UCPD and UC Officials Prepare for Thursday's Protests, Seek Strategies For Nonviolent Response

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UC Berkeley administrators and UCPD are reflecting on the chaotic demonstrations outside of Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20 to formulate an appropriate strategy of response for Thursday's upcoming protest.

The protest - publicized since the beginning of the fall semester through flyers, grafitti, YouTube videos, Facebook events and even balloons - mirrors last academic year's angst surrounding the fallout from reductions in state support to the UC, which resulted in furloughs, service cuts, layoffs, fee increases and subsequent agitation from students, faculty and staff.

Campus administrators and police have said that while the details of this week's protest remain uncertain and no solid plans have been determined, officials must focus on avoiding the violence of Nov. 20 while addressing criticisms of campus response to the November protest brought forth by the Police Review Board in a report released in June.

"We have reviewed some of the flyers to understand the issues and plans for the day," said Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications Claire Holmes. "We are optimistic that the participants in Oct. 7 will uphold the Berkeley tradition of peaceful protest while expressing their views."

Last year's handling by UCPD and campus administrators of the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation - often characterized by the violent altercations between police and demonstrators that occurred outside the building - caused Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to commission the Police Review Board to examine the day's events and draft recommendations on how the campus could have responded to the protest more effectively.

The report provided a total of 32 recommendations for the administration and police to consider, stressing the administration should focus their efforts on improving correspondence not only between administrators and police, but between the campus and students as well.

According to Wayne Brazil, Police Review Board chair and UC Berkeley School of Law professor, there is only so much the campus can do to implement the recommendations prior to any future protests, and it would be unwise to make "pronouncements on the topic in advance" because the day's events have yet to occur.

Holmes said the campus will reach out to students, staff and faculty in the form of focus groups to discuss the recommendations of the report. She said these conversations will ultimately formulate the campus's plans for Oct. 7.

Along with striving for better communication between students and the campus, UCPD has focused on creating a system of communication delineation among administrators to maximize the decision-making process.

"One thing that has already been in place is a crisis management team to communicate with administration," said UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett. "The chief will talk to higher level administration to pass along information so that (administrators) can participate in the decision-making process as needed and provide insight on how to proceed throughout the day."

She added that UCPD recently purchased a sound system that will allow police to better project and communicate with crowds. On Nov. 20, police used blow horns to try to communicate with the growing crowd outside of Wheeler Hall, but the system proved ineffective because people were unable to hear what was said, increasing tension and leading to instances of violence between protesters and police.

While Bennett said she could not provide specific details as to plans for the size and scope of police presence on Oct. 7, she did say UCPD is "paying attention" to protester meetings and looking into other means of public access information to gauge the level of activity for the day of protest.

"Handling a protest is a very fluid process," she said. "We're approaching it as if it is going to be a major level of activity on campus. We expect there will be crowds that we need to manage, and we're preparing to be able to respond to whatever happens."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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