The student protests of March 3rd 2011 in support of education were inspiring and absolutely necessary. However, as UCB alum and long time residents of Berkeley,we are troubled by the massive and disproportionate police mobilization that we saw in front of Wheeler Hall that evening. We want this action to be reviewed for a number of reasons.
While it is true that eight students had stepped onto a balcony and chained their arms together, it is also true that they posed NO RISK to anyone. In fact, there was no disruption to campus life, other than that caused by the police. We were shocked to see officers from so many different police forces gathered as if some disaster had happened. Sadly, many of our Berkeley Police officers were lined up on the steps of Wheeler Hall, contributing to the fiction that some great threat to the campus was being addressed by these armed visitors.
We object to having our scarce city resources squandered on exaggerated responses to minor campus displays of protest and dissent. We want to see an evaluation of our city’s mutual aid pact with the UC and whether we should have to spend city money on unnecessary police aid. Perhaps this exaggerated response is part of the current trend of officers assigning themselves and other officers to duties whose main purpose is to net officers additional overtime pay.
We are also concerned by the following:
• BPD officers are PROHIBITED from using pepper spray in crowd situations. Who sprayed six UC students with this dangerous chemical?
• Why were BPD officers carrying munitions when they were less than two feet from peaceful protesters?
• Why were BPD officers intentionally provoking the crowd by moving forward with their clubs into the crowd that was listening to speeches? Were they trying to start an altercation of some sort?
Ask the important questions! Don’t let UCB use city cops to fight their battles for them. If UCB wants to parade their police force, don’t make the city pay. Save the money for education- not police overtime!
Speak out at the Police Review Commission, Wed. March 23rd, 7pm, South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street (Near Ashby and below MLK)