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.


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.


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…
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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.”


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.”


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…
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