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UC Berkeley student senate votes to divest from companies that profit from Israeli Occupation

IMEMC | April 18, 2013

After a ten hour debate that began Wednesday evening and continued through the night, the Student Senate at the University of California – Berkeley voted to divest University funds from three companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Three years ago, UC-Berkeley’s Student Senate passed a similar resolution calling for divestment, but the then-President of the Student Union vetoed the measure. Thursday’s vote follows the narrow defeat of a similar divestment resolution at UC-Santa Barbara last week. Two weeks ago, students at UC-Riverside overturned a resolution they had passed the week before calling for divestment.

The heated debate at UC-Berkeley included the voices of dozens of Jewish and Arab students who supported the divestment resolution, and led some students to break down in tears as emotions ran high.

“There are few experiences more traumatic than losing your home or being forced out of the place you call home,” said UC Berkeley junior Kamyar Jarahzadeh, according to the student newspaper The Daily Cal. “This university’s money — our money — is complicit in the deprivation of human rights.”

In addition to the students, many community members attended the hearing – most were in favor of the resolution, but some opponents also attended. Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker spoke in favor of the divestment resolution, as someone who participated in a flotilla to Gaza that attempted to break the Israeli siege put in place in 2007.

Students opposed to the resolution organized a party called ‘SQUELCH!’, aimed at stopping the divestment resolution from passing. In the Daily Cal newspaper, SQUELCH! Party chair Noah Ickowitz commented, “We will take home that this body takes divestment as a weapon of choice when that is not the only weapon in our arsenal.”

According to the Daily Cal, “SB 160, authored by Student Action Senator George Kadifa, calls the UC system a “complicit third party” in Israel’s “illegal occupation and ensuing human rights abuses” and seeks the divestment of more than $14 million in ASUC and UC assets from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings. According to the bill, these companies provide equipment, materials and technology to the Israeli military, including bulldozers and biometric identification systems.”

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cops May Be Liable for Felling Occupy Berkeley

By CHRIS MARSHALL | Courthouse News Service | March 1, 2013

OAKLAND, California – Police must face excessive-force claims related to an Occupy protest they dispersed at the University of California, Berkeley, a federal judge ruled.

The protesters claimed to have been engaged in a peaceful protest of tuition hikes and the privatization of public education when officers battered them and used excessive force.

After police raided their Sproul Hall encampment on Nov. 9, 2011, hundreds of protestors allegedly returned later that evening and erected more tents.
They said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry LeGrande warned them to remove their tents before the police arrived 10 p.m., at which time they would allegedly give a 10-minute warning and remove the tents by force. Officers actually arrived in riot gear at 9:30 and raided the encampment, according to the complaint.

The protestors allegedly linked arms to face the police, who again used their batons, “but this time with even more brutality, pushing and jabbing people and using overhand strokes on protestors’ heads,” according to the complaint.

“The officers grabbed and indiscriminately pulled some of the protestors out of the lines and placed them under arrest,” they added. Even after removing the tents, some officers allegedly continued to beat the protestors, who were reinforced with hundreds more concerned students, according to the complaint. At least 2,000 people allegedly amassed before the officers “ceased their attack on the protestors.”

A group of 29 then sued school police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the Oakland Police Department for excessive force, false arrest, retaliatory prosecution and abuse of process. They said university officials had set in motion or ignored the police action that caused their injuries.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers last week found the allegations sufficient against some officers who were directly involved in alleged beating of protestors, but she dismissed claims against supervisors and others not directly involved.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department failed to show that the claims against its officers were “unwarranted deductions of fact or unreasonable inferences,” according to the ruling.

She cited multiple specific allegations from the lawsuit, including a claim that Officer Obichere, “who appeared to weigh over 250 pounds, focused on [Plaintiff Christopher] Anderson and hit him with tremendous force about five times with increasing intensity. In addition to jabs, this officer used overhand swings and struck Mr. Anderson’s legs as well.”

Alleging that a police officer used excessive force is a legal conclusion, but “alleging that a police officer used overhand swings to strike the plaintiff is not,” Rogers wrote.

The protestors pleaded “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant[s are] liable for the misconduct alleged,” she added.

Rogers upheld excessive-force allegations against Officers Chavez, Garcia, King and Obichere. Neither the complaint nor the ruling provides the first names of these individual police officers.

University of California Police Department Officer Samantha Lachler is similarly not entitled to immunity for claims that she purposely hit protestor Hayden Harrison in the groin with the edge of her baton.

“Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, police officers, who were attempting to enforce a no-camping ordinance at 3:30 pm, made a dispersal announcement that protestors could not hear, and then the police officers began hitting protestors that were trapped in a crowd,” the ruling states. “The facts and circumstances confronting the officers, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, do not support an inference that Mr. Harrison posed a threat to the safety of officers or others, was disobeying police orders or camping. Rather, the well-plead facts support an inference that Officer Lachler hit a passive individual in the groin because, by linking arms with other protestors, he may have inhibited her progress.”

While Lachler challenges the truth of the allegations, she “does not assert that hitting a passive protestor is constitutional or that the law regarding the use of force against passive individuals was sufficiently unclear at the time of the events at issue that Officer Lachler made a reasonable mistake as to what the law requires,” Rogers wrote.

The court did toss excessive force claims against UC Police Detective Rick Florendo and UC Police Officer N. Hernandez, noting a lack of specific allegations against them.

Concession from the plaintiffs also led Rogers to dismiss all claims against Alameda County Sheriff Chief Gregory Ahern.

Allegations against university officials, however, were too generalized and unspecific, the court found, tossing all of them with leave to amend.

Lead plaintiff Yvette Felarca and the other plaintiffs are represented by Ronald Cruz of Scheff, Washington & Driver. J. Randall Andrada represents the defendants. 

