Three UC Berkeley students and one professor have been charged with resisting arrest and other charges in connection with their participation in a Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest.
Professor Celeste Langan, who became well-known after a video was posted on You Tube showing a UC Berkeley police officer grabbing her hair and yanking her to the ground, has been charged with resisting arrest and remaining on the scene of a riot, according to Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick.
Ricardo Gomez, Zakary Habash and Ramon Quintero have also been charged with resisting arrest and some other misdemeanors, said Drenick.
Langan, a professor of English, is scheduled to be arraigned on March 16 and the others are scheduled to be arraigned on March 21.
The charges stem from a Nov. 9 confrontation between thousands of students, faculty and staff and UC Police and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies. A group of Occupy Cal activists set up a tent encampment in Sproul Plaza in violation of university policy. As police attempted to dismantle the encampment, dozens of protestors linked arms and formed a barrier between police and those camping. Police used their batons to prod and poke the demonstrators. They arrested 39 people, most of whom were students.
Videos of the confrontation went viral, sparking criticism of the way the university handled the situation. UC Police have defended their actions, and even wrote an open letter to the community.
Facing withering criticism, UC Chancellor Robert Birgenau announced the university would not prosecute protesters under the Student Code of Conduct. Cal has used the code in the past to punish students for sitting in at various buildings around campus.
While the indictments are the first among protesters at Occupy Cal, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has filed a number of cases against protestors at Occupy Oakland.
“Each and every case was reviewed on its individual merits,” Drenick said.
UC Berkeley’s Police Review Board is looking into police actions at the Nov. 9 protests. The board reviewed videos at a hearing earlier this week that showed police using batons to poke and prod protestors.
UC police have also asked police officials from UCLA to look at how the protest was handled.
A group of students has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the university.
Langan wrote an essay on why she participated in the protest and why she got arrested:
I participated in the Occupy Cal rally on Sproul Plaza on November 9 (my sign, “We’re Afraid for Virginia Woolf,” made it to the Daily Cal’s top 10) and stayed for the general assembly. The organizers of Occupy Cal asked those who were willing to stay and link arms to protect those who were attempting to set up the encampment; I chose to do so. I knew, both before and after the police gave orders to disperse, that I was engaged in an act of civil disobedience. I want to stress both of those words: I knew I would be disobeying the police order, and therefore subject to arrest; I also understood that simply standing, occupying ground, and linking arms with others who were similarly standing, was a form of non-violent, hence civil, resistance. I therefore anticipated that the police might arrest us, but in a similarly non-violent manner. When the student in front of me was forcibly removed, I held out my wrist and said “Arrest me! Arrest me!” But rather than take my wrist or arm, the police grabbed me by my hair and yanked me forward to the ground, where I was told to lie on my stomach and was handcuffed…
Continue reading Langan’s essay here.
Cal police hit back on protest violence with open letter [11.28.11]
Chancellor Birgeneau apologizes for Occupy Cal police response [11.22.11]
Poet writes about Occupy Cal, protesters plan next steps [11.21.11]
Councilmember’s open letter re. police force on campus [11.12.11]
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]