Faculty and UCPD representatives presented the university’s Police Review Board last night (Monday, March 5) with video and commentary that offered contrasting perspectives on events of Nov. 9, when police sought to prevent protesters from setting up an encampment outside of Sproul Plaza. The hearing followed two public forums in February in which members of the general public, students and faculty offered testimony and comments about the events of that day.
Judith Butler, professor of rhetoric, accompanied by law professor Jonathan Simon, displayed video images of students carrying signs in defense of public education, and also of police prodding protesters with batons and at times pulling protesters down to the ground by their hair.
Butler said police used violence without justification. She further questioned whether the university administration abandoned campus norms for handling protests or have created new norms that involve military techniques against peaceful protesters. “The question before us is not whether the students were right or wrong in pitching the tents,” she said. “The question is what is the appropriate university response.”
In contrast, Janine Scancarelli, an attorney representing UCPD, accompanied by police Capt. Margo Bennett, showed video images and photo diagrams to support contentions that police were only interested in removing tents and preventing encampments, not making arrests. Police had planned to move through the crowd, grab the tents, and leave the area, she said. However, she continued, they encountered an aggressive crowd in which many were blocking, pushing, shoving, hitting or kicking officers and taunting them. “The protesters had a part to play in what happened that day,” she said, later adding that “Police had no idea of the amount of resistance they would meet.”
Scancarelli, who acknowledged that the video images were unsettling, displayed police and UC policy documents permitting use of force — including the use of batons — in crowd-control situations. She also noted that individuals may not obstruct police officers, touch them or surround them. “You see a lot of that happening in these videos,” she said, with the resulting outcome that unfolded.
During the meeting, PRB members asked the presenters a few questions to clarify or question the presenter’s assertions. Approximately 35 individuals sat in the audience to watch the proceedings, which occurred in a small classroom in Barrows Hall and lasted about two hours. The meeting ended without the conclusion of Scancarelli’s presentation; it was scheduled to resume tonight (Tuesday, March 6) 5 to 7 p.m. at 130 Boalt Hall.
Ultimately, the PRB will present a written report of its findings to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. In addition to information gained through the two public forums and this week’s meetings, the board will consider any protester accounts sent to them by email or other methods, information gained from interviews with campus leaders about the events of that day and other materials.