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March 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , | Leave a comment

UC Berkeley to use federal funds to purchase $200,000 ‘armed personnel carrier’

  By Josiah Ryan | Campus Forum | June 29, 2012

The University of California – Berkeley Police Department (UCPD) has acquired a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase an “Armored Response Counter Attack Truck,” a police department spokesman told Campus Reform on Friday.

The eight-ton vehicle, commonly referred to as a “Bearcat,” is used by U.S. troops on the battlefield and is often equipped with a rotating roof hatch, powered turrets, gun ports, a battering ram, and a weapon system used to remotely engage a target with lethal force.

Lt. Eric Tejada, a spokesman for UCPD, said the university plans to use the vehicle along with neighboring counties in dangerous situations that could involve heavy weapons.

Tejada said that although he does know of any incident in the university’s 144-year history in which such a vehicle would have saved a life, the police department would have liked to deploy it in an incident last year when they mistakenly believed a man had an AK-47 assault rifle.

University of Virginia Professor Dewey Cornell, an expert in violence prevention and school safety, told Campus Reform on Friday that with approximately 4800 four-year colleges in the U.S., and an average of 10 homicides per year on college campuses, the average college can expect a homicide about once every 480 years.

“With all we hear we hear about the federal deficit it’s a shame there is money available for things like this but not for prevention,” said Cornell. “If a university has to resort to a Bearcat that means there is a failure somewhere else.”

A June 19 log of a Berkeley City Council meeting, however, suggests that that UCPD also intends to use the vehicle for “large incidents” including university sporting events and an annual street festival called the Solana Stroll.

The tactical working group of which the UCPD is a member said “the armored vehicle is needed for ‘large incidents’ such as CAL games and the Solano Stroll,” notes the meeting meetings minutes.

The grant was obtained under the DHS’s Urban Areas Security Initiative. The vehicle will be shared with two neighboring jurisdictions and likely will not be stored on UC-Berkeley’s campus, said Tejada.

Follow the author of this article on twitter: @JosiahRyan

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Berkeley’s Daily Californian denies activist’s right to respond to defamatory attack

By Allison Weir | June 4, 2012

In late May the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley campus newspaper, published letters to the editor defaming If Americans Knew and me personally.

As soon as I became aware of these letters, online, I phoned the person responsible for the letters section, Jonathan Kuperberg, to ask if they had also been published in the print newspaper. I did not reach Kuperberg but left him a voicemail politely asking this question. Kuperberg did not return my call, but I have since learned that they were also in the print publication distributed all over the campus (and probably beyond).

I then wrote a letter to the editor (see below) and sent it to the Daily Cal early the next morning, May 30th. The following day, when I again had received no response, I re-sent the letter and copied other Daily Cal editors.

The managing editor sent a short reply email saying that the opinion editor (Kuperberg) would be considering my letter and told me that in the summer they only print letters once a week.

The Daily Cal has now printed the next week’s letters to the editor and did not include my letter. In fact, although I know personally of at least four additional letters sent to them on this topic, they printed none of them.

Meanwhile, oddly, the defamatory letter against me remains at the top of their letters section.

It doesn’t take an expert to know that such behavior is unconscionable. Newspaper ethics codes – and normal concepts of fairness – affirm the right of a person accused of wrongdoing to respond. The American Society of Newspaper Editors Statement of Principles, for example, decrees: “Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond.”

In addition, letters containing factual errors should also be corrected.

My letter, and at least one other, should have been published. Last night I emailed the editors asking when they are going to print my letter. None has yet replied. I have now phoned the office and finally reached an editor in person. She said that staff members were talking about this and that Kuperberg would get back me today. I thanked her and said I look forward to hearing from him.

I truly hope that this doesn’t turn into another Michigan Radio situation, in which the Ann Arbor NPR affiliate under director Steve Schram refused to run our announcement, refused to return email and phone calls, lied about their behavior to the public, and only finally aired our announcement over a year later following public pressure.

It would be nice if Kuperberg and the Daily Cal would simply do the right thing.

Below is my letter:

Commissioner pushes pro-Israel pro-war falsehoods 

To the Editor:

I was saddened that an ad about Israel-Palestine in the Daily Californian (now posted on our website) elicited vitriolic, nonfactual letters attacking me personally and our organization, If Americans Knew.

It is particularly troubling to see such a letter by a City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission member, Thyme Siegel (“Anti-Israel ad breaks trust, propagates lies,” May 21-27).

In her letter, Ms. Siegel claims that in 1967 Israel was “attacked by all its neighbors.” However, even Israel discarded this initial falsehood many years ago. In reality, Israel perpetrated a sneak attack on Egypt that wiped out most of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, launching what is called the Six Day war.

During that very rapid war of conquest, Israel also attacked a US Navy ship, killing or injuring 200+ Americans and destroying a $40 million ship (they eventually gave us $6 million compensation for the ship).

Even more disturbing than Ms. Siegel’s misrepresentation of history are her claims about Iran, in which she uses the same kind of inflammatory, inaccurate rhetoric that was used against Iraq, another perceived Israeli adversary.

Such mendacious rhetoric led to a tragic, unnecessary American war; the deaths of millions of Iraqi men, women, and children and thousands of Americans (many more left permanently maimed); and triggered a financial meltdown that cost multitudes of Americans their jobs, businesses, homes, and happiness.

It is time to expose and oppose the manipulation that has created war and misery for over 60 years. Americans give Israel over $8 million per day; we have the power to end the carnage. May this generation of college students be the ones to do it.

Sincerely,

Alison Weir

Executive Director, If Americans Knew, and President, Council for the National Interest

June 5, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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