Public Comment

Student Non-Violence Succeeds in Berkeley

By Gar Smith (Free Speech Movement Veteran)
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 10:42:00 AM

I have just finished watching some of the videos of the police attacking unarmed students on the UC Berkeley campus. The beatings are appalling. And the reappearance of "non-lethal" shotguns on campus inexcusable. (Question: Was the office who shot a demonstrator with a beanbag blast during the last campus incursion ever identified and held accountable?) But, in addition to seeing more evidence of deplorable police behavior, I also saw something new, remarkable and inspiring -- it was expressed in the decorum of the students. 

In a powerful demonstration of nonviolent resistance, they held their ground -- despite repeated body blows from police batons -- and continued to calmly protest.  

Instead of hurling obscenities, they tried to disarm the cops with reason. Many attempted to engage the police in "common ground" conversations. Chants directed at the police were positive -- "We are doing this for your children."  

I may be reading too much into the videos but it looked to me as though the calm, resolute, nonthreatening nature of the students helped lower the anger and apprehension in the frontline of cops. After the initial charge and blows failed to scatter the students, the cops seemed to take a second look and started to realize that these young people were not behaving like thugs and lawbreakers but looked more like their own sons and daughters.  

There was a lot of bravery on display during yesterday's confrontation, thanks to the students, no thanks to the armed police.