Category: Berkeley

UC Berkeley Supporters Rally For Missing 43 Students in Mexico

Thousands March in Mexico to Demand Justice for Missing Students from Ayotzinapa.

Thousands march in Mexico to demand justice for missing students from Ayotzinapa.

By Nikolas Zelinski

Friends and family of 43 missing university students, “normalistas,” spoke at UC Berkeley last Friday, part of a tour throughout the United State to spread word about the mass kidnapping that has been rocking Mexico for months.

The “normalistas” were studying education at a small school in the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. Coming from poor backgrounds, students and teachers at this school have a long history of protest and fighting for their rights.

On September 26th, 2014, students from the Raúl Isidro Burgo rural teaching college in Ayotzinapa, went to protest in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.

The students hoped to disrupt an event that was held by the local mayor’s wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa.

Facts about that night remain contested. However, it is clear that local police opened fire on vehicles in the area, and that 43 students disappeared.

Confirmed deaths vary depending on the source.

Since then, Ayotzinapa has become more than just a place, it has become a cause. Mass protests have taken place in Mexico City and in towns and cities throughout the country.

Edwin Ackerman, master of ceremonies at the UC Berkeley event, criticized those who are opposed to those who are backing the 43 disappeared students. “In the discourse of the [Mexican] state, those fighting back are violent, parasitical groups with irrational demands. It’s sort of an intense version of the anti-union, anti-teacher sentiment that exists in the US.”

“In Mexico,” Ackerman continued, “these accusations often have a range of undertones, the image [the government] presents is this unruly, backward mob of indigenous people. It was this climate of stigmatization that allowed for Ayotzinapa to be attacked before in a less circulated case in 2011; while blocking a major highway in demand of guaranteed tenure positions, and better living conditions in their school, federal police opened fire, killing two students.”

Family members and others speak speak at UC Berkeley about the fight for justice for the missing 43 normalistas in Mexico. Photo by Nick Zelinski.

Family members and others speak April 3  at UC Berkeley about the fight for justice for the missing 43 normalistas in Mexico. Photo by Nick Zelinski.

Another panelist was Steve Fisher, a student in the graduate program of journalism at UC Berkeley. He said government responses to the mass kidnapping contradict the thousands of official documents that he has reviewed.

“According to the government, the police along with cartel members, took the students from Iguala, and took them to a landfill in Cocula. There, according to officials, the students were burned. The student’s remains were then put in large bags, thrown into a river, and later supposedly found by the Mexican government,” Fisher said.

Fisher went on to explain that the Mexican military and the federal police adamantly deny that they knew about the attack until two hours after it ended.

But from evidence, it is clear that they knew about Ayotzinapa activities at least three hours prior to the event.

“The [official] story that the government has created has come entirely from depositions from people who had been tortured,” Fisher added.

Blanca Luz Nava Vélez, mother of missing student Jorge Alvarez Nava, said, “We don’t believe anything that the government has been saying. They’ve been trying to deceive us, time and time again, trying to make us believe our children are dead, that they were burned in Cocula, and they are lies.”

“What we’ve always said is that we’re poor, but we’re not idiots. And as long as there’s no proof, we are going to search for our children as if they were alive. I know in my heart, that my child is alive,” Nava Vélez said passionately.

Panelist and Ayotzinapa student Josimar De la Cruz Ayala called for public support via donations, letters, protests and boycotts of arms dealers that ship weapons to Mexico.

De la Cruz Ayala said Ayotzinapa does not accept donations from political parties that would like to claim sponsorship. Ayotzinapa is a non-partisan organization.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 6, 2015 (

Felicia Bridges Hosts Student Voices on “Talk 2 Teacher” Radio Show

Felicia Bridges at Radio Station KPFB

Felicia Bridges at Radio Station KPFB 89.3 FM

Special to the Post

Students don’t often get asked their opinion about school or life, but Oakland educator Felicia Bridges is giving all students with something to say an opportunity to share their experiences.

Youth voices now have a new outlet on KPFB radio in Berkeley on a show called “Talk 2 Teacher.”

The radio program offers unfiltered honest voices, mixed with contemporary urban music to convey student’s stories that appeal to multiple audiences.

