Saturday, November 21, 2009

Berkeley Faculty in Solidarity With Student Protesters: Demand Full Amnesty For Wheeler Hall Occupiers; Misdemeanor Charges, No Handcuffs Upon Release

I'm reading Ananya Roy's eyewitness report of the Wheeler Hall occupation. Roy is a Professor of City and Regional Planning at Berkeley, as well as a social justice activist and mentor. She went inside Wheeler Hall, and was accompanied by Berkeley Professor of Linguistics George Lakoff (a hardline socialist and political blogger at Huffington Post). This passage, where the Berkeley faculty call for full amnesty for the student occupiers, is pretty mind-boggling:

A bit later Anne Wagner and other faculty suggested that some of us head to California Hall. We rounded up as many faculty as we could find and went to California Hall, which was locked. At first it seemed hopeless. But we stood there, some of us pressing our faculty IDs up against the glass door. And then a police officer came out, asked us to sign our names, and explain our case. We did so and a few minutes later she let us in. We found ourselves in a meeting with Chancellor Birgeneau, EVCP Breslauer, Police Chief Celaya, VC Le Grande, and Dean of Students, Jonathan Poullard. Some of the ASUC folks were also there. The meeting had an urgency to it - we were worried about the fate of the students who had occupied Wheeler but also about students at the barricades. The faculty emphasized their concerns about police violence and mentioned several incidents. The solution for those occupying Wheeler (they had already been arrested) was the following: that they were to be cited for trespassing (misdemeanor) and then released, without handcuffs, with faculty observors and student observers present. No police vans, no Santa Rita jail, no handcuffs. The faculty and students went out to disseminate the message to those at the barricades, to calm things down, and Shannon Steen, Will Smelko, and I went with police chief Celaya back into Wheeler [emphasis added].

This time on the 2nd floor, the 30 or so students (some non- students, including an "embedded" reporter with Democracy Now) were seated, handcuffed. They were tired but in good spirits. In small groups they were cited, allowed to collect their belongings, and then released. Will, Shannon, and I accompanied police officers to escort each group out of the building and past the barricades. We had already advised them to be peaceful as they made their exit but we also urged them to immediately seek legal counsel. They had many friends and supporters waiting for them at the barricades.

I noted previously that communist Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! is a major backer of the student mobilization and campus direct action, but an "embedded reporter"? That's really taking it to another level. (See, "Berkeley's Wheeler Hall Protest Marks Escalation in Campus Intifada.")

Also, providing an eyewitness testimony is Shannon Steen, who is Associate Professor of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at Berkeley. And note this from Professor Steen's faculty blurb:

A specialist in critical race and performance theory, she writes on the intersection of Asian and African American racial determinations. Her book on this topic: “Racial Geometries: the Black Atlantic, the Asian/ Pacific, and American Performance,” will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in early 2010. Her anthology /AfroAsian Cross-cultural Encounters/, co-edited with Heike Raphael-Hernandez, was published by New York University Press in fall 2006. Steen's new project uses President Barack Obama’s 2006-08 campaign to investigate the relationship between affect, race, and performance in the realm of electoral politics.
Note that last sentence: Steen's a professor of theater and dance, but her next project is on President Obama and the "performance realm of electoral politics." That reminds me of the academic radicals chronicled in David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin's, One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. Many of today's radical professors have actually no scholarly expertise to conduct high-level research in politics, history, or economics, but they manage to teach courses on "Theories of History, Ideology, and Politics" in English Departments and courses on "Marxisms" in Comparative Literature courses. These offerings are, in fact, personal faculty vehicles for radical student indoctrination.

I'm not familiar with Professor Steen, but
her account of the Wheeler Hall protest puts her clearly in solidarity with the student's revolutionary ideology:

Ananya has already described the meeting between the Chancellor and various admin, the ASUC leadership, and several faculty (there were about 10 of us). I’ll just add that at that point, there were really only 2 options for how to proceed: (1) book the students on site and escort them out of the building to the barriers, or (2) try to load them onto vans and take them off-site to book them, and release them from there (there was also brief mention of jailing them over the weekend, but that was never really pursued). While the chief of police Mitch Celeya preferred option 2, those of us who had been at the barriers all day and were worried about the increasing tension there after a series of violent encounters btw students and police (more on that below—I arrived at Wheeler at about 9.30am), impressed upon him and the Admin that this option would likely escalate the struggle outside the building. The ASUC senators and faculty were fully in agreement on this, and the Chancellor and Celeya agreed to go for option 1.
Check the post for more details. This passage clearly demonstrates Professor Steen's solidarity, if not complicity:

Celeya escorted Ananya, Will Smelko (ASUC President), and me into the second floor of Wheeler. The occupiers (there were about 40) were lined up against the wall in the north corridor, sitting with their hands behind them in “plastic tie” restraints. Everyone was unharmed and safe – as Ananya reported, the group was committed to non-violent tactics, and so had not resisted arrest, which contributed to their safety. The vast majority were students, although one was a reporter from “Democracy Now” who was not; he had on a press pass that was clearly displayed around his neck. Some looked genuinely scared, some were in fairly good spirits. A couple looked like the restraints were not just uncomfortable but painful, so the officers removed and recuffed those individuals at a looser setting. Several of them asked about their belongings (which they were allowed to take with them as they left the bldg), and about 2 or 3 (I now forget the number) of their fellow occupiers who had been arrested earlier in the morning and taken away. They were especially worried that a couple of them seemed injured. The UCPD in Wheeler did not know where they had been taken, but they guessed the Berkeley city jail where they were booked and released.

The officers set up a classroom to process the students, and took them in 4 at a time to do so. The plan was to escort them outside in groups of 5. I’d say it took about 30-40 min from the time we arrived for the first group to be processed and ready for release. At that point, there was a hold-up of another 10 or 15 minutes while the police outside were changed over – the Berkeley city police were replaced with Oakland police. During all of this, and between reassuring the students inside and asking questions for them of the UCPD officers, I was texting the students I knew outside (especially Cynthia Nava and others in Solidarity) of the plans to bring everyone out, and asking them to spread the word at the barriers to calm people out there (more on this too below).
More at the link.

Not once does Professor Steen repudiate the illegal actions of the students who seized the campus builiding. She's concerned with police brutality, as if this is going to turn out to be Kent State:

These were the most frightening moments by far, and as one colleague put it, did make it seem like we were very close to riot conditions. I asked students at various points to write me with their stories of what they experienced, but there were faculty there too who could perhaps explain it in more detail. I will say this: I did not witness first-hand any of the inciting moments of the barrier altercations – I only witnessed the barrier incidents once they were already in progress. I have no idea what events sparked them, and have heard many different stories. Having said that, I also have big questions about what we’re doing using batons, which can do real damage to people, on unarmed students. Many of us have that question, and I do think we need to keep asking it.
Maybe some of those questions might ask, "Why the f*** did you take the university hostage with your totally selfish and self-serving actions?"

From the Daily Clog, a student threatens police, who are standing by:

A protester yells at the police. on Twitpic

Here, an officer responds to student provocations:

A policeman uses his baton outside of Wheeler. on Twitpic

Yeah, it's pretty messed up alright. And with simple misdemeanor charges, the university's practically treating these kids like royalty. And who really is responsible for the "inciting moments and barrier incitements." This video, despite the propaganda title, shows students resisting the commands of officers to stay back:

Also, from the Berkeley Daily Planet, "6:36 p.m.: UC Berkeley Students To Be Cited and Released."

Here's the picture of the SWAT team reaching the student occupiers (via Twitpic). It's hardly looks like AR-15's were drawn and blazing:

We'll see what happens when three of occupiers jace the criminal justice system. See, "Court Date For Wheeler Occupiers."


Dana said...

If they are to be charged with a misdemeanor, then it isn't "full amnesty." I'd question whether being convicted of misdemeanor trespassing would have any impact on California student aid. If so, we could call it karmic justice.

Greywolfe said...

Well, they've been arrested in an illegal leftist protest at Berkeley... Guess that means that Barry has a LOT of people to choose his next Czar from.

Dennis said...

Eventually California is going to have to cut back because it will not have the money. You cannot keep driving job creating businesses out of the state before there is no money available to be taxed.
The same will be true at a federal level. Sooner or later the numbers against all of this largess will hit a critical point and, I fear, even those programs that should be funded will suffer.