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BAMN responds to UC-Berkeley Police Review Board report

Op-Ed piece to the Daily Californian:

The UC-Berkeley Police Review Board’s (PRB’s) final report about the police violence November 9, 2011 does only one thing definitively — it reveals that BAMN’s assessment of the PRB has been entirely correct. The PRB, as a body appointed by and answering to Chancellor Birgeneau and the police, is an administration creature that should be boycotted now and in the future.

The final PRB report, released only after close consultation with UC-Berkeley Chief Campus Counsel Christopher Patti, was written with its chief concern being how to limit the university’s legal liability. The report does even less than previous PRB reports by finding no particular police actions unreasonable. At points, it even falsely accuses protesters of attacking police.

The report opens by saying it will hold no one responsible: “The report does not focus on the actions of individual police officers, but rather on the police conduct during this protest in general, and on the campus leadership’s management of that conduct.” (Report, p. 1)

In fact, the PRB does not even have the courage to say that women who are doing nothing should not be thrown to the ground by their hair: “Some members of the committee… believe it is effective and creates little risk of permanent injury.” They are “divided” on whether this fits “campus norms.” (Report, p. 21)

Further, the PRB lauds what it calls a “marked change” in administration policy that actually places no concrete restrictions on future repression by the administration.

The PRB report reveals the political function for which university administrations regularly employ such committees in the face of rising student struggle: as a cynical means to try to cover their legal liability and claim they are responding to the movement’s demands while changing nothing.

At a UC-Berkeley meeting following the brutal attack November 9 and preceding the massive November 15 strike, the movement voted for demands for justice to prevent the reoccurrence of violent repression in the future. These demands included: (1) remove Chancellor Birgeneau, Provost George Breslauer, Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande, and UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya, (2) no charges against campus protesters, (3) charge the officers responsible for brutalizing protesters, and (4) no use of force against campus protests.

Rather than through the administration’s Police Review Board, justice has been and only will be secured through the independent mass, militant student and community movement, employing our own methods of telling the truth and taking mass direct action.

The movement has already rendered our verdict, condemning the chancellor, top administrators and the police for their actions November 9, by mobilizing by the thousands that evening and thereafter.

Through our commitment to continue occupations, rallies, marches, and other tactics that assert the right of students and the public to decide the nature of our public campuses and our commitment to hold the real culprits of November 9 accountable, we have forced Chancellor Birgeneau to resign and defeated almost every single criminal charge the administration has pursued against protesters.

But we can win much more.

First, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of thirty people victimized on November 9, demanding $15 million from UC-Berkeley administrators and the police officers for excessive force, false arrest, and retaliatory prosecution. We also intend to win concrete restrictions on the UC-Berkeley administration’s use of force against campus protest.

In our lawsuit, we have no interest, unlike the PRB, in covering up the truth. We have no reason not to state that “peaceful protesters were forcefully jabbed in their chests, stomachs, and groins, clubbed in the face, yanked by their hair, and beaten while lying on the ground. Even after the police destroyed students’ tents, they continued to viciously beat people.”

The movement at UC-Berkeley — by continuing to mobilize and speak out around this lawsuit — can set the precedent that university administrations across the country dare not use police brutality and the legal process to repress the movement to defend public education.

The truth is, so long as UC-Berkeley is becoming increasingly privatized, the administration will continue to direct repression against the student movement. The administration’s repeated repression of students is driven by the conflict between a student movement that demands access to public education and the corporations and millionaires who increasingly fund UC-Berkeley demanding an academically and politically safe campus atmosphere for their investment.

Profit, segregation, and conformity, rather than knowledge, integration, and critical thinking, are the characteristics of privatized education.

The administration’s view is essentially that the rich and powerful on whom they call for funding are the only ones who have a right to determine university policy. This is in marked contrast to the movement’s demands to stop the tuition hikes, double underrepresented minority enrollment and make UC-Berkeley and UCLA into campuses that look like the graduating classes of California’s high schools.

The upcoming debate around selecting the new UC-Berkeley chancellor is sure to reflect this conflict. The movement must demand that the new chancellor be someone who is accountable to our demands, pledges to stop the repression of student actions and free speech, opposes tuition hikes and privatization, and pledges to double underrepresented minority student enrollment.

We need to continue fighting to realize the movement’s substantive aims: defending public education, reversing the fee hikes, cuts, and layoffs, restoring affirmative action, defending immigrant rights, and making UC-Berkeley a sanctuary campus.

Our own independent action — building the power of the new student movement — is our best defense against future attack.

– Ronald Cruz is an attorney with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and represents the 30 protesters suing UC-Berkeley administrators, UCPD, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for their actions at and after the November 9, 2011 protest. He is an alum of Berkeley Law School Class of 2009.

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