“California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders including educators. The attack on Chancellor Birgeneau’s home is a criminal act and those who participated will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.”
That was the governor, responding to reports that a mob of torch-wielding protesters had laid siege to the castle of the UC Berkeley chancellor and, well, here’s the official UCB press release:
“At approximately 11 p.m. Friday (Dec. 11), a group of about 40 to 70 protesters stormed Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau’s home on the north side of the UC Berkeley campus, smashing planters, windows and lights while shouting, “No justice, no peace.” They also threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire.”
At the bottom of that press release, you will find a list of the eight people who were arrested for staging this 19th century peasant revolt. You will find them listed by name, as it should be, for having been arrested, must they not then be guilty? If the police have taken them into custody for all these terrible crimes (setting bail at $132,000), then must not their sin be so vile as to require the fullest resources of the internet in spreading their infamy far and wide?
You will, however, look in vain for any mention of the fact that all charges against the students have since been dropped. The cases were so weak that the District Attorney chose not to even start the process of seeing if a trial was necessary, but there is no mention of that on the University’s web site, over a day later. The university’s press release still accuses and convicts its own students of a crime that a US district attorney has determined to be baseless. Despite the governor’s confidence, the fullest extent of the law does not seem to extend to prosecuting people without the benefit of evidence.
As of right now, the university has not seen it necessary to tell that part of the story. And I don’t know what happened last Friday at the Chancellor’s office. But the administration’s consistent and demonstrable mendacity and their consistent misrepresentations of every protest makes me suspect that they neither know nor care. When Daniel Perlstein, who witnessed the events of Friday night from his office, writes that “I witnessed enough at variance with university officials’ accounts as reported in the press to make me suspicious of the rest of those accounts, even if I had not already been made suspicious by distortions and inaccuracies in previous administration statements about recent protests, which have been amply documented elsewhere,” I feel a twinge of recognition (his account of the evening can be read in full here; he makes it clear that what happened was spontaneous, brief, and limited in scope). This administration has used up the last benefit of the doubt I might have been willing to extend to them.
Which is why I’m afraid for undergrad Zak Bowin, who tomorrow, at 4 pm, at 2534 Channing Dr, will face a closed disciplinary hearing to determine what is to be done with a person the administration has decided, absent any evidence a real court recognizes, to be guilty. But then, it’s their fiefdom, right? They don’t have to worry about things like democracy or justice. They only have to worry about peasants with torches and pitchforks.