeley. More are reportedly on the way.
While awaiting trial, protesters issued these orders are banned from setting foot within 100 to 300 yards of City Hall Plaza. Occupy Cal protesters are banned from any University of California property both in the city of Berkeley as well as throughout the rest of the state, with a narrow exception for “official business”, such as attending classes. The orders are temporary in name, but have so far been open-ended and indefinite.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Michael Risher, who filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of four Occupy Oakland protesters, said the stay-away orders place a restraint on protesters who have not been convicted of any crime.
Campus cops train with Bahrain
The 9 November police action on the Berkeley campus was conducted by officers trained under the federal Urban Shield program, a creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Among those who trained UC Berkeley’s finest [sic] were uniformed thugs from the Israeli Special Police Force, Jordanian Special Police Force, and the Kingdom of Bahrain National Police — all departments with considerable expertise of violent repression of dissidence.
For an excellent — and chilling — overview of Homeland Security’s central role in repressing campus and Occupy protests see Michael Gould-Wartofsky’s “Repress U, Class of 2012; Seven Steps to a Homeland Security Campus,” posted at TomDispatch.
Police probe clears the police
As for the University of California Berkeley Police action, the official law enforcement investigation, conducted by the clearly unbiased Jess Young, chief of UCPD at UC Los Angeles, has given the department a passing grade on their use of force.
The full document is posted online here.
Here’s the key excerpt:
Generally speaking, the University of California, Berkeley Police Department acted within the provisions of its policies and procedures in responding to the actions of demonstrators at the November 9, 2011 event. The images captured on Internet broadcasts and police videographers were indeed graphic and hard to watch. Additionally, many of the nighttime videos were poor in quality and distorted by flashes of light. However, the videos that I reviewed did not confirm any allegations of excessive uses of force on the part of UCPD personnel. The crowd control techniques used, specifically the use of baton strikes and jabs, were within current UCPD policies. The protestors can be seen with interlocked arms, tensing their muscle (granted, a natural reaction to a baton strike), grabbing at officers’ batons and moving to block officers from going around the crowd. By definitions previously discussed, these actions are active resistance. The videos viewed do not show any intentional baton blows to prohibited parts of the protestors’ body. For the most part, officers appear to use a jabbing motion. In some cases, the protestors are grabbing the batons and officers are using retention techniques. In some instances, protestors and witnesses allege they were purposely struck in prohibited areas of their body. To this point, videos that support these allegations have not surfaced. Shouts from the crowd, such as “hold the line”, make it clear that they do not intend to comply with officers’ orders or willingly leave the area of the tents.
The report also condemns the blanket amnesty bestowed by the campus administration on students involved in the protest:
The issuing of blanket amnesty for protestors that violate campus rules or the Student Code of Conduct was premature and reduces the effectiveness of Judicial Affairs.
Blanket amnesties, like blanket condemnations, eliminate consequences for those who truly deserve some form of accountability for their actions. They also take away an excellent opportunity to have open and informative discussions about how events unfolded, what could have been done to reduce tensions and take this knowledge forward in planning future events. Indignation about the type of police action taken does not change the fact that the police were responding to resistance to their lawful orders or taking action to stop criminal acts or quell civil disobedience. The situation had been deemed unsafe and disruptive for the community. Where Student Code of Conduct violations are involved, Student Affairs needs to be allowed to do its job. Through this process, Student Affairs can make its inquiries and take action for both the good of the campus environment and individualized for the students involved. This cannot be done when they have been precluded from taking any action, even with repeat offenders.
H/T to the Daily Californian.
Amnesty, schamnesty, says the District Attorney
While the campus granted amnesty, the Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley didn’t, filing criminal charges against Professor Celeste Langan, whose hair resisted being pulled out by its roots after one eager crop grabbed it and used it to throw her to the ground.
Also charged were eleven students and Yvette Felarca, a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and organizer for By Any Means Necessary [BAMN]. All of the defendants were served with stay-away orders barring their presence on campus except when they’re there to conduct “lawful business” [presumably, attending or teaching classes — though some of the defendants live in buildings on campus property].
The UC Berkeley Faculty Association quickly responded with a condemnation of the arrests:
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.
More condemnations of the arrests
Linda Lye, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, denounced the DA’s actions:
Confidence in the University was deeply shaken after it chose to respond to peaceful student protesters on November 9 with baton-wielding police clad in riot gear. The current criminal prosecutions serve only to further undermine confidence by raising questions of whether the University singled out active leaders and requested that the District Attorney select them for prosecution, and whether the University, rather than taking steps to protect witnesses cooperating with its investigations or patients seeking medical treatment, instead exposed them or otherwise made them vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
Another blast came from Berkeley City Councilmember Kris Worthington, who plans to introduce a motion condemning the prosecutions during the 3 April City Council meeting:
I am extremely disappointed that the UC Police Department has chosen to present cases to the DA against people who participated in the Nov. 9, 2011 non-violent protest. This police behavior adds insult to injury to the inappropriate actions by UCPD on the day of the protest. It is imperative that we organize widespread opposition to the prosecution and persecution of these participants in a non-violent protest.
