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Ron Paul to speak at Cal, raise $$$ in SF Thursday

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will speak at UC-Berkeley this Thursday evening, addressing “the state of American politics today and … how limited government can solve our country’s woes.”

Ron PaulThat’s according to Students for Liberty, a Cal student organization, and Youth for Ron Paul, which are co-sponsoring the 7 p.m. event in the campus’ Zellerbach Auditorium.

The event is free and open to the public, but because of the auditorium’s limited size, those wishing to attend are encouraged to get an early seating voucher online. The voucher will only be good until 6:30 PM, at which point seating will switch to first-come, first-served.

“College students today are beginning to break the left-right paradigm of American politics and turn to independent ideologies like Congressman Paul’s libertarianism for answers,” said the student groups’ news release. “This event should prove to be a true testament to the shifting nature of the youth vote.”

Paul earlier Thursday will attend an 11:30 a.m. fundraising luncheon at San Francisco’s Marriott Union Square hotel; tickets cost $350 per person, or $250 for those with student or military ID.

Thursday’s events will cap the Texas Congressman’s three-day campaign and fundraising swing through California; he has similar campus events scheduled Tuesday evening at Cal State Chico and Wednesday at UCLA. His fundraisers won’t be open to the media.

Paul, 76, during a radio appearance Monday in Washington, D.C., said he has not yet decided whether he’ll support the eventual GOP nominee.

A Republican candidate needs 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination; Mitt Romney now has 464, Rick Santorum has 205, Newt Gingrich has 135 and Paul has 34, according to the Associated Press. Paul has not won any state primary or caucus so far.

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Berkeley, Ron Paul | 1 Comment »

UC Berkeley police speak out on Occupy protest

Reporters this morning received an e-mailed statement from Concord political and media consultant Mary Jo Rossi on behalf of the UC Berkeley Police Officers Association regarding officers’ clash with students during the Occupy Cal protest on Nov. 9. Here’s the statement in its entirety; I’ve inserted the video to which I believe it refers.

It is our hope that this letter will help open the door to a better understanding between UC Berkeley police and the University community.

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, representing approximately 64 campus police officers, understands your frustration over massive tuition hikes and budget cuts, and we fully support your right to peacefully protest to bring about change.

It was not our decision to engage campus protesters on November 9th. We are now faced with “managing” the results of years of poor budget planning. Please know we are not your enemy.

A video clip gone viral does not depict the full story or the facts leading up to an actual incident. Multiple dispersal requests were given in the days and hours before the tent removal operation. Not caught on most videos were scenes of protesters hitting, pushing, grabbing officers’ batons, fighting back with backpacks and skateboards.

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association supports a full investigation of the events that took place on November 9th, as well as a full review of University policing policies. That being said, we do not abrogate responsibility for the events on November 9th.

UC Berkeley police officers want to better serve students and faculty members and we welcome ideas for how we can have a better discourse to avoid future confrontations. We are open to all suggestions on ways we can improve our ability to better protect and serve the UC Berkeley community.

As your campus police, we also have safety concerns that we ask you to consider.

Society has changed significantly since 1964 when peaceful UC Berkeley student protesters organized a 10-hour sit-in in Sproul Hall and 10,000 students held a police car at bay – spawning change and the birth of our nation’s Free Speech Movement.

However proud we can all be of UC Berkeley’s contribution to free speech in America, no one can deny this: Our society in 2011 has become an extremely more violent place to live and to protect. No one understands the effects of this violence more than those of us in law enforcement.

Disgruntled citizens in this day and age express their frustrations in far more violent ways – with knives, with guns and sometimes by killing innocent bystanders. Peaceful protests can, in an instant, turn into violent rioting, ending in destruction of property or worse – the loss of lives. Police officers and innocent citizens everywhere are being injured, and in some instances, killed.

In the back of every police officer’s mind is this: How can I control this incident so it does not escalate into a seriously violent, potentially life-threatening event for all involved?

While students were calling the protest “non-violent,” the events on November 9th were anything but nonviolent. In previous student Occupy protests, protesters hit police officers with chairs, bricks, spitting, and using homemade plywood shields as weapons – with documented injuries to officers.

At a moment’s notice, the November 9th protest at UC Berkeley could have turned even more violent than it did, much like the Occupy protests in neighboring Oakland.

Please understand that by no means are we interested in making excuses. We are only hoping that you will understand and consider the frustrations we experience daily as public safety officers sworn to uphold the law. It is our job to keep protests from escalating into violent events where lives could be endangered.

