12/17 Berkeley Planet follow-up article
In her December 17th Berkeley Daily Planet article Riya Bhattachargee explains why reporters believed that there was an arson threat to Chancellor Birgeneau’s residence last Friday night, offering that “A statement released by UC Berkeley the following morning said the group, which was made up of about 40 to 70 people, shouted “No justice, no peace,” and “threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire.”” The university’s press release claimed that the marchers’ actions posed a real threat of a major fire, a claim also picked up by Lee in the SF Chronicle article.
Bhattachargee’s article is to an extent a redress of her earlier one, explaining than the situation is more convoluted than originally presented in the deceptively “clear” UC Berkeley press release and in her 12/12 article. She explains that the Northern California ACLU is looking into the arrest of 66 people in Wheeler Hall on Friday morning 12/11, and questioning whether the campus police “are deciding whether to make custodial arrests based on proper facts, and not based on any intent to chill or prevent constitutionally protected expressive activities or to retaliate against demonstrators for their speech.” She also mentions that Professor Daniel Perlstein’s eyewitness account (see below), and his comments that the administration has been the principle perpetrator of violence on the campus.
The article is peppered with Mogulof’s assertions that the UC Berkeley campus welcomes “free speech” and “legitimate dissent” and concludes with Mogulof’s defense of himself. He seems to have caught on that observers have noted the fissures in his PR performance on Saturday, and falls all over himself to resuscitate his credibility to Bhattachargee, mostly by asserting that he has not been lying: “All the suggestions that we have been lying is contrary to all the conversations we have been having with student mediators,” he said. “We want to have a dialogue. We don’t want to shut down dissent, that’s not what we are about.”
However, Mogulof quickly stumbles, not only with subject/verb agreement, but also by using the suspicious phrase “student mediators.” What is a student mediator? The only outreach that we have heard that the administration has been doing is that UCPD officers have requested interviews with students arrested on Friday morning and those whose names were linked to student-issued statements about Friday. By “student mediators,” Mogulof appears to mean “potential stool pigeons,” and we remain quite confused on what grounds that could constitute dialogue. The support for dissent that we have seen: arrests of peaceful student protesters, bad faith negotiations with the Wheeler occupiers as revealed by the SAO report that reports that campus administrators planned to arrest the occupiers all along not in response to the planned concert, criminally inflated charges, and fingers pointed at Sacramento.
Perhaps this last point explains why Governor Schwarzenegger broke the reticence he has maintained about the protests against dismantling public higher education in California to label the perpetrators (and those arrested for being near by) “terrorists” and remark that “California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders, including educators” (as quoted in the 12/13 SF Chronicle article). Why is the governor especially concerned with protecting leaders such as himself? Could it be that the people are holding UC Berkeley campus administrators accountable for their increasingly embarrassing record of mishandling not just the budget but also campus protests? And that these same administrators have been urging students to direct their outrage at Sacramento. For example, from a November 5th article in the Daily Californian: “We think the energy is best directed at Sacramento,” said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel (who we don’t mean to neglect, but who has been lower profile than Mogulof). “We understand the frustration and anger … we are not happy with the situation either.”