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Excerpt: "Many law enforcement experts said Thursday that the officers' tactics appeared to be a severe overreaction. Both the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild said they had 'grave concerns about the conduct' of campus police."

UC Berkeley Campus Police attack unarmed student protesters in front of Sproul Hall, 11/09/11. (photo: turnmovechange/Flickr)
UC Berkeley Campus Police attack unarmed student protesters in front of Sproul Hall, 11/09/11. (photo: turnmovechange/Flickr)

FOCUS: Legality of Police Violence at Berkeley Questioned

By Will Kane and Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle

11 November 11


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


UC cops' use of batons on Occupy camp questioned.

debate over the use of police force has reignited at the UC Berkeley campus after videos surfaced showing officers repeatedly shoving and jabbing screaming students who tried to keep officers from dismantling a nascent Occupy encampment.

The videos taken by protesters, journalists and casual observers show UC Berkeley police and Alameda County sheriff's deputies in riot gear ordering students with linked arms to leave a grassy area outside the campus administration building Wednesday. When the students didn't move, police lowered their face shields and began hitting the protesters with batons.

University police say the students, who chanted "You're beating students" during the incident, were not innocent bystanders, and that the human fence they tried to build around seven tents amounted to a violent stance against police.

But many law enforcement experts said Thursday that the officers' tactics appeared to be a severe overreaction.

Both the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild said they had "grave concerns about the conduct" of campus police.

"Video recordings raise numerous questions about UCPD's oversight and handling of these events, including whether law enforcement were truly required to beat protesters with batons," the two groups wrote in a letter to campus officials.

In total, 39 people were arrested Wednesday; 22 were students and one was a professor, police said. All but one were taken to jail and released.

"The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence," UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. "I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest."

Bennett said police merely wanted to enforce the ban on camping on Sproul Plaza, but were prevented from doing so by students.

"Students who linked arms were interfering with the officers who were attempting to remove those tents," she said.

Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, said he saw nothing inappropriate in how one deputy shown in a video used his baton. Nelson said it appeared the deputy was trying to keep students from breaching a police line.

Questionable Actions

Yet many experts said the officers' actions were at least questionable and likely excessive.

"Using a baton to go through a nonviolent crowd is as inappropriate today as it was in the South when they used it to enforce segregation in the 1960s," said Jim Chanin, a Berkeley attorney who specializes in police misconduct issues.

Sam Walker, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who has served as a consultant to the Oakland Police Department, said he thought the campus response was "unprovoked" and "completely unnecessary."

Using a baton to aggressively poke protesters can be dangerous, Walker said.

"The way they were using it, you're very likely to hit the groin or kidney," he said. "I think it is an excessive action and totally unwarranted in the circumstances we see on the video."

This isn't the first time university officers have been accused of excessive force during a protest.

In November 2009, hundreds of students orchestrated a chaotic, daylong rally against tuition increases, among other issues. At one point during the demonstration, protesters pushed a police line back by about six feet. Officers, with no direction from commanders, reacted by striking students with batons, using both jabs and overhead strikes, to re-establish the perimeter.

A review led by Wayne Brazil, a UC Berkeley law professor and retired federal magistrate judge, said the effort to push the crowd back a few feet was "incomprehensible" and "resulted in chaos, confusion and considerable violence."

Handling Civil Disobedience

The report urged the university to develop clear policies for handling mass civil disobedience.

Yet the campus' most recent crowd-control policy was published in 2000. It gives no guidance on the use of batons.

Avoiding all use of force is "highly desirable," the policy states, but "a variety of techniques and tactics may be necessary" depending on the situation and the available resources.

David Klinger, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said people who see such startling videos online shouldn't assume police acted inappropriately.

"The question becomes, what are (police) trying to accomplish" by shoving protesters, he said. "Is it just a little jab or are they following through? Looking at the video, you can't say."

But Shane Boyle, a graduate student who was smacked twice while linked with protesters, said he thought commanders sent a squad of thugs to break up the protest.

"The one that hit me was going kind of crazy," Boyle said. "He was kind of fierce."

Boyle said he thought the footage had galvanized his peers and united disparate groups around a frustration with the university.

Chronicle staff writers Justin Berton and Nanette Asimov contributed to this report. your social media marketing partner


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+65 # Michael_K 2011-11-11 16:09
"University police say the students, who chanted "You're beating students" during the incident, were not innocent bystanders, and that the human fence they tried to build around seven tents amounted to a violent stance against police."

