You guys needed to put out some more riot police to brutalize some college kids? These are Cal students, AKA some of the smartest people there are, so you’re not gonna get away with the same excuse you used in Oakland (an excuse that none of us buy, btw) and say they were just “some thugs."
And that friend of mine you beat? Yeah, he’s not only an honor student at Cal, he’s also a veteran. So think about it, police of the Bay Area, this is the 3rd veteran you’ve attacked. Are you really ready for more negative publicity?
Because you may think everyone is distracted by the shitshow posing as a GOP Presidential debate, but the world is watching and the world is fucking pissed.
On Tuesday, you sent a message to students informing us that we would not be allowed to set up encampments or occupy campus buildings. You quoted a passage from the student code of conduct that prohibits “[a]ny activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to conduct regular activities—go to class, study, carry out their research etc.” In this same message, you claimed that UC Berkeley shares “many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement” and aims to provide “a model of the right to free speech, assembly and activism.”
We could not agree with you more: UC Berkeley does share the principles of the OWS movement. In fact, we were instrumental in sparking the wave of occupations—yes, occupations—that is now sweeping the globe. Recall November 20th, 2009: the students who occupied Wheeler Hall that day were not fringe radicals or outsiders, they were students who cared so deeply about the university that they were willing to be dragged away in handcuffs for it. They spoke for all of us, and now we are answering back. The model of activism you refer to: it’s us. We’re all occupiers now. Don’t patronize us, then, by telling us how we ought to behave. Time and again, our protests have been met with batons and guns and admin-speak about “protecting us” and obeying the “limits of protest.” After three years of brutality, we now know exactly who is being protected, and from what.
Yesterday, the police force you sent to disperse us beat and maimed several dozen students, faculty, and staff. When UCPD requested reciprocal aid, they were reinforced by OPD and the Alameda County Sheriffs Department—the same officers who shot a young Iraq veteran in the head with a tear-gas canister last week at Occupy Oakland, in violation of their own rules of engagement. He still has not regained the ability to speak. This is how you would protect us: with blood and fear. We are appalled, but not surprised, that your police beat an English Department graduate student so badly yesterday that he was rushed into urgent care. This is how you would uphold the legacy of the free speech movement. Let us remind you: we are the free speech movement. We are speaking, and you are beating us to the ground.
About the “regular activities” of students at UC Berkeley: we do not agree that these activities can be limited to going to class, studying, and doing research. First, because this school is the center of our lives, which are richer and more meaningful than is allowed for by the student code of conduct. Second, because there can be no “regular activity” in a time of crisis. We are not blind to the world; we know that it is falling apart, torn to shreds by the profit-hungry elite of the the 1%. We know that you have been tasked with operating the university in crisis mode; we know this means ensuring that the 1% do not lose their financial stake in the university and its affiliate industries—the student loan racket, for example. We see right through you. It is you, on the other hand, who mistake our purposes: when we occupy buildings and set up encampments, these are our regular activities. The only people interfering with the business of the university are the police; for that, they should be banned from campus permanently and immediately.
You describe UC Berkeley as “a place where the best and brightest youth, staff and faculty from all socioeconomic backgrounds work collectively to solve world problems.” We wholeheartedly agree. However, by this definition, it is you who have violated the code of conduct; you are the ones who should be driven out of Sproul Plaza, not us. Make no mistake: there can be no “regular activity” when a militarized police force is allowed to brutalize students with impunity, nor can there be any peace so long as you remain at the helm of the university. Take a lesson from history (Egypt, for example) and step down now.
Students in the University of California, Berkeley
Wednesday night, two universities saw student demonstrations that spiraled into violence. On the campus of Penn State University, several hundred students rioted in anger after the firing of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. At the University of California at Berkeley, 1,000 students, part of the Occupy USA movement, attempted to maintain their protest encampment in the face of police orders to clear them out.
The difference is that at Berkeley, the Occupiers—a diverse assemblage of students, linking arms—pushed back and displayed true courage in the face of state violence. At Penn State, the almost entirely male student mob was given the space by police, raising their fists in defense of a man fired for allegedly covering up the actions of a serial child molester, according to The Nation.
November 9 was a generational wake-up call to every student on every campus in this country. Which side are you on?
Although we are “rivals” with Cal students, we are one where it matters — in an interest to create a more just and equitable world than the one we inherited. To that end, we stand in solidarity with students at UC Berkeley, who have continued the legacy of the student movement of the 1960s and the spirit of the nationwide Occupy protests in the formation of Occupy Cal.
We are dismayed that the conviction, courage and intellectual inquiry shown by the Cal students was met with patronizing brutality when it was these qualities that garnered their admission in the first place. We find it hard to fathom that students who care so passionately about current economic inequality, the state of affairs at their University and the world beyond their campus are not lauded for their audacity and yearnings for social justice, but are instead met with police batons and cold indifference from the university’s governing body. What is the purpose of collegiate education if not to allow students the intellectual freedom and agency to critique the world as it is and articulate a vision for the world as it should be?
The Occupy Cal movement is not seeking to encamp for encampment’s sake but to raise awareness around the fact that their tuition has the potential to rise 81 percent over the next 4 years, pending a vote by the UC Board of Regents. This fact becomes even more troubling when 25 percent of all Cal students are first-generation college going, and about 64 percent receive financial aid. Education and equity are tantamount to the future of our country, and we cannot stand idly by while UC Berkeley administrators, UCPD, and state legislators threaten the realization of said principles.
We encourage Cal students to continue to exercise their constitutional right of expression, whether it be in the Occupy movement, in inquiry inside the classroom or in whatever professions they choose in the future. In the same vein, we encourage Stanford students and students at universities throughout the country to exercise their rights and privilege to question the status quo, especially in regards to persistent inequality in a myriad of institutions. Because the future is actively created in the present, it is imperative that we fight not only for social justice but for a future worth inhabiting.