Open Letter to Chancellor Birgenau and Chief Celaya re Free Speech on Berkeley Campus

By Councimember Kriss Worthington
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 04:31:00 PM

At the Home of the Free Speech Movement the UCPD appears to have suppressed Free Speech Again! Please join us in questioning this behavior and challenge the UCPD to respect the Free Speech Rights of Occupy Cal. 

Below is an email I sent to the UC Chancellor and Police Chief: 

Dear Chancellor Birgeneau and Chief Celaya, 

I wanted to bring to your attention that banners with Free Speech content appear to have been seized by UCPD in front of Sproul Plaza. The banner was not attached to any tent so should not be in any questionable legal territory as validly permitted. It is hard to imagine that such an act could occur at the exact location of Berkeley where the Free Speech Movement began. 

I respectfully request that you promptly inform your officers to STOP seizing banners that are legitimately in the hands of students and protesters. I also request that you return the banners that were inappropriately seized. You can imagine that the sense of irony will not be lost on the public, that the UCPD violated the Free Speech rights of protesters at this particular location. 

I understand that there are lot of people at the Occupy Cal event and that such an event can cause a lot of stress on you and officers. Nonetheless, in the United States and in Berkeley, we have clearly established parameters that allow posters and Free Speech banners. We request your prompt attention to this negative blotch on the UCPD on the very first day of Occupy Cal. 

These students have made a firm commitment to no violence and no vandalism . The University should be commending the thousands of students that are participating. For many, this could be their very first political protest of their life. They are protesting specifically for additional financing for the University of California. The University should support this enthusiasm and help encourage this to be an effective protest that helps the University and our country. 

It is unfortunate and unacceptable that the UCPD are vandalizing and removing free speech banners from the event. Please stop this behavior now. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue.