Yesterday, I was beaten, arrested, and jailed for participating in an act of civil disobedience against the privatization of education and criminalization of dissent in California.

I’ve spent the last day trying to process what happened, and writing this is an attempt to get it out of my mind and on to paper (having spent last night on a cement floor, I could use some mental solace).  There’s nothing exceptional about my experience, and yet, even knowing that, I write this grappling with a feeling of voicelessness and powerlessness that I have never before experienced.  I know that, once you start talking about “police brutality” and “police states”, you enter into a group of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists that most Americans dismiss out of hand.  I can’t control that portrayal, but for whatever reason, I need to talk about what happened, even if I can’t figure out why it has affected me so much.

We set up “Occupy Cal” in an attempt to open up our university to groups that had been excluded from it, to create a safe space to debate and discuss the future of public education, and to exercise our first amendment right to free assembly. We all knew that what we were doing was in violation of university policy—which views encampments as, somehow, on par with graffiti and building occupations insofar as they disrupt classes and harm university property—and that in doing so we risked arrest.  But, having passed a resolution explicitly declaring our encampment peaceful and non-violent, we expected those arrests to follow the rules of engagement that have defined civil disobedience since the Civil Rights era.  Cal has had occupations before – protesting against apartheid, for example – and while the university didn’t like them, it ultimately tolerated them as a means of democratic dissent.

We were wrong to think the same would happen for us.  Our encampment was torn down at 4:00 p.m., but we set up again.  At 9:30 p.m., the police issued an order to disperse.  We stayed, linking arms and chanting “Peaceful protest!”  The police advanced up to the crowd and started stabbing and beating people with batons.  Most of them were riot cops from other jurisdictions; a professor who has been here thirty years assures me that this level of militarization of police (there were officers with shotguns and rubber-bullet guns) is unprecedented.  Although the labels “violent” and “non-violent” get bandied around to the extent that they have virtually lost any meaning in public discourse, I have never seen protesters remain so defiantly peaceful in the face of such brutality.  Reasonable people can disagree about whether privatizing Cal is a good thing; no one should disagree that what this video shows is unconscionable.  I trust you to make your own decisions about who here was “violent” and who was not.

I was in front, near the side of the encampment.  A female officer walked up to me and started stabbing me in the ribs with her baton as I screamed at her that I was peaceful and not resisting her in any way.  She ordered me to back up.  This was impossible since there were lines of people behind me, and, perceiving me as refusing to comply with her orders, she continued stabbing me.  I buckled over, letting go of the people around me, because at this point I realized that only by being arrested would the beating stop.  I threw my hands up into peace signs and shouted that I wanted to be arrested non-violently.  I was not afforded that option.  I was dragged through the officers despite my attempts to comply with the officers out of my own volition.  I put my hands behind my back, but they threw me to the ground anyway.  I turned to ask what the charges were and an officer punched me back to the ground.  (If you think I’m pulling this out of my ass, watch this video at 1:40)

They cuffed me and dragged me into Sproul Hall, where they were holding around thirty of us.  An officer came and asked me my name, and I told it to her.  She then started firing off questions, and I politely told her that before I did that, I wanted to know my rights at this point in the process and when I would be able to speak to a lawyer.  She responded, “You have no rights”, to which I responded “That’s impossible.”  In one of many disturbing moments of the night, she informed me that I was wrong – and wrote me down as a non-cooperative arrestee.   That simple request will earn me extra harsh treatment in the student disciplinary process, she assured me.  Throughout the night, we were referred to as “bodies” not “people.”  I was never Mirandized.

In a sense, at this point, the worst was over.  The thirty of us supported one another, comforted one another, and inspired one another.  We were driven to a county jail in Oakland, where they booked us—threatening that because our crimes were “violent” we could not be released until an Arraignment on Monday.  In a holding cell that reeked of urine, we swapped stories, sang songs ranging from Buffalo Springfield to the Backstreet Boys, and shared a sense of camaraderie that could never be imagined in another setting.  If we were afraid, we weren’t showing it: indeed, I would love to have had the defiant moral clarity of some of my eighteen-year-old comrades.

In the end, the entire process was a sham.  I called my parents collect at 3 a.m. ($4.85 a minute—just to screw the poor a little bit more) telling them they needed to put together $20,000 in bail.  And then, right afterward, a kind officer told me that they were sure that our charges of “resisting arrest” and “participating in a riot” had no chance in court, and so they were going to cite and release us.  They took their sweet time in getting us out, but when we were again free, some of our union brothers and sisters were waiting for us with food, hugs, and their own first arrest stories.  It’s strange to have experienced such wild oscillation between human decency and human cruelty, to interact both with officers who were thoughtful and considerate and those who were mindlessly violent.

On the grand spectrum of police encounters, I’ve gotten off easy.  My injuries are confined to a cracked rib and bruised psyche.  I am an enormously privileged person in that I can get arrested and know that it will not ruin my life or manifestly affect my academic career.  I have received solidarity and comfort from friends all over the country and professors in the department I barely know.  I have not for one moment doubted that my actions were in the right, and that I have nothing to be ashamed of; this is a source of strength that holds me together.  And yet I have spent all day on the verge of crying.