My most fervent wish is that these PIGS soon learn what a violent stance against police REALLY is! Not that it would do any good at all. You can't educate the un-educable, and as Ron White amusingly stresses: "Stoopid is for-evah"
+80 # DaveM 2011-11-11 16:48
Hopefully a Federal civil rights complaint has been filed by now? What about a class-action lawsuit? If those who are charged with enforcing the law will not obey it, they must answer to it.
+70 # rom120 2011-11-11 16:55
"The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence," An act of violence???
Give me a break.
I am all for law and order but he cops doing Wall Street's bidding (after all they got over 2 million dollars from the bastards at Wall Street) for their police fund, are going over board. In their riot gear they look more like out of space aliens than cops, confronting unarmed, unprotected demonstrators, feeling macho, just the right thing for the psychopaths among them.
So far the demonstrations are peaceful which I hope they stay this way. But..... there are millions of guns in the US in the hands of private citizens, pushed too far by the Wall Street stooges anything can happen.
+44 # John Locke 2011-11-11 19:35
Yes... the protesters can remain peaceful, but what about the rest of the 99%, we can't guarantee they will! especially seeing how the police and corrupt officials who give them orders are reacting to a free exercise of a constitutionall y guaranteed right... if the police and the 1% want a war, they are acting appropriate to get one...
+57 # pernsey 2011-11-11 17:04
I think the police are using excessive force, I cant even imagine if it was my kid on the front lines, how I would feel? The police are trying to aggrevate things and then they can blame a riot or violence on the protesting students. They are violating those students right to peaceful protest. Now they are calling it civil disobedience? I really cant voice my disdain enough, for the damage the banks and big corporations have done to this country!

+53 # John Locke 2011-11-11 19:37
If it were my kids and they were hit with a baton, I would be filing a civil rights action and seeking millions, I hope there are lawsuits being prepared and filed all across the country right now, one way to reach these idiots is through the pocket book...
+43 # mjc 2011-11-11 17:04
ANY sort of resistance, even that which most protestors would acknowledge IS resistance, is viewed as mob violence apparently by the law enforcers. It isn't very difficult to understand how many protestors in places like Syria are shot at by snipers. The police community in places where there is a college communiry ahould be specially trained to understand that locking arms is NOT a terrorist tactic. Once again, I hope...pray...t hat the "security forces" learn that responding in violence is not the solution, just the problem...which escalates. Confrontation with words, some debate, some understanding, goes so much farther.
+46 # John Locke 2011-11-11 19:38
I am of the mindset they they are trying to force the 99% to open revolution...
+34 # Erdajean 2011-11-11 20:18
John, I am of the mindset to agree with you 100 percent. There are nut cases in law enforcement and armed loony tunes in the public at large. It only takes one to light the fuse the 1 percenters crave -- anything to give their thugs the OK to start shooting all these inconvenient people with a conscience.
+1 # NanFan 2011-11-13 06:57
I am of the mindset that there are nut cases in the US with guns who want any excuse to use them, and they may just come out of there little nut houses to do so, not in solidarity of the Occupy movement, but because they CAN!

Scary, for sure.

+51 # Michael_K 2011-11-11 17:31
"David Klinger, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said people who see such startling videos online shouldn't assume police acted inappropriately."

Perhaps David Klinger's thinking will become clearer if a demonstration of baton-jabbing is arranged for him? Physical violence is never appropriate against an unarmed and non-violent protester.... It's even forbidden, if that protester is exercising Constitutionall y-protected speech. Here's one professor who obviously isn't qualified to teach!
+9 # John Locke 2011-11-11 19:39
That begs the question how many actually are?
-1 # NanFan 2011-11-13 07:05
That's just the kind of rash assumption those who act against the Occupy movement want us to believe, John! It's like saying it begs the question as to how many African-America ns are criminals just because "some" are actually perpetrating crimes, for heaven's sake!

Don't go there, ever, please.

Use evidence to make meaningful responses to things you don't agree with. Don't generalize, please. That's just what the people who act against the Occupy movement want. It's fine to disagree, but do it with some reasonable thought, not one-liner generalized questions.


+42 # jwb110 2011-11-11 17:42
Does anyone think that they would come wearing riot gear and leave without actually using the gear!?
+50 # Texas Aggie 2011-11-11 17:44
"The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence," UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said.

Sorry, lady, but YOU don't get to decide what is an act of violence. The people who decide are normal people who don't get their jollies out of beating up on defenseless people. And you don't qualify under either definition.
+40 # in deo veritas 2011-11-11 19:21
I suppose she would consider people just sitting down on the pavement like in the old sit-ins would be an act of violence. All these characters need are swastika armbands.
+42 # 2011-11-11 17:46
Bernie Saunders for President before it's too late. He would run if he was assured that he had enough supporters behind him. Bernie said he was not running because if he lacked the votes, it would assure a Republican victory AKA catastrophic.

