FREE SPEECH IS ON TRIAL at the home of the Free Speech Movement, the University of California at Berkeley. On November 9, 2011, the burgeoning Occupy movement spread to the university campuses, when thousands of UC-Berkeley students rallied to fight fee hikes and the privatization of public education, and hundreds attempted to erect tents. UC Berkeley police, in concert with other local police agencies, brutalized protesters, yanking women by their hair and savagely beating people on the frontlines with their batons.
Six hours later, police repeated the attack on protesters even more viciously. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was caught in email exchanges ordering the police attacks. Videos of the extraordinary events on Nov. 9 were aired on youtube and livestream, and went viral. The courageous people on the front lines November 9 inspired students across the state and country to renew the struggle to defend public education, and similar protests spread to college campuses around the state and nation.
Yvette Felarca and other protesters brutalized Nov. 9, 2011.
Yet despite the positive mark the November 9 heroes have left on history, and despite the chorus of condemnation against the UCB administration by students, community, and faculty that led to the resignation announcement of UC-Berkeley’s chancellor, the UC Regents and outgoing Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s administration is pursuing a political witchhunt via the District Attorney’s office against leaders of the protest to charge protesters with criminal charges.
The police and administration trolled local hospitals and UC Berkeley’s own health center to obtain the medical records of students and protesters who sought medical treatment from injuries the police inflicted on them.
The administration and police have now imposed extraordinary bans that prohibit protesters from setting foot within 100 yards from any UC property except to attend class or carry out work related duties—prohibiting core student activities such as going to the library, and politically censoring students’ and activists’ participation in meetings and protest rallies.
Yvette Felarca slams the political witch-hunt after being banned from campus.
Of the thirteen people facing criminal charges, only four were arrested November 9. All were targeted because they were leaders of the movement and were brutalized that day. The political forces behind the political witchhunt seek to use the home of the Free Speech Movement to set the precedent nationally that speaking out for public education means getting beaten, prosecuted, and having your free speech rights trampled.
Yvette Felarca, National Organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), is one of the 13 protesters who is now facing criminal charges for protesting on Nov. 9. She was one of the frontline protesters who was brutalized by police on Nov. 9. Her beating was aired in the YouTube video that went viral, and Steven Colbert of “The Colbert Report” referred to her as “the small Asian girl.”
She is a prominent leader in the movement to defend public education and double minority enrollment at Cal, and she has been charged with two misdemeanors and was issued an injunction from going onto UC property. In response to the recent charges and injunctions, Ms. Felarca said, “This entire witchhunt is the face of privatization at the University of California. The administration and police are trying to cover-up for their own crimes.”
These charges are a wholesale scandal. They are an attack on the movement and the power we have built. The UCB administration can end the prosecutions today by withdrawing the complaints that UCPD has made against protesters. They are pursuing these charges because they are committed to the disastrous policy of privatizing higher education. The growing privatization of UC-Berkeley has led directly to this attack on free speech.
Defend the twin democratic legacies of free speech and public education. Support the campaign to demand that the UC administration Stop the Witchhunt of the Berkeley 13 today.
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