“When I conceived of this program, I wanted students to share their stories, but I also wanted parents, teachers and administrators to listen in as well – for everyone to get an understanding of what is actually happening with kids,” said Bridges.Talk 2 Teaacher

Students are invited to share a piece of their world, while Bridges’ voice takes the back seat. She recounts how she was sitting in an editorial meeting at the station when a comment was made about how low her voice was during her interviews.

She explained that it is her style of radio interviewing, to make sure that the students’ voices are the focus and most prominent.

“To a certain extent, the show is not about me,” she said. “It is every inch about the student. Just look at it from the perspective of a Charlie Brown cartoon, all adult voices are inaudible – wa wa wa.”

Bridges found her way to the KPFA radio station two years after working as the youth education manager at Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD, in charge of the Youth Media Program. Prior to that, she co-created the Safe ´n Sound youth risk management media program, with the education and prevention coordinator at Alameda County Health Department’s Office of AIDS Administration.

It was in these programing experiences that she learned that she had an excellent rapport with youth. For most of her career, she was either in journalism or marketing. She had very little interaction with young people.

The discovery that she had a connection with youth steered her to her life’s mission – youth themed radio. Her affinity for youth also led her to pursue her doctorate in education, which she is currently completing at Mills College in Oakland.

Bridges’ focus at Mills is student voice in education.

“Talk 2 Teacher” is aired on KPFB, KPFA’s small frequency station.

KPFA’s new general manager Quincy McCoy uses the smaller frequency channel to give new programming the opportunity to pickup traction. It is also a way to give new programmers the space to develop their shows and build an audience.

“It’s a laboratory,” says McCoy. “In order for radio to mature talent, they need a place to build their listeners. If folks don’t have an opportunity to create radio, how can they learn to succeed? That’s what is at the heart of this programming–offering opportunities to learn, and grow.””

The urban-themed KPFB is where Bridges is finding her niche in illuminating student life. Since her show has aired, she has uncovered stories about unfair discipline of Black male students, homelessness, what it’s like to be HIV positive and the resilience of students.

“I am amazed at what I have discovered about the students I interview,” said Bridges. “I have found them to be remarkably positive in the most trying circumstances. There were times when my radio guests were laughing, and I was crying about what they were sharing. Students are so hopeful.

“Talk 2 Teacher” airs every Saturday at noon on KPFB 89.3 FM Berkeley. The show can be live streamed at Students, between 13 to 18 years old, interested in being on the show can contact Felicia Bridges at or call (510) 761-6403.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (



UC Berkeley Black Students Face “State of Emergency”

The Black Student Union led a blockade of a UC Berkeley campus cafe on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the nationwide Black Lives Matters movement. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz

The Black Student Union led a blockade of a UC Berkeley campus cafe on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the nationwide Black Lives Matters movement. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz

By Rasheed Shabazz

Rasheed-Haas-headshotBlack students at UC Berkeley, saying they are facing isolation, alienation and oppression, are demanding the university’s administrators implement major changes to address the hostile campus climate at the nation’s most prestigious public university.

Following years of dwindling Black enrollment numbers and multiple surveys suggesting Black students are subject to racism on campus, the Black Student Union released a list of demands to Chancellor Nick Dirks.

“Black students, staff, and faculty on UC Berkeley’s campus are in a state of emergency requiring immediate attention,” said Gabrielle Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for the Black Student Union (BSU).

Black student leaders first met with Chancellor Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele to demand changes on Feb. 13.

The demands include the creation of a resource center, increased staffing for recruitment and retention of Black students, two Black psychologists, advisors for Black student athletes and recruitment of more Black graduate students and faculty.

Students have demanded the creation of a resource center named after Mississippi human rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The symbolic demand that received the most media attention is the renaming of Barrows Hall after former political prisoner Assata Shakur, currently living in exile in Cuba.

Admissions and enrollment of Black undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley is abysmal. Currently, a little more than three percent of UC Berkeley students are Black.

The BSU has called for the hiring of staff in the admissions office to recruit Black students, as well as doubling the budget for the Getting into Graduate School (GIGS) program, a program to increase enrollment of underrepresented groups.

The few Black students attending the campus report the highest levels of disrespect, stereotypes and an anti-Black campus climate, according to multiple surveys. Black staff and faculty also report similar disrespect.

Nearly half of Black students have reported being disrespected due to their race, according to the surveys.