Someone needs to start a petition to get him in the PRIMARY and send it to Bernie and the NDC. Bernie's the MAN! He speaks for the 99% and he is fearlessin in speaking out and he is non-negotiable morally and politically.

HIS VOICE IS BEING HEARD all over the internet (if not in the media). We need a leader who cares more about people than big money backers and cowtowing to their payback schemes., We need a leader like who cares more about honoring his commitment and promises to the people than grandstanding for his own glory and profit. We need BERNIE SAUNDERS! Don't worry about his age. Judges serve until they're 75 and Bernie's sharper than anyone in the Democratic party or GOP.
+11 # GaryE 2011-11-11 18:57
How can Bernie Saunders get his name on the Democratic Primary ballot when in fact he is not a member of that party?
+12 # Okieangels 2011-11-11 21:30
Bernie IS smarter than most "Democratic" politicians, which is why he's an independent.
+49 # Buddha 2011-11-11 17:46
"I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest."

Says the voice of the Police State. Not stepping aside is considered "violence" and justifies a beating by police. I would imagine if the crowd then broke out batons of their own, police would be justified to use lethal force, by this logic. As this shows, we really do not live in a Free nation at all, and any threat to the status quo and the establishment will be met with force. Are we really that different than those nations like Libya and Syria? We'll see.
+25 # John Locke 2011-11-11 19:44
we have already seen there is no difference, now instead of killing unarmed students as they did at Kent State circa 1970 they use rubber bullets that can be just a lethal. and can main...
+12 # CL38 2011-11-11 23:49
We have become a police-state country, with a policy of protecting the corporate 1%, at the expense of the middle class and poor. I hope if the ACLU or American Civil Liberties Union bring a lawsuit, this is part of their case.
0 # jky1291 2011-11-14 11:33
Libya and Syria are likely to achieve peace, prosperity, and equality long befoe we do thanks to our corrupt corporate owned 2 party system insisting on exploiting and abusing the 98% for the benefit of the wealthy entitled 2%. Identify, recruit, and elect a viable 3rd party President who represents people not corporations.
+33 # 2011-11-11 18:20
Sexual chauvinism and a powerful "all boys network" which is alive and well in 2011 despite all we thought we learned from the feminist movement, sexual harrassment laws, et al. It makes no difference if the woman is a young and professional Black woman such as Anita Hill or a middle-aged, professional or non-professiona l woman like the Herman Cain accusers today. Cain is two things: he's a liar and he's powerful and doing everything to skirt the truth but the truth will come out, when some woman decides that the external and intrinsic benefits of public justice and personal honor are more important than the fear she has of defying a powerful man and what he and his powerful group of macho chauvinists could do to her in return.
+10 # CL38 2011-11-11 23:51
When lawyers can actually intimidate and threaten women to not speak out, if they've been harassed by Cain, you know things have not really changed all that much.

It's an outrage that when charges are brought and found to be credible, it's ALWAYS the woman who has to leave and lose her job, NEVER the perpetrator.
+38 # MHAS 2011-11-11 18:24
The police evidently have no understanding of what constitutes non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. The students were not attacking anyone, not delivering punches, throwing objects, kicking, inflicting blows with batons, they were locked arm-in-arm. That is the very essence of nonviolent RESISTANCE. What would the police propose as an act of nonviolent civil disobedience? That the protesters do what they are told and disperse? Now that would be effective...
+30 # DLT999 2011-11-11 18:54
What the? Is that Margo witch redefining the word "violence"? If so, she should go to Iraq or walk down a back alley in NYC at midnight and experience REAL violence! What a stupid stupid woman she is. Get that woman a dictionary -- or throw it at her to let her experience what violence is.
+26 # DLT999 2011-11-11 18:58
Those campus cops are SICK and are supported by SICK people. I say Alan Grayson for President! I'd say that but knowing how corrupt our pseudo-election s are, he would never get there. FIRE MARGO BENNET NOW!!! Ler her experience the unemployment line and have no job and no home and no food and then let HER join the 99%. FIRE MARGO BENNET!
+27 # Carolyn 2011-11-11 19:08
Everything the police think is dualistic. It is dominate or be dominated. Everything they do is based on dualism. That is what we have here on earth.
When the Dalai Lama speaks of compassion. When Rabbi Lerner speaks of compassion, they are speaking of a level of cosciousness that involves the heart. It is not in the consciousness of the policemen nor in the consciousness of the 1%. The level of consciousness is really the issue:
That what we do is for the good of the whole. It is not in the world. We are doing our best to evolve that which is for the good of the whole. Maybe that is compassion.
+34 # George Kennedy 2011-11-11 19:21
The 1 percent remember the power of citizen protest from the Vietnam era and will do everything possible to resist the change citizen power can bring. It is stunning how powerless militarized police forces feel against unarmed, youthful protesters exercising their constitutional rights of assembly. It makes you wonder what they would do if the protesters were equally equipped. Unfortunately, this is also America.
+23 # redjelly39 2011-11-11 19:22
Police do not have a reasonable response to a peaceful protest. The best they can do is incite a violent response (for which they are trained to deal with) or make it up as they go to say that the actions were "violent". Total BS but this is our America. No one is accountable - not our Government, its hired assassins & goons, nor the Mega-Corps/Bank s - NOBODY !!! Its always finger pointing and blaming someone else while We the People continue to get racked over the coals time & time again. ENOUGH - OCCUPY - 99% - Politicians need to run for the hills as their days are numbered. The line is drawn in the sand and you will stand with We the People or go find a new job.
+35 # seakat 2011-11-11 19:34
Seems there is a new 'game' the police get to make up the rules as they go along. The police are pathetic bullies.
+9 # daveapostles 2011-11-11 22:23
The next meeting of the Regents of UC Berkeley is on 16 Nov. The first two sessions are open sessions: I'm trying to check on e-mail address.
+6 # daveapostles 2011-11-11 22:26
O.k., would people like to mass petition the Regents by e-mail before 16 Nov? The e-mail is to

