Council member’s open letter re: police force on campus

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington

The following is an open letter released today by Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington (District 7):

An Open Letter To the Berkeley and University Community and Friends of Nonviolence Everywhere,

The U.C. Police Department recently used violence against Berkeley students, workers, faculty and community supporters on November 9. This was unprovoked, unexpected, unjustified and unreasonable.  The General Assembly at the event had publicly and clearly committed to nonviolence, and the participants appear to have maintained their nonviolence despite the violence inflicted on them.  The police clearly could have arrested individuals rather than repeatedly hitting them with batons and grabbing them by their hair. There are multiple videos documenting the police use of excessive force. The Stephen Colbert commentary mentions “spearing a small Asian girl in the spleen first” but there appeared to be a true reflection of diversity in Black, White, Asian, Arab and Latino students and workers equally assaulted by the Police.

I believe it is important for the community to stand up and speak out against this injustice. See suggestions below.  To avoid confusion, the City of Berkeley Police have not been reported to be part of this violence, it is the U.C P.D.


U.C. Police also appear to have violated multiple people’s legitimate rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. There are reports of U.C. Police tearing down legally posted notices of the event. U.C. Police also confiscated at least one banner and a banner or poster at the event and the U.C. Police Chief declined to answer my questions why.  Instead the U.C. Police Chief’s unprofessional response was “I know what I am doing. I’ve been in law enforcement for twenty-nine years, and how many years have you done it?” From the antagonistic tone of the response I knew this was an overly stressed person, but I counted on the Chancellor to provide leadership,  so I emailed both the Chancellor and the Chief. Unfortunately the Chancellor was apparently out of town and has subsequently sought to justify the U.C. Police violence by blaming the nonviolent protesters. I was personally present for most of the afternoon and evening and saw only one-sided violence by the Police and none by the students. (Admittedly, some of that time, I was on my cell phone addressing blighted buildings, helicopter noise complaints,  returning calls, and taking care of City business, but I still had my eyes and ears out for any problems on Sproul.)

As I stated in my email to the Chancellor before the U.C. Police violence:  “ These students have made a firm commitment to no violence and no vandalism . The University should be commending the thousands of students that are participating.  For many, this could be their very first political protest of their lives. They are protesting specifically for additional financing for the University of California.  The University should support this enthusiasm and help encourage this to be an effective protest that helps the University and our country. “

I believe it is important for the community to stand up and speak out against this injustice. This is a moral issue, not just a political issue. There are multiple ways to help.  These include:

1.      Writing a letter or email to the Chancellor, and/or the media. Chancellor@berkeley.edu
2.      Asking your friends or groups to write letters or sign petitions.
3.      Become an observer to reduce the likelihood of violence when more people are watching.
4.      Donate time or money to support these courageous students, and/or hold a fundraiser/educational event.
5.      Show up on Sproul on Tuesday November 15 starting at noon.  2 p.m. is the rally and 5 p.m. is the General Assembly for the follow up event organizers have titled Open University.
6.      Join those of us who are pledging to put our bodies with, or in between the U.C. Police and the students to discourage U.C. Police from further violence. Please email Alejandro Soto-Vigil if you are willing to make this pledge at asoto-vigil@cityofberkeley.info
7.      Advocate for dropping the trumped up charges against these nonviolent protesters.
8.      Please feel free to contact me if you would like to help, or have any suggestions for what we should do.

Kriss Worthington, Councilmember, Tel: (510) 981-7170 Email: KWorthington@ci.berkeley.ca.us


Update, 11.13.11: Three UC Berkeley faculty members have also written an open letter, addressed to campus administration, condemning the police’s use of violence at Wednesday’s protest, according to the Daily Californian. Since it was released Saturday, the letter has been signed by hundreds of supporters.

Related:
Police use of force at Occupy Cal gets national attention [11.11.11]
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]