Commentary & Forums

Reflections on Police Violence at Berkeley

I’ve been meaning to provoke a bit more discussion regarding the confrontation between police and protesters at UC Berkeley a couple of weeks ago (although I did post something on the matter before the Nov 20th occupation), but the demands of teaching and preparing for AAA’s have been forestalling my best intentions.  On top of that, to be honest, i’m not sure what I think about it.  I’m left, mostly, with a bunch of half-articulated questions.  Aaron Bady, a graduate student in English at Berkeley has some reflections along that line over at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Some sort of administration response to the occupation was inevitable, of course. But why was it necessary to direct police violence against the students outside Wheeler Hall? (In fact, the university has called for an independent investigation of police actions and the university’s own decisions that resulted in the police being called onto the campus.) The more the riot police surrounded Wheeler, the more students came out to watch. But the police treated that assembly of peaceful spectators like a clear and present danger, pushing and shoving back students whose crime seemed to be their very presence on their own campus. I cannot overstate how pointless and stupid it was. The police had marked off a perimeter around the building with crime-scene tape, and I have yet to hear the allegation that a single student ever tried to cross it. But when the police began to set up metal barricades, they ordered students to move back as they smashed the barricades into the front row of students. Students who didn’t respond instantly were beaten with batons; students who touched the barricades had their hands pounded with force enough to break bones.

via Making Sense of Senseless Violence at Berkeley – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In response to these questions Bady makes some gestures towards both Althusser and Weber and, while I think both are important routes to traverse, I think the tone in the passage above is probably the most appropriate–simultaneously critical and perplexed.  How can we proceed and maintain its tenor?