I feel profoundly disempowered by what happened yesterday, in a way that has only become apparent once I left the solidarity of my fellow arrestees.  I feel violated because I no longer am safe in my own body, knowing that I can be stabbed and manhandled and the individuals responsible will face no consequences.  I feel humiliated because some of the people I have talked to seem to think that what happened last night demands no response, which suggests the worthlessness of my suffering and my cause.  I feel small because I see myself arrayed against the implacable forces of an administration bent on spinning my actions into the framework of violent, radicals seeking to disrupt life for good, law-abiding students.  I feel stupid because many of the illusions I grew up with about the rules of engagement in our political system are crumbling before me, leaving me no avenue through which to channel my anger about what has happened to me.

– – – – –

I’d rather end on a practical note.  I hope anyone reading this will consider writing Chancellor Birgeneau, who ordered the attacks, to tell him that you—as a citizen of Berkeley / California / Earth—do not approve.  We always chant “The whole world is watching” when police start attacking us.  It’d be nice to know that it’s true.

102 thoughts on “Arrested

  1. Invictus

    OUT of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance 5
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade, 10
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate: 15
    I am the captain of my soul.

  2. 1.) This fucking sucks. 2.) You’re fucking awesome. Grateful for the boldness you showed last night at the protest and today by describing your experience so honestly.

  3. I read Chancellor Birgeneau’s email (apparently I am still on list from my summer at Goldman School) and was disappointed to read this: “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.”

  4. To be honest, I generally shy away from activism due to the fact that I know how good I have it and I really dislike intentionally creating confrontation. But this post, and the videos with them, have really swayed my views of the occupy movement. This was a wonderful act of peaceful protest that was violently disrupted in ways I thought were extinct after the civil rights movement of 50 years ago. I’ve taken for granted the idea that political activism in this way was tolerated and praised in this country, but now I’m seeing otherwise. Thank you for not only putting yourself out there for the movement but sharing your experience. I’m sure I am not the only one that this has reached.

  5. You know, we grow up as part of the process, thinking that the system works and that if we adhere to a set of rules we will never experience things like police brutality or unlawful retention. Then you see something like this. And it makes you so angry that the system you have been subscribing to, the system you thought for years worked, will take law-abiding citizens and violate their rights so wholly and so violently and without remiss or remorse. This makes me so outraged. The system is so broken, but in more ways than I had originally realised. I am so sorry you had to go through this Alex, but through you I find strength and passion to continue doing my part to fight for my rights and for what I believe is right. Thank you Alex.

  6. As Alex’s father, I am extremely proud of him and everyone else standing up for justice and fairness. I am moved by the support of his fellow arrestees, professors, friends, and those who have commented on his blog. He is doing something I never dared to do. I am beginning to be hopeful again— because of the Occupy movement, because of the Wall Street protesters, because of the UC Berkeley protesters, because of Alex—that we will see the nation rise up against the greed and callousness that has dominated the country for 30 years ushered in by Ronald Reagan. In this recent NPR interview Jeffrey Sachs says it better than I can:

    “The precise point is that money and wealth is accumulated so much at the top that it’s time for the wealthiest, richest and most powerful people in this country to play their proper role, to have the civic virtues to support America’s recovery — to stop saying that everything is theirs, and the rest of society has to suffer.

    “I want the people at the top to have responsibility once again. First, to follow the law, because this has been an era of corporate recklessness and scandal and illegality.

    “So, part of civic virtue is being lawful once again. But another part … is sharing in the responsibility in our society. And I believe that the richest and most powerful people have done very well over the last 30 years — but they have not done right for the American people. And it’s time that they do.”

    1. Awesome dad. *nod* Proud of you, too…in the face of college-age kids I know whose parents have disavowed them due participation in Occupy. Good on you, Sir.

  7. I just emailed your chancellor. If I were able presently I would have called, but still.

    Stay strong. We are all watching.

  8. Stand in defiance, with your head held high. The tide can turn but it won’t come easily. Always remember that your brothers and sisters stand with you.

  9. We are watching from up here in the Sierras of Northern California, and we stand behind you, and are very, very proud of your courage and honest, articulate blog post and deep humanity. I will email your chancellor right now.

  10. Just remember. A conspiracy theory is only a conspiracy theory if it cannot be proven (or at least very very difficult to prove). That’s what everyone needs to understand.

    The things happening right now are PROVEN FACTS and have nothing to do with conspiracy THEORIES.

  11. I just emailed your Chancellor. Here is what I sent:

    Dear Sir:

    I grew up in the East Bay, and took a few classes at UC Berkeley in my youth. I remember the campus and the staff as a place of learning and inquiry, with a strong commitment to social justice.

    Against this background, I am deeply disappointed in the attitudes displayed towards student protestors who occupied the space near Sproul Hall last Wednesday, on 9th November. I am deeply disappointed in the decision to displace the protestors. I am shocked at the violence perpetrated by the police forces, and I am aghast that UC Berkeley chose to deploy police equipped to dispense such violence.

    Sir, the world is watching. Do you condone the violent suppression of speech and of peaceful assembly?