Do we wish to produce a standard format for people to send or do people wish to express their own individual thoughts?
+4 # daveapostles 2011-11-11 22:42
So, I've e-mailed the student representative on the Board of Regents to ask if there is anything which we can do prior to the Board meeting on 16 Nov. He is Alfredo Moreles:
Please feel free to do so too.
+11 # UrbanRunner 2011-11-12 02:37
As a law enforcement patrol supervisor I think that the videos appear to show a clear lack of leadership on the part of UCPD. It appears from the videos (which admittedly MAY not show the entire picture, or totality of circumstances)t hat the officers did not respond appropriately. It looks bad, and may very well BE bad! What is Capt. Margo Bennett's background? Do they have a chief of police? Where is he on this debacle?
+9 # fredboy 2011-11-12 08:28
Bullies are drawn to police work. It allows them to bully others.
+8 # Dave_s Not Here 2011-11-12 14:02
Quoting fredboy:
Bullies are drawn to police work. It allows them to bully others.

Of course they are. What could be a better cover for one's natural inclination to bully than to be hired, trained, given a gun and be paid to go out into the public and bully.

Ignorant, mindless thugs have to eat too, you know.
+8 # Inlike 2011-11-12 09:16
Some things seem not to have changes since the 60's, i.e., the mentality of law enforcement. Kent Sate? I remember that they sure taught those bystanders a lesson.
+12 # WarrenM 2011-11-12 13:22
As a UC grad I am calling for the immediate firing of this person Margo Bennet and whoever put her in charge. Her handling of this matter is obviously below even the lowest standards but her comments concerning violence are at best ignorant and at worse malicious. This person is supposed to be protecting the students of the University.
0 # futhark 2011-11-13 13:59
Here's another UC Berkeley alumnus who says "Margo must go!" Shame on the UC police for acting as if demonstrators linking arms were committing acts of violence. Ms. Bennet is a police officer in the tradition of Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor, who assaulted civil rights protestors with fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
+5 # jerryball 2011-11-12 16:30
Capt. Margo Bennett is the classic equivalent of the Nazi SS Torture Agent.
Cruelty Personified:
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2011-11-12 16:47
‘...UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. "I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest."’

Huh? Linked arms = violence? So what, by this standard, is her cops’ behaviour - manic-psychopat hic frenzy?
+4 # OldSalt 2011-11-12 19:10
It is unlawful for the police,while under the color of law, to attack the peaceful students exercising their constitutional rights.

see FBI link:

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
Conspiracy Against Rights

This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).

It further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder his/her free exercise or enjoyment of any rights so secured.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to ten years, or both; and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years, or for life, or may be sentenced to death.
+1 # joestecher 2011-11-13 15:03
It really does demonstrate just how far off the tracks we have gone when the campus police at a State University have been militarized.
0 # mjc 2011-11-14 17:55
Apparently, ALL of the campus police as well as the state or local police these days simply decide to go for the "military" image and that is accepted by the local university, local mayor and council as well as state troopers. It would be very informative if someone could find out when or how this decision is implemented since it certainly bypasses our Constitutional rights.

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