Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Speak At Berkeley


The incident depicted in the video above was one of several incidents of police brutality associated with the occupation of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley in November of 2009. Most of the officers involved in this incident appear to be Alameda County Sheriff's Deputies. There were similar incidents at many campuses of the University of California during the fall and winter of 2009 and 2010. To say they foreshadowed what was to come in 2011 is putting it mildly.

By now news must have spread around the world that the UC Berkeley Police Officers Association, the union representing 60+ UC Berkeley Police Officers, has "officially" responded to the outrage of campus students and (some) administration and faculty at the gross brutality of the UC Police on and after the events in and around Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley on November 9, 2011.

They have come up with an Open Letter, which I feel free to reproduce here:

An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Students, Faculty, Administration & Regents from the UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association

It is our hope that this letter will help open the door to a better understanding between UC Berkeley police and the University community.

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, representing approximately 64 campus police officers, understands your frustration over massive tuition hikes and budget cuts, and we fully support your right to peacefully protest to bring about change.

It was not our decision to engage campus protesters on November 9th. We are now faced with “managing” the results of years of poor budget planning. Please know we are not your enemy.

A video clip gone viral does not depict the full story or the facts leading up to an actual incident. Multiple dispersal requests were given in the days and hours before the tent removal operation. Not caught on most videos were scenes of protesters hitting, pushing, grabbing officers’ batons, fighting back with backpacks and skateboards.

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association supports a full investigation of the events that took place on November 9th, as well as a full review of University policing policies. That being said, we do not abrogate responsibility for the events on November 9th.

UC Berkeley police officers want to better serve students and faculty members and we welcome ideas for how we can have a better discourse to avoid future confrontations. We are open to all suggestions on ways we can improve our ability to better protect and serve the UC Berkeley community.

As your campus police, we also have safety concerns that we ask you to consider.

Society has changed significantly since 1964 when peaceful UC Berkeley student protesters organized a 10-hour sit-in in Sproul Hall and 10,000 students held a police car at bay – spawning change and the birth of our nation’s Free Speech Movement.

However proud we can all be of UC Berkeley’s contribution to free speech in America, no one can deny this: Our society in 2011 has become an extremely more violent place to live and to protect. No one understands the effects of this violence more than those of us in law enforcement.

Disgruntled citizens in this day and age express their frustrations in far more violent ways – with knives, with guns and sometimes by killing innocent bystanders. Peaceful protests can, in an instant, turn into violent rioting, ending in destruction of property or worse – the loss of lives. Police officers and innocent citizens everywhere are being injured, and in some instances, killed.

In the back of every police officer’s mind is this: How can I control this incident so it does not escalate into a seriously violent, potentially life-threatening event for all involved?

While students were calling the protest “non-violent,” the events on November 9th were anything but nonviolent. In previous student Occupy protests, protesters hit police officers with chairs, bricks, spitting, and using homemade plywood shields as weapons – with documented injuries to officers.

At a moment’s notice, the November 9th protest at UC Berkeley could have turned even more violent than it did, much like the Occupy protests in neighboring Oakland.

Please understand that by no means are we interested in making excuses. We are only hoping that you will understand and consider the frustrations we experience daily as public safety officers sworn to uphold the law. It is our job to keep protests from escalating into violent events where lives could be endangered.

We sincerely ask for your help in doing this.

Like you, we have been victims to budget cuts that affect our children and our families in real ways. We, too, hold on to the dream of being able to afford to send our children and grandchildren to a four-year university. Like you, we understand and fully support the need for change and a redirection of priorities.

To students and faculty: As 10,000 students surrounded a police car on campus in 1964, protesters passed the hat to help pay for repairs to the police car as a show of respect. Please peacefully respect the rules we are required to enforce – for all our safety and protection. Please respect the requests of our officers as we try to do our jobs.

To the University Administration and Regents: Please don’t ask us to enforce your policies then refuse to stand by us when we do. Your students, your faculty and your police – we need you to provide real leadership.

We openly and honestly ask the UC Berkeley community for the opportunity to move forward together, peacefully and without further incident – in better understanding of one another. Thank you for listening.


What. A. Crock.

But this is exactly the kind of nonsense that gets produced by police departments all over the country and by the military of this great nation. Every. Single. Day.

It's an art form. It's a science. It's... a lie.

And Official Lies like this are part of the reason why there is a revolt-turning-into-revolution going on by necessity.

For years, Americans have been routinely subjected to Official Lies like this. At first they were greeted with a sort of stunned silence. "This can't be happening." Then it was outrage. "This can't STILL be happening!" Then it was indifference. "There they go again." And now I think we're getting back close to outrage.

This open letter is one of the more provocative products of the genre, however, so let's explore its New Speak for a while:



It is our hope that this letter will help open the door to a better understanding between UC Berkeley police and the University community.

We understand, of course, that UC Berkeley police and the University community are separate entities altogether, don't we? After reading that introduction, we should understand it. OK?