  12. Thank you for sharing your experience. Honor your feelings; you’ve been through a traumatic event and it’s understandable that you’d be shaken afterwards. Take good care of yourself. And as you think about your experience, don’t allow the bad to overshadow the good: that sense of solidarity and unity with your fellow arrested and with the folks who met you as you came out of jail. We are fighting for a better world, and the moments when we feel that unity and solidarity and kindness are the moments where we get a taste of what that world will be like.

  13. Dear one,

    Thanks so much for your hard work, integrity, and the beautiful articulation of your experience. It is so urgently needed right now — both the hard work of non-violent direct action and telling our stories of police brutality. Especially by young people. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I have been in similar situations, and I want to gently advise you to consider getting help and support for trauma, in whatever way works for you. Sometimes, we don’t know how deeply these events affect our hearts and mind until it begins to show up in really difficult ways -we think we’re fine – and in truth, its harder to heal once the harm has a chance to set in. I have been in your place, and I really know. For you and all of the students you are working with, I hope you can find support that resonates with you and is helpful. I know you don’t know me, but in addition to being an activist, I’m a massage therapist and an herbalist and have many contacts in other wellness fields, and I would be happy to help in anyway that I can. All you have to do is drop me a note.

    In love and solidarity,

    1. Riyana is absolutely right. Even if you don’t feel permanently damaged yet, do the damage control it takes to prevent an unpleasant discovery later on. See a counselor, call a crisis line, SOMETHING. We need your voice– take care of it now so you can keep fighting the good fight later on.

      Pennsylvania is watching, too, and we support you.

  14. Alex, thanks for sharing your experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the events and aftermath of the Occupy Cal protests. It sounds to me like you are right where you need to be given the circumstances at UC Berkeley and in our society as a whole. Please remember that we are in this together. The Occupy Movement is still in its infancy and none of us can predict how far we will be able to go in creating fundamental social and political change.

  15. this is the first personal account of police brutality that I’ve read from the occupy movement, and it’s a hell of a provocative one…

    I’m sorry for what you’ve experience, but thankful for this post – action will be taken

  16. I am disilussioned with what I keep hearing. Stay strong and thank you for “taking one for the team,” the team of the 99%!!

  17. Sent this:
    Dear Chancellor Birgenau,

    As a long time resident of the Bay Area and as a military veteran I was appalled to witness the violent mishandling of the campus occupation this week. I find it hard to believe that a man of responsibility such as yourself would allow, in fact order, his students to be brutalized by the hands of local police who are known to be violent thugs. I eagerly await your appropriate response and resolution to what has been done to the innocent youth who you are supposed to protect and nurture. It is time for you to decide if you are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

    Peace be with you,

    Michael Hofler

  18. Our country has entered a dark time, but with people out there willing to challenge the system there is hope…please don’t give up, these rights are ours to fight for! We have the best words in our constitution however it seems those in charge have lost their meaning. Sad when peaceful protest is made into violence by the people they are suppose to protect. I am outraged by what I saw on this video. It was plainly police brutality ! Shame on them ! Chancellor Birgenau, shame on you ! I would think some police officers or whom ever these thugs are, need to be disciplined, & fired!!

  19. I’m a Chilean citizen and you are right when you think the whole world is watching. I admire you’re courage, never doubt your beliefs because even if you dont know it or feel it, the majority of the world stands besides you.

  20. It isn’t that we have no rights. It is that we have no rights that the police, in a system that almost always gives them total impunity, are bound to respect. We do, of course, theoretically have our Constitutional rights and our unalienable rights, but if we attempt to exercise them we often find that we cannot defend them against ruthless brutality from armed agents of the world’s biggest military superpower.

    We are being treated relatively well in comparison with the way that protesters in Egypt are treated:

    But it is the US that arms and trains the Egyptian authorities in the suppression of civil dissent. And because the Egyptian army is protecting Israel, Hillary Clinton voiced the Obama administration’s opposition to any human rights limitations on military aid to Egypt–aid which amounts to over a billion dollars a year and is used primarily against their own citizens.

    In Egypt, in Palestine, and everywhere that violence is used against peaceful protesters, the tanks and the teargas canisters bear the imprint, “Made in USA.” Most of our enormous defense budget, so large that it precludes the possibility of our having things like free higher education, health care for all, and other benefits at home, is used to suppress civil dissent abroad–dissent against our theft of other nations’ resources, our imposition of disastrous economic policies and the resulting impoverishment of entire countries, and our government’s suppression of democratic tendencies anywhere in the world.

    Many scenes of police brutality look almost identical, with the police wearing similar riot gear, armed with the same weapons, and using the same tactics–so much so that a viewer often has to look for the labels to know what country they’re seeing.

    We at Occupy San Diego and at all the other Occupies in the US and around the world, support your courage and your convictions. We are the 99% and the 1% who are our oppressors, will not silence or stop us. They are destroying the planet, our only habitat, for short-term profit, and we cannot let them continue. We have nothing to lose, as they will either kill us all quickly with nuclear bombs, or kill us all slowly as every aging nuclear plant in the world turns into another and another and another Fukushima because capitalists, whose focus is only on maximizing profits and who have no regard whatsoever for the welfare of people, won’t shut them down before they melt down.


