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An Open Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau,
We write this letter in response to your email sent out on Friday, November 20, 2009, at 10:49pm (posted at http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/11/20_wheeler-rjb.shtml), regarding Berkeley’s campus-wide protest of UC fee hikes, lay-offs and other cuts that have decreased the accessibility and quality of public education across the University of California’s campuses. We feel that this email misrepresented Friday’s protests and is a disservice to the democratic debate that continues over the UC regents’ actions.
While we understand the spirit of your email, it does not bear much resemblance to the events that took place. Indeed, we are insulted by the euphemistic claim that “a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers.” What we observed, and what is well-documented, was the police indiscriminately striking, shoving, and knocking over unarmed and non-aggressive students who were fully within their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Further, to argue that the protests “necessitated significant police presence to maintain safety” makes a mockery of the fact that the only threat to safety on Friday was the police presence itself. The broken fingers sustained by two protesters and the bruises and welts sustained by many were not inflicted by their fellow peaceful demonstrators, but by the police themselves. We deplore these actions, as well as the entrance of heavily armed Alameda Sheriffs onto our campus at a time when faculty and students were engaged in peaceful negotiations.
Such a misrepresentation of the events does not speak to the good faith of the Office of the Chancellor, particularly in how it deals with democratic protests on campus. No irony was lost in the fact that Friday’s protests and police violence took place steps away from UC Berkeley’s “Free Speech Café”. We believe that the student body and the general public deserve to hear a more honest summation of events from Berkeley’s administration, particularly regarding the violence inflicted on students.
The undersigned UC Berkeley Geography graduate students,
Javier Arbona, Jenny Baca, Teo Ballvé, Rachel Brahinsky, Sandy Brown, Liz Carlisle, Jennifer Casolo, Erin Collins, Alicia Cowart, Shannon Cram, Juan David De Lara, Lindsey Dillon, Zoë Friedman-Cohen, Anthony Fontes, Sapna Elizabeth Gardner Thottathil, Jennifer Greenburg, Ju Hui Judy Han, Katy Guimond, Leigh Johnson, Julie Klinger, Sarah Knuth, Jessica Lage, Miri Lavi-Neeman, Nicole List, Seth Lunine, Diana Negrin, Youjeong Oh, Shaina Potts, Kao Shih-Yang, Rajshekhar Singh, John Stehlin, Jason Strange, Alex Tarr, Alberto Velazquez, Max Woodworth