1 November 15, 2011Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande, Vice Chancellor for Student AffairsDear Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice Chancellors Breslauer and LeGrande,We, the undersigned members of the Berkeley Law faculty, write to condemn in the strongest possibleterms:1) the violence directed against non-violent student, staff and faculty protesters at Sproul Plaza on November 9, 2011;2) the temporary detention by police of two law students near the law school on the same day; and3) the Chancellor’s public and explicit defense of the police action of November 9, 2011, which madeinaccurate distinctions between violent and non-violent civil disobedience and which he apparently signedwithout having viewed the videos of the incidents at issue.Sproul Plaza. The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances. Interference with these rights, particularly in the form of violence that was visited upon protesters in Sproul Plaza last week, is inexcusable by any government entity, but is particularly troubling at a public university. While the University may enforce its rules, including citingor arresting those engaged in acts of civil disobedience (such as linking arms and refusing to disband), there isno place for instigating violence in a community dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.Kroeber Plaza. On November 9, in separate incidents, a group of officers detained two Berkeley Lawstudents who were attempting to return to class after participating in the peaceful demonstration at SproulHall. The officers detained each student near Kroeber Plaza, though there had been no protest activity at thePlaza or the law school, and the students were simply walking back to class. Ostensibly, the officers wereasking for identification. However, the accounts of these incidents provided by the two students and other witnesses – law students and law school faculty and staff – describe police actions that were unwarranted andexcessive.Going Forward. The police conduct at Sproul Plaza, and the humiliating and frightening police activity atKroeber Plaza, have caused a number of our students to question whether they can safely come and go fromthe law school, much less exercise their First Amendment rights at our university. In addition to the urgentneed for a thorough review of these events – including holding accountable those parties responsible for anyactions that violated the civil and political rights of our community members – we call on the administrationto:1)
implement immediately the recommendations of the June 2010 Brazil Police Review BoardReport (http://www.berkeley.edu/news2/2010/06/16_prb-report.pdf );2)
publicly support and defend the rights of community members – and especially our students – toengage in non-violent political expression; and3)
take all other actions necessary to reestablish Berkeley’s reputation as a beacon of peaceableassembly and free speech.