Parsing Chancellor Birgeneau

So here’s my take on Cal Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s incredibly lame email to the “extended Berkeley Community” explaining the police brutality that took place on the campus where the free speech movement was born.  His words are in quotes.

“We regret that, in spite of forewarnings, we encountered a situation where, to uphold our policy, we were required to forcibly remove tents and arrest people.”

Translation:  You made us do it.  It’s your fault.  And policy is always more important than people.

“It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents.  This is not non-violent civil disobedience. “

Translation:  Linking arms is violent.  (Who knew?)

“By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested.  They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent.  These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.”

Translation:  A pat on the head to the good little boys and girls who followed directions.

Note to Chancellor Birgeneau: The key word in the phrase “civil disobedience” is “disobedience”  meaning the opposite of obedience.  Protestors who refused to leave their tents are no less legitimate than those who agreed.  (Forgive the double negative.  Just following the chancellor’s lead.)

“We regret that, given the instruction to take down tents and prevent encampment, the police were forced to use their batons to enforce the policy.  We regret all injuries, to protesters and police, that resulted from this effort.  The campus’s Police Review Board will ultimately determine whether police used excessive force under the circumstances.”

Translation:  Again, your fault.  And we really, really regret that everyone who owns a smart phone has a video camera in his or her pocket.  But don’t worry, we’ll leave it up to the police to decide if they misbehaved and we all know the police never do anything bad … unless they’re forced to.

“We call on the protesters to observe campus policy or, if they choose to defy the policy, to engage in truly non-violent civil disobedience and to accept the consequences of their decisions.”

Translation:  Don’t come whining to us if you get your ribs broken or your hair pulled.

“We ask supporters of the Occupy movement to consider the interests of the broader community—the tens of thousands who elected not to participate in yesterday’s events. We urge you to consider the fact that there are so many time-tested ways to have your voices heard without violating the one condition we have asked you to abide by.”

Translation:  The tens of thousands who were working at their crappy minimum-wage jobs and were thus unable to join you.

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