  21. Thank you for your willingness to process “out loud” via this blog post. Thank you as well for the practical suggestion. Just before this reply to you, I finished and sent a letter expressing my outrage to the Chancellor and copied UC President Mark Yudof.

  22. You are doing the right thing, never doubt that. More and more people each day are joining us, more eyes are opening, more people are realizing that they can no longer deny that which they do not wish to acknowledge.

    Together, we are powerful. The authorities want us to think we are weak and alone. We are not. We are in the early days of this movement, but it is a rising tide. Do not doubt that what you are doing will make a difference.

    Thank you.

  23. Thank you for posting this, and for taking a stand with your fellow students. I’m sorry that you had to go through such an experience. We’re all very proud of you. Keep fighting the good fight.

    I e-mailed the Chancellor, btw.

  24. Thank you so much for “talking” about this. I just sent an email to Chancellor Birgeneau, and it ended up too long to paste here (I would feel like spaming). But for your general information, as Alvaro pointet out earlier, the world is watching: I am typing this from Norway:)

    Take care

  25. You may or may not be able to take solace in this, but if those who permitted this were not afraid of you and your friends, attacks like these on peaceful protesters would never happen.
    You can be proud that you were there and that you all tried to do what was right, that you tried to remain peaceful in spite of aggression on the part of the police.
    You are not a victim. You are a hero.

  26. Fear not for the legion is coming. We will fight this tyranny on all fronts. They will regret treating the people the way they do.

  27. It’s like we are ramping up to another Kent State. I can’t fathom universities (especially in Berkeley, CA) turning riot police on peaceful protests; it’s like some kind of bad dream. Thank you for writing.

  28. Watching and reading from Seattle. I’m so glad you are on my team. May the support and love of friends and strangers heal you, re-embolden you, undisempower you. Rest, recuperate, regenerate.

    The injuries and the memories of violence are yours alone to bear (please take good care), but the righteousness of your actions, the way they bend towards justice, is for all time and for all people. Thank you.

    1. By the premise of your argument (that Miranda rights are used before interrogation), the officers should have read him the Miranda rights before asking him questions and threatening further punishment in an extrajudicial student conduct process.

  29. Solidarity from New York. Please do not let these events discourage you or your occupation’s efforts. The whole world is watching, and more people are standing behind you than you may think.

  30. I have written to the Chancellor not just that this occurance should never have happened, but that as a parent I will make sure my children never attend this school precisely because of this event. If he and those like him can’t be bothered to take note of the moral and ethical rules of behavior, maybe the economic consequences will have some impact.

    What you have been through, your feelings – the violation you hace experienced is very similar to rape, and it sounds lide your emotions are following the same course I and many other sexual assualt survivors have been through. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek out professional help if you need it, but the best healing will come from others who have been through the same thing you have. I suggest putting a few friends you can talk with on speed dial for the bad nights. I wish you the best in recovering from this trauma.

    Watching from PA

  31. Very powerful post, thank you for sharing it with the world. Stay strong, we are all in this together. Please keep us updated on what happens next in your hearing. I wrote to the chancellor and posted this on Facebook. I think spreading awareness is helping. Best of luck.

  32. Thank you for sharing this. Your reaction is entirely understandable and I am sure you are not alone in struggling to process what happened to you and your fellow students on the Berkley campus. Writing this piece is a good first step in recovering from the trauma that a corrupt and/or severely ill informed police department inflicted upon you. I have also emailed the chancellor and will be sharing your essay with my friends.

  33. Your courage is very inspiring and your internal moral compass is true. What none of us expect is to be voicing out opinion, and be harmed for doing so. This was not the way it was years ago. Somehow, officialdom has convinced those with official power (ie police) that they have the right to hurt us, and yet they are not accountable. This is the war between officialdom and the rest of us. They want to provoke us so they can really slap us down harder and harder, figuring that eventually we will be cowed by their violent behavior. Nothing can be further from the truth. They more they display illegitimate power, the more of us there will be beside you, both in the flesh and in spirit. The whole world IS watching and using asymmetric means to make our point.

  34. Stay strong, stay peaceful. Remember that Gandhi won and you are part of a noble tradition, although a very painful one (… the sight, in the movie “Gandhi”, of nonviolent protesters stepping forward, one by one, to get beat until the police were exhausted, is both inspiring and terrible …).

  35. Here is what I sent:

    Dear sir,

    Berkeley’s role as a model public university is so important that we must summon ourselves to its highest aspirations.

    This is copied from your homepage, are these the aspirations to call police to inflict harm on our future leaders. I can not believe someone that is supposed to instruct our children could do such a thing. I would have thought someone in your position would have been proud of the kids standing up for what they believe peaceably. Maybe you are trying to teach them that as long as you are in charge and have money to back you up, you can beat down who ever you want by calling the cops.

    You should apologize and then resign. The WORLD is watching and waiting.


    Timothy Reid

    Georgia, U.S.A.

    Thank you very much for standing up to what is right.

