November 20: Berkeley Protest (III)

I ended up sticking around almost all day. I left for a short while to go to a talk at the music department, but had a hard time concentrating. When I got back after the talk, there were several helicopters flying around the building. People were saying that the protesters inside the building had been arrested, so I thought they were planning on airlifting them out. (If the protesters were arrested, the crowd wouldn’t have let the police through.) But then the helicopters took off.

In the end, the police agreed to let most of the protesters off with misdemeanor charges. (Trespassing, I think.) A few of them–the ones that had been arrested earlier in the day–were charged with felony burglary (or so they said when they got back to the scene).

None of the demands were met, and I’m not sure if the protest actually accomplished anything. After everyone was let out, the occupiers spoke to the crowd. They were a little self-congratulatory and said some interesting things, but there wasn’t much of a plan for the future. I asked a guy what he thought they had achieved and he said that the protest raised awareness. That’s a nice thought, but awareness doesn’t seem to go very far with today’s apathetic students.

Things are complicated. This protest was directed primarily at UC Berkeley administrators, but I’m sure that many of the university’s problems are out of their hands. And I’m always a little dubious when students equate classroom walkouts with strikes. (They’re paying for their education, after all.)

We’ll see what happens. I’m all for improving things, even if it takes drastic measures. But this protest didn’t seem to have much in the way of foresight or planning. Given the complexity and scope of these issues, I think that organization is going to a necessity.

Old comments:

lynne @ 2009-11-22 13:34:23
I wonder if photo documentary changed outcomes??

Andre @ 2009-11-23 13:41:34

I think that the presence of so much media coverage (by individuals and news organizations) goes a long way in holding people accountable for their actions. It seems like police are much more likely to do things by the book when they're aware that their actions are being carefully recorded from a number of angles.

On the other hand, I think it probably has some negative effects too. The cops seem to be more tense when they're under that kind of scrutiny and the protesters seem more prone to act up for the sake of getting on camera. (This isn't to say that I acted out of line, but the first thing I did when I got home was to see if I was on any of the videos.)

Overall, I think that photo documentary goes a long way towards minimizing violent outbursts. And that's definitely a good thing.

November 20: Berkeley Protest (III)