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, representing approximately 64 campus police officers, understands your frustration over massive tuition hikes and budget cuts, and we fully support your right to peacefully protest to bring about change.

Actually the argument with the UC Berkeley (and other UC) Police is not over tuition hikes and budget cuts; it is over their consistent employment of gross acts of brutality against students, faculty and staff who dare to use their supposed "right of peaceful protest."

It was not our decision to engage campus protesters on November 9th. We are now faced with “managing” the results of years of poor budget planning. Please know we are not your enemy.

This doesn't even make sense. But let's take it for what it's worth. If the UC Berkeley Police did not decide to "engage" (heh) protesters on November 9, somebody else must have made the decision for them; if they are nothing but mindless robots unable to think for themselves and decide for themselves, then we really should be told who is flipping their switches on and off. Meanwhile, their inability to decide for themselves has nothing to do with poor management of budgets. Sorry. Doesn't wash. As for whether the UC Berkeley police are the "enemy," who said they were?

A video clip gone viral does not depict the full story or the facts leading up to an actual incident. Multiple dispersal requests were given in the days and hours before the tent removal operation. Not caught on most videos were scenes of protesters hitting, pushing, grabbing officers’ batons, fighting back with backpacks and skateboards.

"A" video clip? Oh dear no. There are dozens of them, not just one, and they show what happened -- over time, it wasn't just one incident -- from many different angles and perspectives. Nobody denies that there were "requests" -- read: orders -- to disperse. That's not the issue. "Tent removal operation." Excuse me, operation? As if it were a military campaign? That the police had no decision-making power over? It just... happened? I think not. Further, there are videos which show students, faculty, and staff defending themselves from the baton blows of the police on the Berkeley campus -- in fact, nearly every video of the "operation" shows this. Indeed, in self-defense, students, faculty and staff used whatever was at hand to protect themselves from the unwarranted blows of the officers involved. It's plainly shown in most of the videos. Protecting themselves, however, does not constitute "fighting back," except in the fevered imaginations of the police robots who busy beating the shit out of them. Not to put too fine a point on it.

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association supports a full investigation of the events that took place on November 9th, as well as a full review of University policing policies. That being said, we do not abrogate responsibility for the events on November 9th.

What the hell does this even mean? "Abrogate responsibilty?" How do you do that? Do they perhaps mean "deny responsibility?" And got caught up in legalese? When one "abrogrates," one repeals, annuls, or renounces. But that aside (was it a deliberate distraction, a shiny object sure to get the smart alecs at Berkeley into a frenzy?) the support of a "full investigation" is welcome. The only thing is that in a "full investigation" by their lights, only the police version of events is to be allowed.

UC Berkeley police officers want to better serve students and faculty members and we welcome ideas for how we can have a better discourse to avoid future confrontations. We are open to all suggestions on ways we can improve our ability to better protect and serve the UC Berkeley community.

Of course. Ever reasonable, aren't they? I'll just file that in the "Can't we all just get along?" cabinet. Sure. Whatever.

As your campus police, we also have safety concerns that we ask you to consider.

Of course, since we're being reasonable and all.

Society has changed significantly since 1964 when peaceful UC Berkeley student protesters organized a 10-hour sit-in in Sproul Hall and 10,000 students held a police car at bay – spawning change and the birth of our nation’s Free Speech Movement.


Oh God, they dare to bring up THAT? "Our Nation's" Free Speech Movement? Hello? Is anybody home? A ten-hour sit in? Oh dear, this is just stupid. The actions by the FSM went on for MONTHS and they have reverberated for decades. Yes, society has changed. That was the point. But clearly it hasn't changed enough for students, faculty and staff to nonviolently resist police on campus without getting the shit beat out of them or chemical agents being used against them.

However proud we can all be of UC Berkeley’s contribution to free speech in America, no one can deny this: Our society in 2011 has become an extremely more violent place to live and to protect. No one understands the effects of this violence more than those of us in law enforcement.

Actually, I think there are plenty of people who would deny that our society in 2011 is "an extremely more violent place to live." On the other hand, many would assert that violence on campus is almost all the result of a much greater level of police brutality than was the case in 1964. And it is that consistent level of brutality that is being objected to. Though you would never know it from the presentation of the Officers Association. "Batons? What batons? We were just protecting and serving by making sure the protesters were safe. And secure."


Disgruntled citizens in this day and age express their frustrations in far more violent ways – with knives, with guns and sometimes by killing innocent bystanders. Peaceful protests can, in an instant, turn into violent rioting, ending in destruction of property or worse – the loss of lives. Police officers and innocent citizens everywhere are being injured, and in some instances, killed.

This has to do with what, exactly? Particularly what does a statement like this have to do with what was going on on campus -- this campus or any other which has been subjected to the brutal ministrations of the UC police -- on November 9? Describe -- and produce evidence of -- any such knives, guns, killings, riot, or destruction of property on any UC campus during the recent protests that isn't sourced directly to the police themselves. They are the ones who are beating people and using chemical agents against them, they are the ones with weapons -- and who use them -- and they are the ones who destroy property. Again and again. It is not the protesters and demonstrators who do this. It is the police. Over and over and over again.

