Report blasts handling of Occupy Berkeley protests

June 8th, 2012

Published by Associated Press AP, by Terence Chea, June 7, 2012.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A University of California, Berkeley report released Wednesday criticizes campus police for jabbing and clubbing student protesters with batons during Occupy demonstrations last fall. In its report, the campus Police Review Board committee said its members were disturbed by the repeated striking of demonstrators who tried to stop officers last Nov. 9 from removing tents they had pitched near Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.  

“The vigor of these baton thrusts is most distressing,” the report said. “The police hit some students while they seemed bent over in pain from prior strikes to the gut.”

Online video of the confrontation prompted widespread criticism and a lawsuit alleging police brutality against two dozen students and community members who participated in Berkeley protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In the week before the crackdown, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau notified the campus of Berkeley’s no-camping policy, but there were no specific instructions on how the ban would be enforced, according to the report. Birgeneau was traveling in Asia when the clashes occurred.

The five-member panel called on the school administration and police department to improve planning and procedures for handling future demonstrations. It urges them to clearly communicate school policies on campus protests and engage in constructive dialogue with protesters before resorting to police action … //

… The five-member Police Review Board committee, led by Berkeley law professor Jesse Choper, investigated the incident at the chancellor’s request. The panel reviewed hours of online videos and held two public forums to hear testimony about that day.

“We truly regret that our processes were not adequate for handling the particular challenges of that day,” Birgeneau said in a statement Wednesday responding to the report.

In the months since the crackdown, the campus has established new guidelines for responding to campus demonstrations that are consistent with the committee’s recommendations, Birgeneau said.

In April, a UC Davis task force released a report on widely condemned pepper-spraying of student protesters who tried to set up an Occupy encampment on that campus last Nov. 19. That report concluded the use of pepper spray was unreasonable and blamed the incident on poor communication and planning throughout the campus chain of command.

Last month, a separate UC committee issued a report that lists 50 policy recommendations to better handle future protests throughout the 10-campus system. It calls for more measured responses that rely more on discussion and mediation to avoid the need for police force.
(full text).

Related articles:

Occupy group helping disabled Inkster man fight off foreclosure, June 7, 2012;

From Tiananmen to Occupy: Shen Tong’s life of protest, 2.46 min, on BBCnews, June 6, 2012;

Report blasts handling of Occupy Berkeley protests
, June 7, 2012;

Report criticizes use of force at UC Berkeley’s Occupy protests, June 6, 2012;

Limit campus cops’ use of force, UC Berkeley panel says, June 6, 2012;

Insight: Can Occupy Wall Street survive? Reuter, June 7, 2012;

Council aims to thwart new Occupy protest at L.A. City Hall: L.A. leaders vote to ban tents in city parks as a precursor to reopening the City Hall lawn, which was the site of an eight-week Occupy encampment last year, by David Zahniser, June 7, 2012.

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