Campus Rally Protests Long Haul Police Raid

By Richard Brenneman
Friday September 05, 2008 - 10:18:00 AM

Protesters—including Free Speech Movement veterans and a Berkeley city councilmember—gathered in Sproul Plaza Thursday to rally against the Aug. 24 UC Berkeley police raid on the Long Haul. 

Campus police, accompanied by an FBI agent and at least one Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy, raided the collective at 3124 Shattuck Ave. and seized every computer and data storage device in the building in a search for what Assistant UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya called threatening e-mails. 

“This was an illegal search and confiscation,” said Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington. “It’s pretty amazing that the UC Police Department can continually do things that are so stupid.” 

“In 1964, I spoke on top of a police car here,” said attorney Anne Fagan Ginger, referring to that memorable day Free Speech Movement activists surrounded a car that contained one of their own who had been arrested moments before. 

Ginger said the action against the Long Haul was of a piece with other university actions, including the continued presence at the law school of former Bush administration advisor John Yoo, whom Ginger described as a war criminal. Yoo provided the legal justification for the treatment of prisoners seized in Iraq and other places in a program that some have compared to the Night and Fog renditions by the Nazis during World War II. 

Another name from the 1960s was also present. Michael Tank has come to town as an organizer for the newly revitalized Students for a Democratic Society. Al Haber, the first president of the original SDS, was the founder of the Long Haul, and Tank helped organize the SDS chapter in Los Angeles, the first in the state in nearly four decades. 

“We need to change this university so that it serves the needs of the students, not the needs of those in power,” he said. 

SDS members protested increased fees during the UC Board of Regents meeting May 14, leading to the arrests of 16 who temporarily shut down the session with chants of “Regents, regents, can’t you see? You’re creating poverty!” 

Tank said he will begin organizing a local chapter in the near future. 

Some of the speakers were well-known to the half-dozen or so campus police officers who kept a close eye on the rally from the shade of the student union building. Many of the activists who have been supporting the treesitters at Memorial Stadium were on hand, including Zachary Running Wolf, the first of the treesitters and now a write-in candidate for mayor. 

Ayr, the coordinator of ground support for the treesitters, served as emcee for Thursday’s rally, introducing the speakers. 

The Long Haul serves as a gathering spot for a number of radical and anarchist groups, ranging from Bread Not Bombs and the East Bay Prisoner Support to the radical quarterly Slingshot. In addition, the building housed a computer room that provided unrestricted online access to anyone who sat down before a keyboard and screen. 

“It was the only space that offered free and unlimited access that I know of in this town,” said Ayr, who lead the crowd in a chant: “U-C-P-D, give us our computers back!” 

Another face from the past was Michael Delacour, one of the founders of People’s Park, the long-contested piece of university-owned land that remains a bone of contention struggled over by campus administrators and local activists. 

Delacour described the raid at the Long Haul as emblematic of a new wave of repression “that scares the living shit out of all of us” and reminded him of the worst days of the Red Scare of the 1950s. 

But the protest also brought a new set of younger faces, many of them adorned with piercings and tattoo ink and clad in chrome-studs and black. These were the anarchists who frequent the Long Haul and offer a cosmopolitan contrast to the tie-dyed and often be-sandaled set who have been supporting the tree-sitters.