  36. To think on another blog I saw someone wishing this would happen. The police were already acting like they’ve been privatized. It just seems to me that they were slipped something extra to doctor the reports to make sure no one can sue the university for this

  37. Any time we experience a loss of control over our own free will it can be traumatizing and it takes a while to deal with the accompaning emotions. This will pass of course, its just a matter of time. talking, and writing about it. Writing of your experience also helps the rest of us. With the conservative control of the media in this country, blogs like this serve a huge purpose. Thank you for being there and letting the world know.

  38. The Govt, and it’s agents, employees have been BLACKLISTED! Our company will not sell or service any official, under any circumstance. That is until they comply with the demands of the people. This is a corporate revolt aimed at CUTTING OFF ALL RESOURCES TO CRIMINALS. Hopefully, other companies will follow our lead. When tyrants can’t buy or sell anything they will be forced to either evolve or perish. It is a tough lesson but one that needs to be learned. This is a new D.O.S. ATTACK. R-U IN?

  39. As someone who has led an activist life and has experienced multiple arrests, I want to express my admiration for your courage. There are moments in history when certain individuals take steps that are necessary for the good of all. You are living such a moment. This realization that your “rights” are revocable, and easily dismissed shakes you to the core. But this realization is nothing more than a full picture of the injustice you decided to address. Armed force is employed in order to hold on when political power begins to disintegrate. I hope you seek out what you need to integrate this experience in a way that allows it to become the fertile ground upon which you continue to build a life of integrity and courage. The planet hungers for it.

  40. If everyone who is arrested at any Occupy assembly will bring multiple civil lawsuits against the arresting officer, the arresting police department, against the government authority ordering the arrest and against all the individuals in the city government complicit in the arrests AND against the city itself the courts will be so bogged down they will grind to a screeching halt. I hope you will do so, blog about it and encourage everyone else to do the same. The whole world IS watching. The revolution is peaceful, it is here now and it is unstoppable! Occupy Everywhere!

  41. I really appreciate your reflection on your experience. I was not yet arrested and in LA we have been really lucky with the LAPD working with us, but I just have this sinking feeling it will not last long. I, too, feel powerless sometimes when I look at what we are up against. But, I try to remind myself that all great social movements have been met with strong resistance by those actively defending the status quo. Keep fighting.
    In solidarity,
    Tami from Occupy LA

  42. I hate to be the one to say this, but you knew you were breaking university policy so you should have expected this response. I don’t know what the law here is, but I assume you signed some sort of agreement about following university policy when you joined the university. Also, rubber bullets and batons is hardly militarization. I didn’t see any police brutality in the videos, just police being rough with a bunch of students who can’t follow the rules. Get over yourself.

    1. Wow. That’s just… wow. I honestly cannot believe you wrote that. If everyone thought like you do, there would be no America. No one would ever have revolted against anything. ‘We can’t express our opinions freely without risk of arrest? All right then, I’ll just keep it to myself. After all, it’s the law!’

    2. No, “Another student,” when a university decides to operate within the United States, they are agreeing to abide by the US Constitution. Paying tuition at a US university does not forfeit your Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly, any more than it forfeits your right not to be sodomized by the football coach. Some people may see nothing wrong with cops brutalizing students or football coaches raping them, but in both cases the students are the ones whose rights are violated. Perhaps, if you are really a student, you should take some time out from your studies to read the Constitution and find out what the laws are here. University policies do not trump Constitutional rights within the USA.

  43. brother..when these are the levels of “unhumane” treatments and abuse we are bountfully receiving right now in these times from the “authorities”…
    Unity, solidarity and truth are the only things that can protect us..
    good on you for standing up for what you believe in and doing what you think is right.
    these times are sent to test us and if you can experience all that hurt, anger and disapointment and come out the other side still wanting to continue your fight till the end of it all..
    your already winning 🙂

  44. Arrested……..thank you for such an honest heartfelt report. I am watching from the UK and have written to the Chancellor and CoP. I find what is going in the ‘ Wests’ suppression of democracy totally unacceptable. Third reich all over again, how the wheel has turned.

    Keep it peaceful……..namaste.

  45. I too sent an e-mail to Dr. Birgeneau, which I copy below.

    Alex, thank you for writing about your experience, and especially about your emotional state following the events. Your courage in revealing the emotional damage, and the cultural damage that was inflicted on you and on everyone who knows you and saw what happened to you, has huge repercussions for western, North American culture. As Naomi Wolf has been warning about for over a decade, this is how totalitarianism grows in previously free societies.

    Dear Doctor Birgeneau,

    Today I read the account of one of the protesters who was forcibly removed and detained by the riot police on Berkeley Campus. I also watched several videos that displayed, clearly and undeniably, riot police using their batons to stab peaceful protesters in their abdomens, repeatedly and with great force. Some of these police appeared to be virtually out of control, stabbing repeatedly at downed protestors. The students are clearly being reasonable and peaceful to the armored police, but that didn’t seem to phase the brutality I saw. What did seem to bring those police back into control was the massed, clear chanting of the protesters, with cries of “Stop Beating Students!”, “The Whole World Is Watching!” and “Shame! Shame!”.

    Having seen this response to a constitutional right to peaceful assembly, and the moral right to voice their issues, I wonder how you feel about your decision to force the protesters’ removal. I hope, with all my heart, that you feel the same shame that those police with consciences did, when they stopped trying to severely injure people conducting a commendably peaceful protest.