We sincerely ask for your help in doing this.

Like you, we have been victims to budget cuts that affect our children and our families in real ways. We, too, hold on to the dream of being able to afford to send our children and grandchildren to a four-year university. Like you, we understand and fully support the need for change and a redirection of priorities.

To students and faculty: As 10,000 students surrounded a police car on campus in 1964, protesters passed the hat to help pay for repairs to the police car as a show of respect. Please peacefully respect the rules we are required to enforce – for all our safety and protection. Please respect the requests of our officers as we try to do our jobs.

To the University Administration and Regents: Please don’t ask us to enforce your policies then refuse to stand by us when we do. Your students, your faculty and your police – we need you to provide real leadership.

We openly and honestly ask the UC Berkeley community for the opportunity to move forward together, peacefully and without further incident – in better understanding of one another. Thank you for listening.

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011
Under: Berkeley | 13 Comments »

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…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Under: Berkeley | 2 Comments »

What the Sheriff’s office said about Occupy Cal

I helped my colleague Matt Krupnick gather some string for our coverage of Occupy Cal today, talking with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson about decision-making and use of force. Several dozen sheriff’s deputies had assisted UC Police in dispersing the crowd and making arrests Wednesday on Sproul Plaza.

As today’s Occupy Cal and Occupy Oakland stories got rolled into one, much of what Nelson told me got dropped, so here it is.

“This is UC Berkeley’s gig,” Nelson said Thursday afternoon. “UC Berkeley called us, they asked for help, so we go. They give an order, whatever their order was – that’s a better question for them. At some point, they’re going to go in and complete their task, whatever their task is, and we go in and help them achieve that.”

If a no-camping policy is defied and a crowd refuses to disperse, he said, “they certainly have the right to move them out of that area.”

Nelson said “they playbook gives many different options” for how to achieve that. “Sometimes taking one person out at a time is more hazardous than just moving forward to clear the area. … You should ask UC about that, because it’s their call.”

First, he said, police ask people to disperse or move back. If protesters not only refuse but lock arms or otherwise resist removal, taking them one by one for arrest and citation isn’t possible. At that point, police might use tear gas – which they didn’t Wednesday night at Cal – or do a “stomp and drag,” meaning they push forward with batons a half-step at a time, shouting “MOVE.”

Which tactic to use is left up to the incident commander on the scene, he said. “It’s UC’s incident, so they’re the shot-callers on that one.”

I also talked today with Cal Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab. The GA, with delegates from most campus departments, had overwhelmingly voted to support the day of action and peaceful protests. Navab, 29, said she was on Sproul Plaza when police moved in Wednesday.

“I understand the campus policy on encampments but if you look at the video … students were standing there peacefully when police started pushing and hitting with batons,” she said. “That type of violence seems very unnecessary and questionable.”

Navab said she and other campus leaders are discussing what to do. “We obviously can talk to administrators and the chief of police, but our concern moving forward is how to we prevent this from happening in the future.”

She said they’re all hoping the police violence doesn’t overshadow the protesters’ message about “the state of funding for higher education in California … and that instead of shifting the cost onto students we have to have corporations pay their fair share in taxes.”

Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Under: Berkeley | 6 Comments »

Showdown looms over Berkeley’s Gitmo invitation

Berkeley City Council’s consideration this coming Tuesday, Feb. 15, of a resolution offering the city as a site to re-settle some already-cleared Guantanamo Bay terrorism detainees is making waves.

The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission voted Dec. 6 to recommend that the City Council pass such a resolution, which would ask Congress to remove any legislative barriers to resettling cleared detainees. No city funds would be used to support the men; rather, they would be sponsored by community volunteers and organizations that help torture victims victims of torture and refugees. If the resolution passes, Berkeley will be the third U.S. city and the first in California to do adopt such a measure.

The Berkeley City Manager’s office has recommended that the council not act on the resolution:

Currently, federal law explicitly prohibits the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the United States (most recently, in H.R. 6523, the Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on January 7, 2011). In addition to prohibiting the transfer of detainees with Department of Defense funds, the bill also requires the President to submit detailed plans for the “disposition” of any detainee released in the United States. This requirement has not been met at this point in time.

“I’m sure Berkeley citizens will come forward to offer support for them. I’m going to offer a room in my house to one of the men,” said Cynthia Papermaster, an activist with the Berkeley No More Guantanamos group, who brought the resolution to the Peace and Justice Commission.