After a cardboard effigy was found hanged at Sather Gate before a December Black Lives Matter protest, Chancellor Dirks first pledged to work with Black students.

An anonymous queer, Black and people of color collective later took credit for the political artwork. For many Black students, the incident echoed a 2012 incident when a fraternity’s Halloween display included the mock lynching of a zombie.

In a response to student demands, Dirks said the treatment that Black students report is deplorable.

“Too many students have told us about being excluded from study groups, ignored during class discussions, verbally harassed at parties and social events, and feeling, in a general sense, vulnerable, isolated, and invisible,” Dirks said in a letter to the BSU following a trip to Asia. “This is something we deplore.”

Chancellor Dirks said he plans to develop “a major campus initiative” to increase Black staff, faculty and student numbers, but students are skeptical.

“Black people have been oppressed by this university since its creation,” student government candidate Alana Banks, an Oakland native and BSU member and current. “The fact that we have to come up with demands for long-overdue support, to us, is a testament of our condition,” she said.

Students later met with Steele and Gibor Basri, vice-chancellor of equity and inclusion, on March 6, according to the BSU, but he did not respond before their deadline. When Dirks did, BSU said he did not address each of their demands, including the call to rename Barrows Hall.

In December, the BSU blockaded a campus café for four-and-a-half hours after the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Black students have also been active in the recent “Black Brunch” protests in Oakland and Berkeley and hint the possibility of direct action if their demands are not met.

“We will persevere until Black students get what we need and deserve,” said Shuman.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (


Parents of Mexico’s 43 Disappeared Students Will Speak in Berkeley Thursday and Friday

Street protest in Mexico for the disappeared 43


Special to the Post


A group of parents of 43 disappeared students and surviving students from the teachers’ school “Raúl Isidro Burgos” of Ayotzinapa, Mexico will be in Berkeley this week.

The parents are on a speaking tour in the United States to explain the struggle of the people in Mexico, share and explain their demand and seek solidarity with Latino population and others who believe in justice and human rights.

On Thursday, April 2, 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., there will be a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley.

On Friday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. parents and “normalistas” will speak at a forum, “Ayotzinapa: Mexico at the Crossroads,” in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

On Sept. 26-27, in Iguala, Mexico six people, among them three students from the “Raúl Isidro Burgos” teachers school, were killed by the police, one of them brutally tortured before being killed, and 43 other students were forcibly disappeared.

This has been a watershed event in Mexican history. There is a radical difference between the before and the after of these events, in spite of the Mexican government insistence on continuing business as usual.

According to many people in Mexico, the killing and disappearance of the normalistas have made evident the moral abyss of the political class governing the country – a corrupted state deeply infiltrated by drug cartels at every level.

Many Mexicans had hoped that the sheer magnitude of the tragedy—Who would kill students in such fashion? Who would disappear them? Who would attack people belonging to a particularly unprotected social class?—would make the government react, force it to turn around and correct its many years of its shameful behavior and corruption.

Unfortunately, the investigation of the case has been plagued by inconsistencies, omissions, and inexplicable gaps, according to observers.

Renowned scientists, journalists and independent investigators, along with the Argentine forensic team whose collaboration the Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGR, the Mexican Department of Justice) was forced to accept, have strongly challenged the PGR’s version of what occurred on Sept. 26.

Many people are saying that this version lacks an explanation of why a group of petty drug dealers would be interested in killing and erasing every trace of the normalistas—especially when we know that drug dealers seem to take special pains to leave visible traces of their activities.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, March 30, 2015 (



Berkeley City Council Approves Investigation of December Protests, Bans Tear Gas, Baton Strikes

March to Berkeley City Council meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

March to Berkeley City Council meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

By Judith Scherr

Two months after Berkeley police injured peaceful protesters with batons, tear gas and projectiles, some 150 activists led by Berkeley High, Berkeley City College and UC Berkeley Black student unions, took the Black Lives Matter message to the streets Tuesday, marching from the Cal Campus to the city council meeting at Old City Hall.

Moni Law, beaten by police Dec. 6, speaks at meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

Moni Law, beaten by police Dec. 6, speaks at meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

The council got the message.

