Campus & community, Campus news

Chancellor Carol Christ reflects on ongoing Sather Gate protest

Political protest is a protected activity on the Berkeley campus — it is also subject to time, place, and manner regulations.

Chancellor Carol Christ sent the following message to the campus community on Tuesday:

I have been asked many questions over the past weeks about the protest at Sather Gate. Sather Gate has been a site for political protest for many years. The current protest at Sather Gate has been unusual in the length of time that it has gone on, the disruption it has imposed, and the conflict that it has engendered. 

Political protest is a protected—indeed a valued—activity on the Berkeley campus, it is also subject to time, place, and manner regulations. We address nonviolent civil disobedience in accordance with UC’s systemwide Community Safety Plan. That plan directs us to avoid police involvement, if possible, and prioritize negotiation when responding to nonviolent violations of rules. The approach we are taking at the Gate is identical to the approach used to resolve other nonviolent political protests on our campus.

Enforcement of regulations must be content neutral. The regulations that apply to protests at the Gate prohibit attaching anything to the Gate, the use of amplified sound, completely blocking the path of travel, and/or harassing those who pass by. Our facilities crew and our student affairs staff have been telling current protesters when they are violating time, place, and manner violations, and asking them to stop the offending behavior. Any passer-by, or any protester, who feels they have been subject to harassment or discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. We review every report.  

Because I have heard a variety of complaints associated with the current situation at the Gate, I have decided to post observers who can monitor and report on the situation. My team is continuing to try to connect with representatives of those organizing the protest and those objecting to it so that we can find a path forward and reduce conflict.

In anticipation of what are likely to be frequent political protests, I am not sure our approach to our current time, place, and manner rules, particularly about the Gate, are serving us well. I am therefore convening a small group to re-examine the policies and procedures, and to potentially propose revisions.