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Brutality evident on campus

Michael L. Norris | Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As we approach the 42nd anniversary of Notre Dame’s suppression of non-violent campus protestations of the Vietnam War, my thoughts are occupied by the recent reports of police violence inflicted upon our fellow citizens engaging in demonstrations of protest and civil disobedience across the country. In Oakland, police exploded tear gas canisters upon citizen-Samaritans attempting to aid a man shot by troopers storming an “Occupy” encampment. The encampments in Portland and New York have likewise been raided, invaded by agents of institutional violence armed with military-grade assault weaponry and armored in Kevlar ensembles of faceless monstrosity. The cudgel of police force has even impacted the academic community. Last week, “The San Francisco Chronicle” reported that UC-Berkeley’s campus police, in the course of tearing down student-organized “Occupy” encampments, attacked resisters who had linked hands to prevent the dismantling.

Especially concerning to university students nationwide should be the provocation articulated in the official statement given to the “Chronicle:”

“The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence,” UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. “I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest.”

Beyond exposing what twisted logic underwrites the belief that lateral contiguity in affirmation of group solidarity is “violence” in the same sense as a projection of force outward, this statement exemplifies the culture of fear now extending to university environs. The unchecked equation of “order” with “health” or “safety” is, as it has always been, a formula for the conservative appropriation of violence.

Our own University’s “Emergency Response Plan” speaks too of managing unexpected events “that may threaten the health and safety of the campus community or significantly disrupt its programs and activities,” including even “other events impacting the … credibility of the University.” Programmatic continuity and institutional credibility were no doubt equally important to Berkeley’s administrators and enforcers. As an academic body, we should join our hands with the Berkeley community to demonstrate in solidarity that institutional violence will be met with public strength.

Michael L. Norris

graduate student

off campus

Nov. 15