In a series of unanimous votes, the council approved a temporary ban on police use of tear gas, projectiles and over-the-shoulder baton swings for crowd control; asked the Police Review Commission to review both specific tactics used by police at the December protests and general crowd control orders; directed the city manager to write policy for police cameras; and affirmed Berkeley support for national Ferguson Action demands.

“This is what democracy looks like – when the people of Berkeley come out on the streets and demand their elected representatives take action,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, speaking at a rally at Old City Hall before the meeting.  Arreguin authored most the policies the council approved later.

Also addressing the rally, Berkeley High senior Kadijah  Means talked about “what militarization looks like in our community.”

“ It’s not just about tear gas or AK 47s,” she said. “It’s about militarization as a mind set. It’s about cops believing we’re not all part of the same community. Because if they thought they were part of the community, we wouldn’t have the unjust deaths that we do.”

Kadijah Means, from the Berkeley High Black Student Union, speaks at rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Kadijah Means, from the Berkeley High Black Student Union, speaks at rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Inside the council chambers, several dozen speakers lined up to urge council approval of measures to hold police accountable for their actions at the December demonstrations protesting police immunity in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York.

“’I found myself, a Black woman, targeted by officers,’” said Associated Students of the University of California Senator Madison Gordon, reading a letter from an unnamed friend.

“’I found myself bearing the brunt of a beating of a baton across my chest and torso…I was gassed and fell to the ground coughing….The system that promised to protect me, had failed me so horribly and for what?  A peaceful demonstration to display my discontent for this system that continues to display violence and criminal acts on my people every day.’”

Andrea Pritchett from Copwatch said she had requested police operational plans for the demonstrations, but much of the response was blacked out.

“The police department is saying they redacted certain parts of the plan for security procedures,” Pritchett said. “They contain ‘intelligence information.’ My friends, that’s what a militarized police department does.”

Councilman Max Anderson speaks at Rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Councilman Max Anderson speaks at Rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Chamber of Commerce CEO Poly Armstrong, one of three speakers urging opposition to the measures, asked the council not to take crowd control tools away from police were they faced with another “civic uproar.”

“As the voice for business in Berkeley, Berkeley businesses would feel extremely uncertain if there were no way for police to protect the people of Berkeley and their businesses downtown,” she said.

The police chief was absent, though he generally attends council meetings when police matters are discussed. City Manager Christine Daniel told the Post he wasn’t asked to attend because he wasn’t required to give a report.

A police spokesperson told this reporter in December that aggressive police tactics responded appropriately to protesters, some of whom had thrown objects such as bottles at police. However, one public speaker called this “collective punishment.”

A unanimous council approved asking the city manager to write a plan within three months for implementation of police body and vehicle cameras, although some public speakers had expressed skepticism. In a recent Emeryville police shooting, the officer’s body camera was off and in the case of Eric Garner, the police officer who choked him was not indicted even though the choking was caught on camera.

The council unanimously affirmed the Ferguson demands that include strict limits on transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement and repurposing funds for alternatives to incarceration.

The council unanimously approved the Police Review Commission conducting an independent review of the December protests and a general review of related crowd control policies, with councilmembers underscoring the PRC needs to use its power to subpoena documents and testimony.

And the council approved the interim ban – to be re-evaluated after the independent review — on police use of tear gas, projectiles and certain baton strikes when dealing with mostly peaceful protesters.

Addressing the young people at the meeting, Councilmember Max Anderson said, “You’re part of a struggle along a continuum. You’re part of an effort to ensure the basic principles of this country are upheld.

“We’ve arrived at a point where an inordinate amount of power resides with the police department and their representatives; we arrived at this because we believed they would always have our best interests to protect and serve the general public. That hasn’t borne itself out. And you’re response is appropriate, courageous and has to be ongoing.”

Courtesy of the Berkeley Post, February 14, 2015 (

Berkeley Meeting Addresses Prejudice

Hearing calls for end to “normalization of Blacks being treated like second-class citizens”

Barbra White, Berkeley NAACP, speaks at community meeting. Photos by Judith Scherr.

Barbra White, Berkeley NAACP, speaks at community forum. Photos by Judith Scherr.