    Berkeley has a reputation for being the source of positive change in the culture of your country. It would be a terrible shame if that reputation was completely repudiated under your watch, at your instruction.

  46. I truly admire what you and everyone else at Berkeley did in standing up for an education system that is open to all and a world where we as citizens can peacefully assemble. I’m a student at University of Oregon and have been participating in Occupy Eugene, which has led to informative negotiations with our administration.

    Last night a group of 8 friends of mine decided late at night to head up to Portland to join in the support to stop the eviction. There were thousands in the streets and the whole world was indeed watching. The police backed down at 6am after we continued to demonstrate throughout the entire night the world that we want to see and live in. We were singing in circles together, drumming and dancing, forming spontaneous massage lines, making decisions by the people for the people on the front lines by the riot police with a consensus process, giving free hugs, and watching the awesome bike brigade circle the blocks tirelessly for hours on end. You are in this with so many other people in this world who are making a world of possibility and potential for strong, sustained beauty.

    I hope you have it in you to keep up the good non-violent fight, since I sure do!


  47. you’re on the right side and you’re in the country that more can influence the rest of the world. Thanks for your spirit and your determination. You’ll never walk alone..

  48. The world is watching, and we stand behind you.
    In no way is what happened to you ever acceptable or excusable.
    I’ll do everything I can to make sure people know about the outrageous treatment you experienced.
    A friend at Reed College, in Portland, OR.

  49. Dear Alex,

    I am a former UC Berkeley student who wishes that she had been able to attend the protests last Wednesday and today, but due to medical reasons, can’t.

    I’m posting this reply to say that I support and respect you for going through this whole ordeal for the sake of public education nationwide. I hope that your injuries heal well, and I wish you the best in this struggle to reclaim public education.

    Furthermore, I’ve read not only this blog post, but some of the others you’ve written. I’m worried about the future of the UCs (as well as the rest of America), and I’ve been looking for answers. You seem to have a lot of knowledge about the current state of our economic, political, and education systems in America, so I hope that you post at least some of this knowledge in your blog. If you do, you have one willing listener here.

    Good luck with everything, and support Cal the way I wish I can.

    – Michelle

  50. You are right, the whole world is watching. I’m from the Philippines and I watched the arrests go down. I still can’t understand why your campus police would treat you that way. I had applied for UC San Diego and UC Bekeley before (but ended up not going because your university charges international students $45,000 in tuition alone per year for International Students), so to see this horrifies me. The very reason I wanted to go to your school was because of its long history of civil disobedience and peaceful assembly, which I have always admired. To see this happen in a school with such an honorable tradition really made me wonder what was happening to America. It no longer is the USA I used to know from my childhood.
    Thank you for sharing your views and your thoughts with us. Be strong and thank you for standing up.

  51. This post left me in tears. It was so shocking to see everyday college students like myself being brutalized on their own campus. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  52. I watched this video before, it is really awful, I empathize with the pain suffered in violence.I have personally been a victim of extreme police brutality…but in that black & brown communities are not shocked, not surprised, the increased militarization of police have been perfected on those communities, and all I can say to those who will for the first time wake up to the real nation they love(d) we as black & brown people woke up long ago and have been the canaries in the coal mine for the state of this nation. We welcome you to the struggle, we welcome you to the real America, we welcome you, may truth justice and a better way prevail though the sacrifice of those brave enough to open eyes wide in the face of evil, to throw bodies against this wall of oppression, I am glad you finally got here, we needed you and we welcome you home to truth ♥

  53. I watched this video before, it is really awful, we sympathize with your real pain & suffering in this even.I myself have been the victim of extreme police brutality.Unfortunately black & brown communities are not shocked, not surprised, the increased militarization of police have been perfected on those communities, and all I can say to those who will for …the first time wake up to the real nation they love(d) we as black & brown people woke up long ago and have been the canaries in the coal mine for the state of this nation. We welcome you to the struggle, we welcome you to the real America, we welcome you, may truth justice and a better way prevail though the sacrifice of those brave enough to open eyes wide in the face of evil, to throw bodies against this wall of oppression, I am glad you finally got here, we needed you and we welcome you home to the great nation of the truth about this great nation ♥

  54. I encourage you to have NO doubt that the whole world is, indeed, watching. Many have been watching the events at UC locations with support for you wonderful, brave protesters and with contempt at the school officials and police who have violated their oaths, under orders or not. Your blog was sent to me by a friend in the UK, so believe me when I say that you are NOT alone, and that you are loved by many, many strangers. *virtual hugs*

  55. My heart goes out to you and others that had to endure such a senseless act of violence. I sincerely hope that the shock and trauma of the assault you experienced at the hands of police lessens and that you return to peaceful protest. Please understand, the violence exacted was designed to remove you from the discussion and peaceful protest. Lean on others, and should the shock of this assault linger, please consult professional medical intervention as post-traumatic-shock is a serious injury. And, more importantly, you do have the right to file a lawsuit to address your damages. Bless you. Hang in there, your friend in occupy, Gayle Risley-Dintelmann.

