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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Police brutality threatens First Amendment

The role of protests on the University of California, Berkeley campus has always been a large and historical one.

However, the role of police has been uncharacteristically overbearing and forceful as of late.

On March 3, a group of eight protesters stood atop a ledge of a university building. On the steps below, a crowd of 300 people gathered, prompting police to declare the protest unlawful.

Since then, the University of California Police Department has been under fire for clearing the crowd by way of pepper spray and striking people with batons.

“”It comes down to people having a right to assemble and to protest, but at some point, when the people have to move for safety reasons, people also have an obligation to follow instructions,”” said UCPD Chief of Police Mitchell Celaya to The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s student newspaper.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly grants the right to peacefully assemble.

Also, if the police officers’ fear was that protesters on the ledge would fall, creating chaos by beating fellow protesters below with batons and blinding them with pepper spray appears to be a counterintuitive strategy.

One woman told The Daily Californian that she was pepper sprayed while getting up to move from studying in the doorway.

Many of the protesters agreed the officers’ use of force was excessive.

Members of the ZonaZoo who were not allowed into Arizona Stadium for the Iowa game experienced some degree of police force. University of Arizona Police Department officers used bullhorns to usher students away from the stadium and drove a large van at about 1 mph through the crowd to slowly break them up. Some students claimed to have been shoved by police officers toward Cherry Avenue. Imagine if that situation had been addressed with pepper spray and cracks to the stomach with police batons.

Crowd control is a common problem for university police officers, but in this case, Arizona 1, Cal 0. Where UAPD acted appropriately, the actions of police officers at Berkeley were hasty and poorly planned.

The students at Berkeley should continue to protest. It is in situations such as this, when your voice is being threatened, that it is most important to utilize your First Amendment rights, and, while your ass is being kicked, take names. Use the legal system to benefit you. Wipe the pepper spray from your eyes just enough to take badge numbers and names to file a report.

Police force should be used to ensure student security, not to threaten it.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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