Police use of force at Occupy Cal gets national attention

The manner in which the police handled Occupy Cal protesters on Wednesday night has come under scrutiny and attracted attention beyond the boundaries of Berkeley.

Videos taken on the scene (including one published on Berkeleyside on Wednesday) show UCPD and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies in riot gear hitting a line of protesters with batons after they refused to leave an area outside the campus administration building.

In a piece in the Chronicle today, Jim Chanin, a Berkeley attorney who specializes in police misconduct issues, said: “Using a baton to go through a nonviolent crowd is as inappropriate today as it was in the South when they used it to enforce segregation in the 1960s.”

In the same story, UCPD Captain Margo Bennett defended the action, saying: “The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence.”


On his TV show, The Colbert Report, broadcast Thursday night, Stephen Colbert picked up on the incidents on campus and ran a video clip of the police action with accompanying tongue-in-cheek commentary (above).

Also last night on national TV, Cal student and Occupy Cal organizer Marco Amaral appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Speaking about previous police actions, he said: “They’ve hit us in the past. They’ve crushed ribs, they’ve crushed skulls. But, you know what? The most beautiful thing about — about us protesters, and especially in today’s day and age, is that we maintain by a pledge to be peaceful. And that regardless of what it takes — how long it takes — we will win.”

Across the internet, many observers denounced the police action, calling it brutal and unwarranted. One site, Occupy Wall Street, is compiling a list of the names of the police officers who they believe were responsible for the beatings, based on their analysis of video footage.

In an email sent to the Cal community, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said he regretted police had to use force against the students and that the campus’ Police Review Board would determine whether police used excessive force.

On Thursday evening, the Occupy Cal protesters voted to institute a general strike on Tuesday and called on graduate students and faculty, as well as public service workers, to join them.

Related:
Occupy Cal arrests total 40 as protesters plan next moves [11.10.11]
After protests and arrests, calm returns to Cal campus [11.10.11]
Protesters vote to set up Occupy Cal camp at UC Berkeley [11.09.11]
A mom goes to Occupy Oakland with her 7-year-old twins [11.08.11]
Occupy Berkeley consolidates camp, supports Oakland [11.02.11]
About those helicopters: Q&A with KTVU’s news director [10.28.11]
BPD lent support to OPD at Occupy Oakland demonstration [10.26.11]
All quiet at Occupy Berkeley camp at MLK Park [10.26.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]

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