Poet writes about Occupy Cal, protesters plan next steps

Robert Hass: the Cal professor joined Occupy Cal protesters on campus recently and was beaten by police. Photo: Copyright 2005 Margaretta K. Mitchell

Robert Hass, professor of poetry and poetics at UC Berkeley, attended Occupy Cal this month and wrote about his experience in an op-ed piece for the New York Times on Sunday titled “Poet-Bashing Police”.

He decided to go on campus with his wife, Brenda Hillman, after hearing about police beating protesters with truncheons in order gain access to, and dismantle, tents that had been declared unauthorized by the Cal administration.

“I wanted to see what was going to happen and how the police behaved, and how the students behaved. If there was trouble, we wanted to be there to do what we could to protect the students,” he writes.

As we reported on November 14th, the former poet laureate ended up being hit by police and his wife was knocked to the ground. The experience, he writes, got him thinking that “life is full of strange contingencies.” Read the full column in the New York Times.

Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday November 19th. Photo: Tracey Taylor

On Friday, two representatives from the Occupy Cal general assembly, along with campus Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab, met with a senior campus administrator to discuss the demands and decisions of the movement, according to the Daily Californian.

On Saturday afternoon, Sproul Plaza was almost deserted. An installation of signs and rocks had been left on show and a young man played guitar for a couple of friends. The display of “book-tents” which captured the imagination of our readers with its symbolism was no more — a few wet, dog-eared books remained on the Sproul steps.

But on Sunday night, an Occupy Cal group was finalizing details for a campus-wide sleep-out for Monday night on Sproul Plaza. It is being held partly to show solidarity with Occupy UC Davis which is also planning a large rally on its campus tomorrow.

After Oakland eviction, the Occupy focus shifts to Berkeley [11.14.11]
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]

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  • Todslone

    Poets Agrandizing Poets

    Robert Hass paints a rather glowing portrait of himself in his NY Times article, “Poet-Bashing Police,”
    regarding the spread of the Occupy movement to the University of California, Berkeley.  But he is a ladder-climbing poet, certainly
    not a truth-telling poet.  After all, how
    can one possibly be the latter and end up poet laureate of the US Library of
    Congress or chancellor of the Academy of American Poets or tenured professor of
    poetry at Berkeley?  Clearly, to become
    those things one must be particularly adept at turning a blind eye, as opposed
    to particularly courageous at speaking rude truths.   


    his article, Hass mentions the Free Speech Movement back in the 60s at Berkeley,
    as if somehow mere mention of that event  rubs off positively on him.  Yet, he is an established-order poet and
    academic.  AND the established-order
    poetry and academic machine clearly detests free speech and free expression,
    especially when such freedom might expose the intrinsic corruption of that machine
    and/or endanger its funding.


    proved apathetic when I contacted him several years ago regarding the Academy
    of American Poets censorship of my comments and banning me, a poet, from
    participating in its forums.  His
    response was a deafening and unsurprising silence.  It has been my experience that carrot-eating
    academics prefer silence when confronted with uncomfortable truths, as in
    censorship and banning in their midst and by their colleagues and friends.  Hass doesn’t give a damn that National Poetry
    Week refuses to list the poetry journal I publish with other such journals
    listed.  He doesn’t give a damn that
    state cultural councils are run by free-speech scorning apparatchiks who favor
    famous poets over truth-speaking poets. 
    Indeed, would he be at all upset to learn that the NEA refuses to accord
    me grants and provide a reason other than “low” and “poor”? 


    doesn’t give a damn that PEN refuses to respond to my free-speech
    grievances.  He doesn’t give a damn that
    the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom refuses to
    respond to my objection regarding the banning of my poetry periodical  by several public libraries. 


    Hass condones the PC free-speech-restricting codes in place at the University
    of California, since he does nothing to fight them.  Perhaps he helped enact them?  Yes, tell us about the Free Speech Movement,
    Professor Hass! 


    what the professor-poet egregiously, if not incredulously, though quite
    unsurprisingly, fails to mention in his article is any reference whatsoever to
    the fat hand that feeds him, that is, to  the university administrators who evidently
    must have requested police presence in the first place.  It is my humble opinion that famous actors,
    musicians, politicians, wealthy writers like Cornell West and wealthy poets
    like Hass ought to keep their mouths shut regarding any of the Occupy
    movements.  When they seek to participate
    in them or opine favorably about them, they end up robbing the very credibility
    of those movements.  When they do enter
    into the fray, how can one not perceive the hypocrisy of spread the wealth,
    yeah, but not mine!  So, how not to feel
    a bit of joy knowing that Hass had his ass kicked on campus?  And how not to wonder if his wife is
    nuts?  Who else but a fruitloop would be lecturing
    cops they should be at home reading to their children?  Maybe she should be lecturing her husband and
    other poets of the machine to go home to study the First Amendment.  In both cases, however, she’d still be
    talking to the wind.

    Tod Slone, Ed.

    American Dissident

    Commerce Rd.

    MA 02630



    Tod Slone, Ed.

    American Dissident

    Commerce Rd.

    MA 02630



  • Dan Brekke

    And be sure to read Tod Slone’s other work, under the title “Oil of Vitriol,” on an interweb near you. I’m not kidding.  

  • Joshua

    It seems someone woke up on the cranky side of the bed. 

  • Kdhunter1

    You may have some points, but you really need to learn how to get to them before people stop reading what you wrote.  This may be difficult for your to hear, given your vehemence, but the length, vitriol and ironically self serving nature of your harangue obscure your points, valid as they might be.

  • Completely Serious

    “What do you want to do today, dear?”
    “I don’t have any plans.  You?”
    “Well, I heard the cops are beating people up with truncheons over at Sproul”
    “I’ll get my coat, you start the car!”

  • Bill

    “Edited by a moderator?”  Goodness, I wonder what the unedited version said and how long it was.  Maybe there are some good points but slogging through all of the verbiage made it a really a difficult read It needed MORE editing 

  • I’m so relieved to come to the end of this rant and discover that Tod Slone lives on the other side of the country. Berkeley has enough crazies.

  • EBGuy

    From the NY Times op-ed:
    “I won’t recite the statistics, but the entire university system in
    California is under great stress…”
    Gross salary of Robert Hass per ucpay(dot)globl(dot)org $204,900.00

  • Charles_Siegel

    So how much do NFL football stars earn?  Hass is just as much of a star,

    If UC didn’t pay him him this much, some other university would, and it would be another step in the decline of UC.  They could also pay physicists a low enough salary that they will never have a Nobel laureate in physics again.

  • EBGuy

    I believe this is the same type of argument used by executive compensation committees.  Perhaps a more appropriate question during these trying times is how much do NBA stars earn?

  • J.pop

    I couldn’t agree more. People who don’t truly support freedom of speech shouldn’t be able to discuss them!