In the back of every police officer’s mind is this: How can I control this incident so it does not escalate into a seriously violent, potentially life-threatening event for all involved?

It is the police who escalate incidents in to "seriously violent, potentially life-threatening event[s] for all involved" -- and they have done so over and over and over again, not just on UC campuses, but all over the country, causing hundreds of injuries (some of them life-threatening) and thousands of unnecessary arrests. This is being done by the police, not by the protesters. But you would never know it from this statement.

While students were calling the protest “non-violent,” the events on November 9th were anything but nonviolent. In previous student Occupy protests, protesters hit police officers with chairs, bricks, spitting, and using homemade plywood shields as weapons – with documented injuries to officers.

This is a straight out and bald faced LIE. The protest at UC Berkeley on November 9 was a classic example of non-violent resistance. When police spokesmouths and UC Birgeneau said otherwise, and in fact characterized the non-violent resistance of the students, faculty and staff as "not nonviolent" or actually a form of "violence," they were righteously ridiculed all over the world. Not only were they wrong, they were deliberately wrong and attempting to deceive. In other words, lying. They might have got away with it before the days of viral video. Now they can't. But instead of acknowledging that simple truth, the UC Berkeley Police Association chooses (well, since they are only mindless robots, their choice in the matter is debatable...) to lie again by claiming that the protest was "anything but nonviolent," and to assert the lie that other "student Occupy protests" -- where and when unmentioned -- involved various hazards to officers. It is simply a LIE. All of it.

At a moment’s notice, the November 9th protest at UC Berkeley could have turned even more violent than it did, much like the Occupy protests in neighboring Oakland.

The only violence on the UC Berkeley campus on and after November 9, 2011, was initiated by the police. As for Oakland, that's another issue that has no direct bearing on what happened at Berkeley on November 9. The fact that the UC police would still be focused on what happened in Oakland the week before says more about these robots than it does about the students, faculty and staff at UC Berkeley.

Please understand that by no means are we interested in making excuses. We are only hoping that you will understand and consider the frustrations we experience daily as public safety officers sworn to uphold the law. It is our job to keep protests from escalating into violent events where lives could be endangered.

The UC Police -- top to bottom -- has been in the habit of creating its own frustrations and blaming them on others. This habit has become a sick joke.

We sincerely ask for your help in doing this.

Yes, well.

Like you, we have been victims to budget cuts that affect our children and our families in real ways. We, too, hold on to the dream of being able to afford to send our children and grandchildren to a four-year university. Like you, we understand and fully support the need for change and a redirection of priorities.

That's nice. Stop beating students.

To students and faculty: As 10,000 students surrounded a police car on campus in 1964, protesters passed the hat to help pay for repairs to the police car as a show of respect. Please peacefully respect the rules we are required to enforce – for all our safety and protection. Please respect the requests of our officers as we try to do our jobs.

Stop beating students. Your efforts to change the subject and deny your own responsibility for your actions, indeed to assert your inability to make decisions, is the problem you have to deal with. Students, faculty and staff have been more than willing to help you do that. The problem is that you and your deciders have ignored if not denounced every effort to help you get over your penchant for meeting challenges with violence. It's your problem. Fix it or disband.

To the University Administration and Regents: Please don’t ask us to enforce your policies then refuse to stand by us when we do. Your students, your faculty and your police – we need you to provide real leadership.

Since nobody will actually state what the policy is with regard to non-violent student protest, there is no way to know whether you are enforcing administration policies or not. Since you can't decide on anything yourselves but are only the tools of some other, you might want to some day state what you have been told to do.

We openly and honestly ask the UC Berkeley community for the opportunity to move forward together, peacefully and without further incident – in better understanding of one another. Thank you for listening.

"Without further incident" is up to you. Since you say you can't decide anything, but are only the objects, the tools of some other power, it would be to your advantage to state clearly what you have been told to do. Since incidents you so deplore are in your power to cause and to prevent, but you say you cannot decide whether to do so or not, it seems the problems you are having are entirely due to the system within which you are operating. Once you start working with -- instead of beating up -- students, faculty and staff of the University perhaps there will be a resolution.

Until then, you're spinning lies and spinning your wheels, and by doing so, you compound the shame you have already been subjected to from around the world.

Have a nice day.

Oh. And you might want to review, once again, the report issued by the task force that looked into the police brutality surrounding the Wheeler Hall Incident a couple of years ago. Remember?

This is how the Police Review Board characterized it:

http://administration.berkeley.edu/prb/6-14-10_prb-report.pdf

This is how the Administration supposedly responded:

http://administration.berkeley.edu/prb/PRBfinal10-12-11.pdf

And then there's this:

http://archive.dailycal.org/data/files/prbreportjune2010.pdf

The fact is that the UC Berkeley police and their mutual aid police agencies have quite a reputation for egregious brutality, and the administration at UC Berkeley keeps skating around the problem.

As Nathan Brown has said, it's policy.

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