Three of the students have responded in a lengthy essay posted at UC Chilling Effects, a website focused on the events of 9 November:
How the DA decided that we should face charges is not fully clear–although it is evident that they are bringing charges on the basis of recommendations received from UCPD, despite Chancellor Birgeneau’s protestations to the contrary. As UCPD spokesperson Lt. Tejada recently said,”We make our case, and the district attorney reviews the evidence, and if they feel they have enough evidence they will move forward.” Furthermore recent reports suggest that even campus health services had a hand in the selection and identification of protestors. Hundreds of people were on hand the afternoon of November 9. Even more were present on Sproul Plaza when police returned in the evening to again attack students and confiscate their tents, bringing out a crowd of at least 2000. Nearly ten thousand supporters joined in a student strike at UC Berkeley a week later in response to the appalling actions of police. Why are only 13 out of these thousands being charged? Is it a coincidence that some of those targeted are highly visible organizers at UC Berkeley? Is the UC Berkeley administration outsourcing the criminalization of dissent to the Alameda County District Attorney, just as the UC Police Department outsourced the brutal repression of dissent on November 9 to the Alameda County Sheriff?
Of course we are not taken aback by the situation in which we find ourselves. For months now, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has been vindictively harassing anyone they suspect of taking part in the Occupy movement. Most recently the DA has started slapping stay-away orders on almost any activist brought before the court with ties to Occupy Oakland. This attempt to smother dissent through judicial means is simply a less spectacular (and far less bloody) approach than the hard-fisted tactics employed by their law enforcement brethren.
Another plea to withdraw the arrests comes from the UC Irvine Faculty Association:
In support of the Berkeley Faculty Association, the Irvine Faculty Association calls upon UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to request specifically that the Alameda County District Attorney’s office drop charges it has filed against at least 8 people (students, faculty, and a coordinator for BAMN) involved in a campus protest last November 9. As is well known, UCPD beat nonviolent protesters at that gathering. Chancellor Birgeneau’s recent statement (http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/03/14/campus-administration-sends-message-to-da-about-november-protest-charges/) forwards the BFA’s petition in support of protesters and reminds the District Attorney, vaguely, to be mindful of the campus context, instead of stating his own view. It calls for consideration of the petition, rather than endorsing the petition. UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi took a stronger stand following the pepper-spraying of protesters on her campus, having “asked Acting UC Davis Police Chief Matt Carmichael to work with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to drop all criminal charges against the several individuals — at least nine of them students — who were arrested that day” (http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10087&hp=1). Clearly, it is open to Chancellor Birgeneau to do the same. His failure to do so is inconsistent with the statement he issued thirteen days after the beatings, in which he “sincerely apologize[s] for the events of November 9″ and “take[s] full responsibility for these events.” Birgeneau’s decision to grant amnesty under the Student Code of Conduct to November 9 student protesters is not meaningful if at the same time he fails to request that their criminal charges be dropped. In concern for the University’s failure to support freedom of speech and political dissent, and in support of the BFA’s efforts to secure these rights for the UC community, we call on Chancellor Birgeneau to rectify this situation.”
Irvine Faculty Association Executive Board
So where’s it all headed?
Under the administration of Hope™ and Change™, American law enforcement has openly allied with some of the world’s most repressive law enforcement agencies in its desperate efforts to control what they obviously perceive as widening public fury with an increasingly inequitable economic system.
One has to wonder whether the new tactic of issuing stay-away orders is being coordinated from the top. Attorney General Eric Holder has revealed himself as a leading proponent of the national security state, radically expanding the powers of the National Security Agency and other machinery of the state to control and contain an increasingly restless populace.
Though Berkeley can hardly be considered as a bastion of radical activism these days, the administration of departing Chancellor Robert “Grinnin’ Bob” Birgeneau has not qualms about sending its officers to train with police from infamously repressive regimes, and he has embraced the corporatization of the campus.
Perhaps the most notorious example under his regime was the demolition of Earl Warren Jr. Hall and its replacement by Li Ka Shing Hall, named for the richest man in Asia. http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/10/21/campus-dedicates-li-ka-shing-center-for-biomedical-and-health-sciences-philanthropist-receives-berkeley-medal/
As we noted repeatedly in our stories for the Berkeley Daily Planet:
Demolition of Earl Warren Jr. Hall removes from the campus map the name of the Supreme Court Chief Justice whose tenure saw a revolution in the nation’s laws governing race and civil liberties.
Warren, a California native who had served as Alameda County District Attorney and California Attorney General before his elevation to the high court by President Dwight Eisenhower, presided over the court from 1953 to 1969.
Only after we wrote repeatedly about the irony of demolishing a building honoring perhaps the university’s most illustrious graduate did the school opt to rebrand another already existing building, this one off-campus, after the Cal graduate who ushered in the legal of era of civil rights and protections for those faced with criminal prosecutions — protections now being slowly erased by his successors on the bench.
In a final irony, the rebranded building houses the offices of the campus office of Information Services and Technology.
Though Earl Warren was the author of one of America’s gravest injustices, the incarceration of Japanese citizens after the start of World War II, he went on to radically reform American law, expanding the rights of citizens confronted by the full weight of the law.
We wonder how that Cal graduate would see the new repressions being carried out on the campus of his alma mater?