Chancellor apologizes for Occupy Cal police response

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued an apology today for police tactics during Occupy Cal protests on November 9 on campus.

In a recording made while en route to spending Thanksgiving with his children and grandchildren on the East Coast, Birgeneau said he took full responsibility for the events that day and would do “his very best to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The manner in which the police handled Occupy Cal protesters on that November night has come under scrutiny and attracted attention.

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

Many students and several faculty members were beaten and, in at least one case, dragged to the ground by the hair. Cal poetry professor Robert Hass wrote about his experience of being injured during the clashes in an op-ed piece for the New York Times on Sunday titled “Poet-Bashing Police”.

Birgeneau’s apology comes one day after Linda Katehi, Chancellor of UC Davis, apologized to thousands of students attending a rally on campus to protest the use of pepper spray by police last Friday.

Later Monday, Mark Yudof, the president of the UC system, held a meeting with chancellors from the 10 UC campuses “and asserted that they must do everything possible to protect the rights of students, faculty and staff to peaceful protest,” according to a statement released by his office.

Twenty Cal students intend to file a lawsuit against UC Berkeley administrators, the UC Police Department, and Alameda County Sheriff’s officers tomorrow demanding compensation for police brutality and false arrest, and the violation of students’ First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.

Birgeneau said he wanted the ongoing review of the Berkeley events on November 9 to be completed as soon as possible. “I pledge to follow up aggressively to implement its recommendations. We will improve our performance.”

Listen to the full audio recording of Birgeneau’s statement on the UC Berkeley News Center website.

Poet writes about Occupy Cal, protesters plan next steps [11.21.11]
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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  • Bruce Love

    En route out of town, eh?  “Phoning it in,” seems to be a theme with this guy.

    The faculty senate will be considering a vote of no confidence on 28 Nov:

    The proposed resolution is reproduced below.

    In other news, what is perhaps the first OWS lawsuit against NYPD was also filed today by a couple who were arrested after closing their accounts at Citibank.   The arresting officer forcibly detained them after he determined that they had been inside the bank while closing their accounts.   Charges were dropped.

    The Cal academic senate agenda:


    I. Business

    Consideration of the following resolution.

    Resolution proposed by: Wendy Brown, Professor, Political Science; Barrie Thorne, Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies/Sociology; Judith Butler, Professor, Rhetoric.*

    Whereas, Non-violent political protest engages fundamental rights of free assembly and free speech, and

    Whereas, November 9th efforts by protestors to set up and remain in a temporary encampment near Sproul Hall constitutes non-violent political protest, and

    Whereas, These non-violent actions were met with a brutal and dangerous police response (see, e.g.,, a response authorized in advance as well as retroactively justified by Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs LeGrand, and

    Whereas, This is the third time in two years that such police violence has been unleashed upon protesters at Berkeley, with resulting bodily injuries to protestors, student and faculty outrage, a series of expensive lawsuits against the university, a tarnished university image, and a severely compromised climate for free expression on campus;

    Therefore be it Resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has lost confidence in the ability of Chancellor Birgeneau, EVC Breslauer and VC LeGrande to respond appropriately to non-violent campus protests, to secure student welfare amidst these protests, to minimize the deployment of force and to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus.

    II. Other matters authorized by unanimous consent of the voting members present

    * Corrected November 18, 2011.

  • Anonymous

    What tepid and disengaged response or more accurately faint hearted and ‘fleeting damage control’.  A real administrator, male or female, would have put the chief of police on suspension along with the officers involved and brought in the FBI and more to go over this in detail.  In the meantime, just sue them and then sue them again *very* hard at the Federal level and local civil courts.  What a deep disappointment and yet a very predictable one.  Out of town indeed!   ‘Off the planet’ might be more appropriate.   

  • What do you expect him to do, Tom? Do you have any proof that he’s lying about his whereabouts? Did it give you pause at all that the Academic Senate decided to be intellectually dishonest and imply that the erecting of a tent encampment on campus – which is what started all this – is somehow protected by the First Amendment?

  • libraterian

    Serious people throughout the world know protest is a dangerous game. Who can see police in riot gear and not expect a riot? This poor Canadian is a perfect foil for those who would sanitize the process.