  56. … you’re a fool. Let me ask you something: how many times in history has a “peaceful protest” turned into a case of intense police brutality? If you can name more than ten (which I’m sure you can) than I have no pity for you. What country do you think this is? Almost every comment on here talks about “fight the wall of oppression” or “the real America” or “challenge the system”… if it’s so obvious what a dark empire we’re up against, why is everyone so surprised by this. Why were you surprised? What in the world made you think that the police would respect your “freedom of assembly”? Huh? OF COURSE THEY WERE GOING TO GET VIOLENT, THEY’RE THE FUCKING POLICE, YOU IDIOT! I don’t understand how everyone on here can go on about the evil empire, and then act so surprised when they *gasp* COMMIT ACTS OF MALICE AND POISON! You people make me sick. You all live in this bubble where you act like you know how the world really works, and talk about what a “shitty government we have”, but when you’re faced with the reality of it… you lay down and whimper, waiting for the punchline to save you. Let me explain something: there is no punchline. The world is beauty, yes, but let’s not kid ourselves: the world can also be a cold, dead, unrelenting world. Typical Americans… afraid to fight in their own country. Guess what? There isn’t just a war in the Middle East, there’s one right in your backyard, and you’re losing because you’re not willing to fight!

    This country is full of passive aggressive fools! You want to see some change? You’re going to have to do something more drastic than linking arms and singing “Kumbaya”!

    I have no sympathy for people like you. Dumb… ignorant… fools… all of you seem to be on the same page about how “terrible the government is”… well, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! We’re past the point where freedom of assembly is going to be the catalyst for change. I wish I was wrong. I wake up every morning wishing we lived in a different world, but we don’t. Our government is too big to consider the population individually, and so they lump us all together as one big criminal. It sounds like everyone already knows this, yet you act like YOU’RE the victim!?! I don’t understand…

    Here’s what you did:

    You bought a cup of coffee from McDonald’s and when you spilled it all over yourself, you blamed them, because it was too hot! That’s you! You know, as well as everyone else on here who’s made the claim that “they know the true government”, that you poked the bear… and when you poke the bear, you’re going to get it angry. Don’t be so naive. As soon as I hear the words “peaceful protest” I immediately think of Kent State, 1970. Look what happened then. You got off lucky, compared to those students. You should have started a violent protest. If you already know you were going to get your ass beat to a pulp (which, unless you’re an idiot, you did) you might as well have taken the initiative.

    I’m glad our forefathers didn’t hold a “peaceful protest” against the British in the 1700s… we might still be paying taxes to the king today!

    You’re not a martyr… you’re a fool. Our government isn’t full of patriots, it”s full of fat bureaucratic assholes. Real patriots are visionaries. Real patriots DO SOMETHING!

    “The world is watching…” Well guess what, THE GOVERNMENT IS WATCHING YOU TOO… dumbass… you might as well paint a bullseye on your forehead.

    This country will not change by way of protest… it will change through violence… it’s been true throughout history… it’s still true today.

    I don’t expect anyone to agree with me… in fact, I expect sever backlash. I expect everyone will be shocked and insulted. “How could I say such things?” I do’t know… I guess I just don’t like to follow the pack, as it were.

    I know you’re going to view me as the worst person in the world, but if you look past the name-calling, if you really think about what I’ve been saying, and if you use your brain… maybe you’ll understand.

    1. Since I believe in an open exchange of views, I’ll approve your comment, despite the ad hominem attacks and insults from someone who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know the situation, and, most importantly, doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of how social change has and has not been achieved in the past. There’s a real discussion to be had about what is an effective means of protest and what role violence can or should play in it, but I don’t see much reason to engage when you choose to frame your message as you did.

  57. Yo Captain Picard, you just DID engage… don’t get mad at me. I don’t understand, if you’re so in the “right”, why bother with someone as obviously stupid as I am, hmm? Are you familiar with “Boiling Frog Syndrome”? What am I saying, of course you are. Why, someone as obviously intelligent as you are needn’t bother looking it up. The point is, that’s the situation we are in. Our government slooooooooowly crept up on us, as this overpowering malicious… thing! They started altering the constitution to better suit their needs rather than ours, but it we haven’t noticed because it’s been so gradual. Income tax violates so many constitutional amendments, but nobody does anything about it because now we’re all used to it. Even people who were up in arms about the Patriot Act have, for the most part, shut their mouths. Big time political dissent has been reduced to people standing around at cocktail parties occasionally burping up something like, “Oh yeah, the government *braugh* they suck…”

    Since you seem to be ll-informed about some things… allow me to clarify:

    -The police are not your friends
    -The government doesn’t give a shit about anyone
    -You really DON’T have any rights

    None of us do… you act like I’m just trying to be a dick, and insult you. No, I’m SCOLDING you like a child. All you do is put a spotlight on yourself. What are you, EIGHTEEN? Jesus, is this your first semester in college? For god’s sake, every eighteen-year-old thinks their a goddamn freedom fighting genius. Listen to me, my parents weren’t there to bail ME out. As soon as you start paying your own societal dues, you’ll understand. Until then, I’m not going to pity you.

