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UC Berkeley chancellor criticizes police in Occupy Cal clash

November 15, 2011 |  9:54 am

Occupy Cal Nov 9 2011

The chancellor of UC Berkeley is criticizing campus police for yanking the hair of Occupy Cal protesters and shoving batons into their stomachs.

Initially, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said the protesters' actions were worthy of police action during last week's campus conflict, writing in an email to the campus community:

“It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.”

PHOTOS: Occupy protests

But on Monday afternoon, Birgeneau released another statement, explaining he had been traveling in Asia during the protest and had not actually seen video posted of the beatings until Sunday.

“These videos are very disturbing," he wrote. "The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community. We cannot condone any excessive use of force against any members of our community.”

Following complaints from several student body organizations and the ACLU, Birgeneau has asked the chair of the campus’ police review board to launch a review of last Wednesday’s police action.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

He also granted immediate amnesty to protesters who were arrested and cited for protecting an Occupy Cal encampment near the school’s entrance by Sproul Hall.

The chancellor echoed his support for movements to improve education funding, especially for the financially strapped UC system, saying “we share the aspirations of the Occupy movement.”

But he still prefers activism be focused on Sacramento politicians, not on indefinitely occupying any part of the campus, he said.

Meanwhile, protesters have kept the Occupy Cal encampment going and are calling for a campuswide walkout Tuesday to join protest teach-ins at Sproul Plaza.


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-- Alexa Vaughn

Photo: Police in riot gear clash with student activists in front of Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus last Wednesday. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press