“Berkeley is a compassionate and caring community. Like Amherst and Leverett, Massachusetts, which passed similar resolutions in 2009 and 2010, Berkeley wants to extend the hand of friendship and support to help these men resume their lives in peace and safety, and to heal from the ordeal of capture, torture and detention at the hands of our government,” she said. “These men are not and never were terrorists.”

But conservative groups are having none of it.

“If the Berkeley City Council wants to hang out with GITMO detainees, why do they have to do it at taxpayer expense and the public safety risk to the community?” Move America Forward executive director Shawn Callahan asked in a news release. “We can do them one better, if the Council wants to go live in GITMO where they can hang out with hundreds of terrorists, let them do that instead, we’ll even pay for their flights.”

MAF spokesman Danny Gonzalez said Berkeley City Council’s approval of the resolution would be “absolutely irresponsible.”

“The people of the City of Berkeley should not be saddled with the burden of having to pay for the housing, feeding and training of two former terrorists,” he said. “If you bring them here, you also have a responsibility to maintain safety. That means keeping Berkeley safe from the former detainee, and keeping the detainee safe from others who may want to hurt him. The average citizen of Berkeley just wants to go about their lives and pay to feed their families, they don’t need this extra burden.”

Posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Under: Berkeley, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Jewish groups clash in South Berkeley

Two people were pepper-sprayed and police were summoned when pro-Israel activists crashed the meeting of a Jewish peace organization last night in Berkeley.

Jewish Voice for Peace says several dozen of its members were meeting in the South Berkeley Senior Center when up to a dozen members of StandWithUs/San Francisco Voice For Israel arrived to disrupt and videotape the gathering.

But, predictably, this is quickly becoming a they-said, she-said. Lots more after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, Israel | 21 Comments »

UC Berkeley speakers boycott gains steam

Add State Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, to the list of speakers who have withdrawn from commencement activities at the University of California, Berkeley due to ongoing labor strife.

Gloria RomeroRomero, also a candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, had been scheduled to keynote the UC Berkeley Latino Student ceremony this Saturday; a labor union issued a statement today in which Romero said she’ll honor a boycott called by Cal workers and student groups.

“It was with a heavy heart that I informed the UC Berkeley students and dedicated faculty and staff that I would not appear to deliver my remarks in person. What an irony I would have seen: on one hand, students in robes celebrating the overcoming of obstacles and staking their claim in the American Dream; on the other hand, I would have seen Latino workers—perhaps their own uncles and aunts, holding picket signs asking this internationally acclaimed university to simply pay them a living wage so that the graduates’ younger ‘hermanitos’ could one day attend the same university,” Romero said in her statement.

Others who have chosen to honor the boycott include former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who had been scheduled to address graduating political science students on Monday, and author Karen Joy Fowler, who had been scheduled to address graduating English Department students next Sunday, May 23. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, earlier this week cancelled her June 12 appearance at UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences graduation ceremonies, saying her family roots are in organized labor and she won’t cross a picket line to speak.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 – which represents more than 20,000 UC service and patient care workers and which announced Romero’s withdrawal – said the boycotts have been called in part due to mandatory reductions in hours for low-wage service workers, such as custodians and food service workers – cuts of 4 to 6 percent in take-home pay, when some were already making as little as $24,000 a year.

“These cuts have been devastating for low-wage workers,” said AFSCME 3299 President Lakesha Harrison. “Layoffs and reduction in hours are only the tip of the iceberg. UC executives are now proposing massive cuts to our retirement. We may be facing a double whammy – a depletion of our savings now and a gutting of the income we were counting on for our future.”

The UC Berkeley speakers boycott also been called by the Union of Professional and Technical Employees; CWA Local 1 (UPTE 1) represents UC research support and technical workers.

And that’s not the only Cal labor strife that’s getting political attention this week. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, wrote a letter yesterday to UC President Mark Yudof expressing his concern about the university’s failure to come to an agreement with the union representing its 6,000 post-doctoral scholars – a topic on which he held a committee field hearing just a few weeks ago.

Posted on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, California State Senate, education, George Miller, Gloria Romero, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Toilet-paper prank targets Cal’s John Yoo

One of the many activists protesting University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a, well, creative new way to voice displeasure with him.

