Channeling George Wallace: Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau’s Disgraceful Doublespeak

One of the surest signs that someone is up to no good is when they take something in plain sight and try to tell you that it is something else.

Take, for example, this video from this weeks Occupy Cal protest:

I’ve watched this over and over. And every time I watch it, I see the same thing: a bunch of students standing peacefully trying to prevent the police from crossing their line. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone seeing anything else in this video.

That is why it was so shocking to receive this “letter to campus”  from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, in which he made the following astonishing statement:

It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.

That isn’t non-violent civil disobedience???? What????

This is mind-blowing example of doublespeak worthy of the most disingenuous and deceitful politicians. In both form and function the students were following what is inarguably the freaking apotheosis of non-violent civil disobedience – Martin Luther King in the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Look familiar?

In putting forth the ridiculous argument that the university’s actions on Wednesday were warranted because, in locking arms, the protesters had become violent, Birgeneau is saying that MLK was also not engaging in non-violent civil disobedience.

It is frightening and disgraceful how similar his stance is to that put forth in 1965 by infamous Alabama governor George Wallace, who used police to beat marchers in an effort to “protect public safety”. Let’s hope sanity is restored and that Berkeley does not end up with its own Bloody Sunday.

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  1. Marc Perry
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Shame on you, Bob Birgeneau! I was at the “March on Washington” (I was 4 yrs old), I went to Cal as an undergrad (Class of ’81, Biochemistry), and I was a faculty member at U. of T. when we recruited him from MIT to be the president here (he had a very strong record of redressing sexist practices among the faculty there, as I recall). Really Bob? Sending in the stormtroopers to beat students again, in the town tha gave us the People’s Park? Really?

  2. Ian Holmes
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    You also have to love the way he talked about police being “forced to use their batons” then in the next breath promised an inquiry into police actions. Presumably he is pretty confident about the results of that inquiry, otherwise why anticipate its conclusions? I wonder if the police were also forced to pull protestors’ hair. Dismally unimpressive behavior from our administration. The whole half-hearted justification after the fact is pretty weak too.

  3. Milan Moravec
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    University of California Berkeley Chancellor agrees the increasing of tuition for instate Californians. University of California Berkeley hijack’s our kids’ futures. I love University of California (UC) having been student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases. Paying more is not a better education.
    Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California’s ability to pay, not what others are paid.
    Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
    Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases. Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university.
    UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
    They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
    We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
    There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s ability to pay. The sky above UC will not fall when Chancellor Birgeneau is ousted.

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents

  4. anonymous
    Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that the Montgomery analogy is valid. According to the Wikipedia article that the photo links to, the marchers to Montgomery were never given a lawful order to disperse, so they did not interfere with law-enforcement by linking arms. In contrast, the Occupy Cal protestors were clearly obstructing law-enforcement by preventing the police from removing the tents.

  5. John
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Are you kidding me? The behavior of the folks rioting is laughable. How about going and getting a job????? That is a concept. Chancellor Birgeneau is embarassed at the behavior of those inciting this crap as he should be. Shame on Cal for this. I can’t believe I went to this school and this is how we act. We are lucky to have a chancellor that actually puts up with all this crap. This is America. Stop whining, get a job, and then watch the government take all of your money via taxes. Then you can protest. And what is this protest about. Everyone has a different story. This is incredibly embarassing and represents a fringe group of losers that are not satisfied with their lot in life. Apologies to the Chancellor. He should step down and go somewhere where he does not have to put up with this crap

  6. Xray
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    John, spoken like a true tea-bagger. You’ve got yours, all you need now is lower and lower taxes. (I’m sure Fox News hasn’t told you, but taxes now are lower than they’ve been in decades.) Screw everybody else, including especially anyone wanting an education that won’t leave 30 years of large loan payments. Somehow I’m quite sure you’re getting more than your fair share of gubment — reminds of the tea-bagger sign: “Keep the govt’s hands off my Medicare!”

  7. Milan Moravec
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Campus UCPD report to chancellors and take direction from their chancellor. University of California campus chancellors vet their campus police protocols. Chancellors are knowledgeable that pepper spray and use of batons are included in their campus police protocols.

    Chancellor Birgeneau’s campus police use baton jabs on his students. UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are in dereliction of their duties.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor need to quit or be
    fired for permitting the brutal outrages on students protesting tuition increases
    and student debt

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents

  8. Posted January 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Sure Wallace is most famous as the belligerent racist voice of the segregationist south, standing in the doorways of schools and waging a war against the federal government. But he did start backpedaling in the 70’s, opening Alabama politics to minorities at a rate faster than most northern states or the federal government. In his last term in office, which he won in 1982 with over 90% of the black vote, he appointed a record number of minorities to government positions, including two African Americans to his own cabinet. No governor of any state has appointed more since.

    Just sayin’…

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