It’s silly to take these things personally; the victims of police brutality are important, whether or not I know them myself. Still, it has been especially disturbing to me knowing that one of the people treated violently by UC cops was a former colleague of mine from the Berkeley English department, Celeste Langan. I’m not surprised she was in the front lines. While I didn’t work with her during my time in the department, she went out of her way on more than one occasion to help me; she was one of the most generous people I knew at Cal. The Daily Cal wrote of her situation:
Langan … said in an email that she knew that what she was doing by participating in the human chain was a form of nonviolent resistance, knew that she was disobeying the police order to disperse and knew that her participation made her subject to arrest. But, she said, she expected the police would arrest the protesters “in a similarly non-violent manner.”
“Rather than take my wrist or arm, the police grabbed me by my hair and yanked me forward to the ground, where I was told to lie on my stomach and was handcuffed,” Langan said in the email. “They could have taken the time to arrest us for refusal to disperse without violence, but instead seem to have been instructed to get to the tents as quickly as possible. Since the tents posed no immediate threat to public safety, their haste and level of force were unwarranted.”
Here is an excerpt from the open letter (see petition link above) sent to the Chancellor, the administration, and the Regents:
We are appalled by the Chancellor’s account, in his November 10 “Message to the Campus Community,” that the police were “forced to use their batons.” We strenuously object to the charge that protesters—by linking arms and refusing to disperse—engaged in a form of “violence” directed at law enforcement. The protests did not justify the overwhelming use of force and severe bodily assault by heavily armed officers and deputies. Widely-circulated documentation from videos, photographs, and TV news outlets make plainly evident the squad tactics and individual actions of members of the UCPD and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. This sends a message to the world that UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and student protesters are regarded on their own campus with suspicion and hostility rather than treated as participants in civil society. …
We call for greater attention to the substantive issues raised at the protests on November 9 regarding the privatization of education. With massive cuts in state funding and rising tuition costs across the community college system, the Cal State network, K-12, and the University of California, public education is undergoing a severe divestment. Student debt has reached unprecedented levels as bank profits swell. We decry the growing privatization and tuition increases that are currently heavily promoted by the corporate UC Board of Regents.
We express NO CONFIDENCE in the Regents, who have failed in their responsibility to fight for state funding for public education, and have placed the burden of the budget crisis on the backs of students.
We express NO CONFIDENCE in the willingness of the Chancellor, and other leaders of the UC Berkeley administration, to respond appropriately to student protests, to secure student welfare, and to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus.