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Police beat UC Berkeley students during protest. Why?

There are two issues on my mind as we approach Thanksgiving Day. One is why the great University of California at Berkeley would police to surround and beat defenseless students? The other is why we seem to applaud police brutality.

I'm chaffing a bit that some local San Francisco Bay Area columnists seem afraid to point out police misconduct, writing instead that in one case - the case of the BART Police officer who slammed the drunk BART rider's face into the window at West Oakland or at least seemed to want to do that - the police officer was "just doing his job".

The job of a police officer is dangerous, we know this. But to allow or expect police violence in that case - or in the more awful example of the police called in at Berkeley for the protest - calls the very values of our society into question.

This video set collected and presented at the blog Millicent and Carla Fran is what got me. The good news is that protesting students were only cited for trespassing but the images of clashes between police and student are jarring.

As reported in the excellent blog post, students were protesting the 32 percent increase in student fees and the custodial firings. UC Berkeley Police arrived to close off the Wheeler Hall and surrounding it. In the second video, Students are attempting to talk with police. In the third video, a female student falls under the yellow police tape, with weird results. In the final video, Professor Robert Dudley, a member of the Department of Integrative Biology at Cal joins the protest and is arrested peacefully:

All of this was happening as Cal Alums like myself who remember a time when students could afford to go to Cal, were playing touch football and just trying to have fun to balance our stressful lives. For us Cal is and has been a source of great joy and accomplishment. We were looking forward to the Big Game and the idea that someone was being harmed by police never entered our minds at the time. But I will say that's not what Cal's about. Even if it's part of Cal University History, it's not something any Cal grad is proud of.

The Cal police certainly have a hard job and have done some incredible public safety work, but it does not mean we can't question what they do when they're obviously wrong. But to put a finer point on it, many of the officer on hand were not Cal police, they were from the City of Oakland and had riot gear.

The problem of this fee increase is not going away. What's next? I hope not another protest like this one. I'm sure Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau would agree. He was happy to be able to enjoy the Big Game win Saturday:

In a closing note, one may wonder why I didn't take time to ask the Chancellor Birgeneau about the protest as were celebrating Cal's Big Game win. Well, I did think about it as we were celebrating and talking even though at the time I was unaware of the violence that took place the day before.

But frankly the reason I did not ask the Chancellor about the protest on camera was because he was kind enough to give me his time because I told him I wanted to talk about the win. We were happy and I didn't want to spoil it (in fact, not one bothered him at all). To do anything different would have been dishonest on my part.

That's not how I am.

In the past the Chancellor has been very nice to me and from my experience is a good person. I'm sure he would have liked to see a different outcome on Friday and is as upset about it and how students were treated as anyone of us.

Police brutality is not something to expect or defend. It is to be eliminated as a problem. We don't have to rubber stamp it and think that it's part of the police just 'doing their job.'
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