    Social change? You want to talk about the biggest example of social change? How about the American Revolution? How’s THAT for social change. Oh, and wasn’t that born out of violent revolution? Why, I believe it was! Our government is now the tyrant, and we don’t get that because they’re

    a) a domestic presence, and the thought of a domestic threat is (ironically) foreign to most Americans

    b) being very very sneaky about taking away a person’s liberties

    Thus, I come FULL-CIRCLE to my “boiling frogs syndrome” argument…

    “Doesn’t seem to have a good grasp…” The problem is YOU don’t have a good grasp. This is what I’m talking about. No one is ever going to take a bunch of ninety-pound vegans seriously. Do you know why? Because people like that can get pushed, over and over and over again, until they get pushed right to their own death, and they’ll never push back… and everyone knows that. Your government knows that. Are you going to file an appeal? Are you going to do any follow up work on the officers who arrested you? Did you even memorize any badge numbers, for Christ’s sake? Why the hell not?

    You seem like a smart person (I’m sure your vocabulary is THAT good), so why don’t you open up your mind and try a little critical thinking:

    Why didn’t you fight back? That’s what I want to know?

    Were you afraid of getting hurt?
    -they beat you anyway!

    Were afraid of getting in trouble?
    -you got arrested anyway!

    Ah… were you afraid of the REALITY of the situation?
    -… I think so…

    Do you remember United 93? The only plane that didn’t make it to its intended destination. Why? Because the people on that plane decided to DO SOMETHING! They didn’t sit back and close their eyes, hoping that this was all a dream. They fought back!

    Don’t hate me… don’t hate me because you think I hate you, that’s to the truth. The truth is, you shouldn’t have had to deal with that. No one should… but no one should be surprised by it as well.

    I’m tired of living in passive aggressive America. I’m tired of either seeing ninety-pound weaklings or three-hundred pound children roam the streets, hoping to eek out a meager existence while getting socially raped by our government. I’m tired of seeing the people who control our laws and armies use those as leverage against us. I’m tired of seeing people write blogs, post youtube videos, and “write their congressman” to promote change.

    …but most of all I’m sick and tired of the bubble. Everyone’s fat and lazy or dumb-downed and passive because of it. You live in the bubble… I live in the bubble. We all live in this goddamn bubble. One day it’s going to pop, and none of us are going to know what to do… you probably think I’m an idiot. I don’t blame you. It’s hard to grasp any reason or logic out of an argument based in the disillusion of the world as we know it. It’s hard to take any extremist seriously.

    “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

    Look at that… that’s the last section of the Declaration of Independence. They were willing to give up everything for what they believed in, because they believed they were in the right. A man (or woman) who’s not willing to give up his life for his beliefs is not a man (or woman) at all. People who fear consequence fear it because in their heart they know they’re wrong. The police weren’t afraid to beat you because they new they wouldn’t get in trouble. There’s a difference.

    What are you going to do about that?

    Our forefathers were severely outnumbered by the British Empire… and they still emerged victorious.

    What are you going to do about that?

    I’m not trying to insult you, I’m trying to light a fire under your ass!




    Don’t say “nothing”… don’t you dare say nothing!

    “I am an enormously privileged person in that I can get arrested and know that it will not ruin my life or manifestly affect my academic career.”

    Does that mean your going to breathe a sigh of relief and wait until the next time the authorities violate your civil rights?

    You are lucky… you have gained a perspective that very few of us will ever get to witness. And if you squander that opportunity, if you choose not to cultivate your aggression (and don’t tell me you’re not angry) then I will be severely disappointed.

    Don’t even bother replying, it’s pointless. Neither of us will ever come to an agreement, I can see that already. If you write something back, I’ll simply write another looooooooooong reply, and the process will repeat itself. I just feel insulted when someone thinks that a paragraph, feigning your nonchalant attitude about me, overly-riddled with “ten dollar words” is going to STRIKE ME DOWN, INTELLECTUALLY!

    And yes, I don’t know you personally, but from your picture I can tell that your a person who wears their heart on their sleeve. Highlights? Gauge piercings? Spikes on your clothing? Vegan? Hmm… gee, I wonder what kind of music he prefers? I know where you go to school. I know you come from money, seeing as you’re well-educated as well as having no fears of an arrest or civil disobedience charge affect your academic career. Also, a $20,000 bail is not something we all can afford. Then again, Cal Berkeley
    isn’t exactly Harvard, now is it?

    But what about me? No picture. A name yes, but a very common name. Perhaps an idea of where I come from, perhaps not. Tendencies to go on tangents? Absolutely. No idea what kind of a person I am though, and maybe that bothers you… maybe not.

    Maybe the time for debate is over. Maybe while you’re busy arguing about how non-violence is the right way to promote social change, a police officer will walk up to you and crack you in the ribs… maybe one already has. Maybe, the reason nobody will ever do that to me again, is because I’ve learned how to not make myself a target.

    Maybe I don’t care… maybe this was a mistake. Maybe have a nice life… or what’s left of it, I guess…

  58. …well I for one think that both of you are fools. Mr. Duvall, I will be writing my congressman and telling him to lock you in the nut hatch. And as for you Mr. Anonymous Vegan, I will be finding out where you are so I can steal your lunch money every day…


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