Law profs blast Birgeneau’s Occupy Cal response

More than 85 faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley Law School have signed a letter to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and other administrators condemning the police response to Occupy Cal protesters last week.

The Boalt Hall faculty’s letter says police not only instigated violence at Sproul Plaza, but also were “unwarranted and excessive” in detaining two law students elsewhere that day. The letter urges Birgeneau to publicly support and defend the right to engage in non-violent political expression.

Among the signers is former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, now serving as a Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy at the school.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…

November 16, 2011
Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor
Harry LeGrande, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Dear Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice Chancellors Breslauer and LeGrande,

We, the undersigned members of the Berkeley Law faculty, write to condemn in the strongest possible terms:
1) the violence directed against non-violent student, staff and faculty protesters at Sproul Plaza on November 9, 2011;
2) the temporary detention by police of two law students near the law school on the same day; and
3) the Chancellor’s public and explicit defense of the police action of November 9, 2011, which made inaccurate distinctions between violent and non-violent civil disobedience and which he apparently signed without having viewed the videos of the incidents at issue.

Sproul Plaza. The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances. Interference with these rights, particularly in the form of violence that was visited upon protesters in Sproul Plaza last week, is inexcusable by any government entity, but is particularly troubling at a public university. While the University may enforce its rules, including citing or arresting those engaged in acts of civil disobedience (such as linking arms and refusing to disband), there is no place for instigating violence in a community dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.

Kroeber Plaza. On November 9, in separate incidents, a group of officers detained two Berkeley Law students who were attempting to return to class after participating in the peaceful demonstration at Sproul Hall. The officers detained each student near Kroeber Plaza, though there had been no protest activity at the Plaza or the law school, and the students were simply walking back to class. Ostensibly, the officers were asking for identification. However, the accounts of these incidents provided by the two students and other witnesses – law students and law school faculty and staff – describe police actions that were unwarranted and excessive.

Going Forward. The police conduct at Sproul Plaza, and the humiliating and frightening police activity at Kroeber Plaza, have caused a number of our students to question whether they can safely come and go from the law school, much less exercise their First Amendment rights at our university. In addition to the urgent need for a thorough review of these events – including holding accountable those parties responsible for any actions that violated the civil and political rights of our community members – we call on the administration to:
1) implement immediately the recommendations of the June 2010 Brazil Police Review Board Report;
2) publicly support and defend the rights of community members – and especially our students – to engage in non-violent political expression; and
3) take all other actions necessary to reestablish Berkeley’s reputation as a beacon of peaceable assembly and free speech.


Kathryn Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law
Catherine Albiston, Professor of Law
Ty Alper, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Roxanna Altholz, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Michelle Wilde Anderson, Assistant Professor of Law
Lila Bailey, Clinical Teaching Fellow
Kenneth A. Bamberger, Professor of Law
Ed Barnes, Lecturer
Robert C. Berring Jr.,Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law
Martha Brown, Director of Finance and Administration, East Bay Community Law Center
Stephen McG. Bundy, Professor of Law
Richard M. Buxbaum, Jackson H. Ralston Professor of International Law, Emeritus
David Caron, C. William Maxeiner Distinguished Professor of Law
Erin Clarke, Lecturer in Residence
Meir Dan-Cohen, Milo Reese Robbins Professor of Law
Brendan Darrow, Lecturer
Allison Davenport, Clinical Instructor
Holly Doremus, Professor of Law
Sharon Djemal, Lecturer
Lauren B. Edelman, Associate Dean for Jurisprudence and Social Policy & Agnes Roddy Robb Professor of Law and Professor of Sociology
William H.D. Fernholz, Lecturer in Residence
Laurel Fletcher, Clinical Professor of Law
Mary Louise Frampton, Adjunct Professor of Law & Faculty Director, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice
Mark Gergen, Professor of Law
Jennifer Granholm, Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy
Rosann Greenspan, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Law and Society
Sheila Hall, Director, Health Law Clinic, East Bay Community Law Center
Henry L. Hecht, Lecturer in Residence
Joan H. Hollinger, Lecturer in Residence
Kristin Holmquist, Lecturer in Residence
Jesse Hsieh, Staff Attorney and Clinical Lecturer, East Bay Community Law Center
Patricia Plunkett Hurley, Lecturer in Residence
Sushil Jacob, Skadden Fellow and Clinical Supervisor, East Bay Community Law Center
Kate Jastram, Lecturer in Residence
Amy Kapczynski, Assistant Professor of Law
William Kell, Lecturer in Residence
Helene Kim, Executive Director and Lecturer in Residence International and Executive Legal Education
Tanya Koshy, Supervising Attorney, Clean Slate Practice, East Bay Community Law Center
Prasad Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Law
Christopher L. Kutz, Professor of Law
Taeku Lee, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science Professor, School of Law
Nancy K.D. Lemon, Lecturer
Gillian Lester, Associate Dean and Professor of Law
Neil M. Levy, Visiting Professor of Law
David Lieberman, Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law
Wendy Lilliedoll, Lecturer in Residence
Ian Haney Lopez, John H. Boalt Professor of Law
Stanley Lubman, Distinguished Lecturer in Residence (ret.)
Robert MacCoun, Professor of Law and Public Policy
Justin McCrary, Professor of Law
Peter S. Menell, Robert L. Bridges Professor of Law & Director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology
Alice M. Miller, Lecturer in Residence
Saira Mohamed, Assistant Professor of Law
Calvin Morrill, Professor of Law & Sociology & Director, Center for the Study of Law and Society
Melissa Murray, Professor of Law
Osha Neumann, Clinical Instructor, East Bay Community Law Center
Anne Joseph O’Connell, Professor of Law
Jamie O’Connell, Lecturer in Residence
David Oppenheimer, Clinical Professor of Law
Richard Perry, Lecturer in Residence
Victoria C. Plaut, Assistant Professor of Law and Social Science
Kevin Quinn, Professor of Law
Russell Robinson, Professor of Law
Stephen A. Rosenbaum, Lecturer
Bertrall Ross, Assistant Professor of Law
Andrea Roth, Assistant Professor of Law
Lindsay Sturges Saffouri, Lecturer in Residence
Sue Schechter, Field Placement Director
Jason Schultz, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Jeffrey Selbin, Clinical Professor of Law
Elisabeth Semel, Clinical Professor of Law
Marjorie M. Shultz, Professor of Law, Emeritus
Lucinda Sikes, Lecturer in Residence
Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law
Fred Smith, Assistant Professor of Law
Sarah Song, Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Political Science
Tirien Steinbach, Executive Director, East Bay Community Law Center
Eric Stover, Adjunct Professor of Law and Public Health
Eleanor Swift, Professor of Law
Talha Syed, Assistant Professor of Law
Eric Talley, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor of Law
Linda Tam, Director, Immigration Clinic, East Bay Community Law Center
Karen Tani, Assistant Professor of Law
Yvonne Troya, Staff Attorney & Clinical Supervisor, East Bay Community Law Center
Jennifer Urban, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Leti Volpp, Professor of Law
Kate Weisburd, Lecturer in Residence
Steven Weissman, Lecturer in Residence
Wilda White, Executive Director, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    The cops were merely doing their job. They were ordered to clear the area, and proceeded to do so in accordance with their training.

    The “students” resisted. I put students in quotes because historically in UC protests many of those arrested are not students, but rather outside agitators.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Michigan’s Granholm was exiled from the Midwest after her Rust Belt economic policies flopped.