Students using the restrooms at Cal’s Boalt Hall Law School today reportedly found “Yoo Toilet Paper,” printed with text from the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Los Angeles-based activist/artist Matt Cornell said the prank was meant to remind law students that “Yoo helped turned human rights laws into toilet paper.” At the bottom of each roll is a reminder that “this toilet paper was made by possible by John Yoo, Professor of Law.” He also said his toilet paper is both softer and better than that provided by the budget-crunched university, and that it contains “valuable reading material” for students.

(I’ll assume that the “Josh Wolf” listed in the video’s production credits is the very same UC journalism student who keeps getting in trouble with various authorities as he blurs the line between journalism and activism.)

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, War on Terror | 8 Comments »

Protestors can’t find Yoo, but Jon Stewart did

Protestors’ targeting of Cal law professor and former Bush administration lawyer and torture-memo author John Yoo has taken an almost comical turn into cat-and-mouse territory: They want to keep disrupting his classes, but they can’t find him.

Yoo is teaching a Tuesday-evening class this semester on “Constitutional Design and the California Constitution,” but Boalt Hall’s schedule lists the class’ location as “to be announced.” Activists from World Can’t Wait and FireJohnYoo.org say their calls to the Cal Registrar’s office and the law school seeking the class’ location have been rebuffed – gee, I wonder why?

“We continue to call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes, along with his entire cohort from the Bush-Cheney Torture Team,” World Can’t Wait organizer Stephanie Tang said in a news release. “Torture is a war crime. Thousands have been tortured thanks to John Yoo’s work for the White House, long after Yoo himself returned to teaching. The faculty and students right here at UC – and all people of conscience everywhere — need to denounce these crimes, not turn away in silent complicity.”

They’ll hold a news conference outside the office of Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley Jr. at 3 p.m. today to demand information about Yoo’s class. If I were them, I wouldn’t hold my breath for an answer. They certainly have a right to protest Yoo, but expecting the university to provide them the information they need to disrupt his classes seems foolhardy.

Meanwhile, Yoo was on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” last night. See the complete, unedited interview in three parts, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

John Yoo asks that torture lawsuit be dismissed

University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School Professor John Yoo – widely recognized as an architect of Bush Administration policies on torture and detainee rights – has filed a brief asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss a lawsuit filed by a former prisoner.

American citizen Jose Padilla claims Yoo, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 through 2003, provided the legal framework for the harsh treatment he received while held as a military prisoner for several years.

Padilla was arrested in 2002; authorities said he’d been involved in a plot to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb,” and held him as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement in a military brig in South Carolina, where he claims he was illegally mistreated. Though authorities eventually dropped the dirty-bomb claims and transferred him to civilian courts, Padilla was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy and providing material aid to terrorists; sentenced last year to 17 years and four months in federal prison, he’s now appealing that conviction while he also sues Yoo.

Yoo’s lawyers moved to dismiss the case, saying that Padilla’s claims would force the courts to create a new legal right against government lawyers for legal advice given to the president, and that doing so “would not only constitute an unprecedented intrusion into the President’s authority in the areas of war-making, national security and foreign policy, it could jeopardize the ability of the President and other Executive Branch officials to obtain candid legal advice on constitutional matters of utmost national importance and sensitivity.”

But U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco in June refused to dismiss the case, and Yoo has appealed that ruling; he filed his opening brief late yesterday.

In it, Miguel Estrada, Yoo’s attorney, claims White overstepped his authority by creating “an implied constitutional damages remedy against Yoo for legal advice he allegedly gave to the President on matters of national security and foreign policy,” and that Yoo is entitled to qualified immunity – a protection for public officials who perform their official duties reasonably – because he wasn’t personally responsible for Padilla’s detention and treatment.

“Moreover, Padilla does not allege the violation of any clearly established rights. The law governing enemy combatants was and remains murky. To the extent enemy combatants possess any of the rights Padilla invokes—and, in most cases, it is clear they do not—those rights were not clearly established when Yoo worked in OLC,” Estrada wrote.

“This case also threatens to disrupt the political branches’ constitutional role
in war-making and foreign policy,” he wrote later in the brief. “If Executive Branch lawyers are threatened with personal liability should their legal analysis turn out to be incorrect, they will be reluctant to provide candid guidance on politically controversial issues.”

Padilla and his mother and co-plaintiff, Estella Lebron, must file an answering brief by Dec. 9, and Yoo has the option to file a reply within two weeks after that. The 9th Circuit appeals court has not yet set any oral argument date for this case.

Yoo has been the target of repeated protests and classroom disruptions at the Cal campus; the next protest is scheduled for Nov. 30.

Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, General, War on Terror | 4 Comments »