By Judith Scherr

More than 250 residents, lawmakers and academics spent five hours Saturday at a forum exploring what Barbara White of the Berkeley NAACP called “the normalization of Blacks being treated like second-class citizens in America and Berkeley.”

john powell is a law professor and director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley

john powell, law professor and director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley

The stated agenda topic for the town-hall style City Council meeting at the Ed Roberts campus was “police-community relations,” but, as Councilmember Kriss Worthington said, the issue at hand was broader: “Prejudice and discrimination and racism — right here in Berkeley.”

john. a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, laid out the problem. “When we talk about segregation, we’re not simply talking about separating people based on phenotype,” he said. “We’re talking about separating people from life opportunities.”

Many of the more than 50 public speakers did address police-community relations, criticizing Berkeley police tactics at Dec. 6 demonstrations protesting the grand jury decisions against indicting white police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed Black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at meeting on police-community relations.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at meeting on police-community relations.

Zach Malitz said he was protesting peacefully when police used tear gas and beat him and fellow demonstrators. Moni Law, injured by a police baton, said she’d filed a complaint with the Police Review Commission and urged others to do so.

“We saw militarized police responding in Ferguson,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “A similar thing happened in Berkeley.”

Others took the question of community-police relations beyond recent demonstrations, criticizing Berkeley police for random stops of African Americans.

Richie Smith, an African American elder, described her experience. “I had one officer that was upset with me because each time he turned the corner in the neighborhood, he saw me,” Smith said, explaining that she picks up trash along Adeline Street near her home once or twice every day.

“He wanted to know what was I doing so often on the street, (and I said), ‘I live here. My taxes pay your salary.’”

A group representing disabled people picketed outside the meeting to raise consciousness about problematic relations between police and disabled Black people, subject to both racism and misunderstanding by police.

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond speaks at Berkeley meeting

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond speaks at Berkeley meeting

According to the group’s spokesperson Nomy Lamm, police sometimes mistake actions of deaf and mentally ill people for those of a non-compliant person and believe physically disabled pedestrians are drunk.

Solutions proposed included Rep. Barbara Lee’s call to end the transfer of military weapons to communities.

Residents proposed instituting a 24-hour team of health professionals to respond to mental health crises rather than police, body cameras for police, a moratorium on police use of tear gas and over-the-head baton strikes for crowd control, community policing and community control of police. Speakers also cited the need for jobs, affordable housing and equitable education.

The day’s discussion was one “this country has never really had in a meaningful way,” Councilmember Max Anderson said. “Our efforts as citizens to engage in the activities that strengthen democracy cannot relent at this point.”

The City Council will discuss police reform proposals Jan. 27 and Feb. 10.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 24, 2015 (


Churches in Berkeley March for “Black Lives Matter Sunday”

 Pastor Michael McBride speaks over a crowd of people who staged a die-in on University Ave. in Berkeley symbolizing the fight against police brutality and injustice in the killings of unarmed Black men. Photo by Laura Wong.

Pastor Michael McBride speaks over a crowd of people who staged a die-in on University Ave. in Berkeley symbolizing the fight against police brutality and injustice in the killings of unarmed Black men. Photos by Laura Wong.

By Ashley Chambers

A large group of community members, faith leaders marched down University Avenue in Berkeley on Dec. 14 – recognized as “Black Lives Matter Sunday” in churches across the country – with signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “People of Faith Respond.”

Filled with passion and anguish over the recent grand jury decisions to not indict the police officers that killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown and continued racial injustice, the group was led by Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center and many other clergy leaders of different lives matter sunday dec. 14

Called a “pilgrimage of lament,” the march started at First Congregational Church on Channing Way and ended at The Way Christian Center on University Ave. where a crowd of people staged a die-in, symbolic of the 4-and-a-half hours that Michael Brown’s lifeless body was left in the street in Ferguson.

“We’re here to declare that all Black lives matter and all Black lives deserve to be protected under the Constitution that says that we are all created with inalienable rights; the right to be safe, the right to live and pursue happiness,” said McBride, director of PICO National Network’s Live Free Campaign.

The event was intended to create a space for communities to mourn the Black lives lost to systemic racial injustice.

“I can’t keep up with the genocide. And we move and we organize, and we scream and we yell, and we’re fighting back, but I black lives matter berkeley dec. 14can’t keep up,” said Eniola Abioye, a senior at UC Berkley who led a peaceful protest from Sproul Hall at the university to the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on Dec. 13.

A member of the UC Berkeley Black Student Union, she organized the protest after witnessing cardboard cutouts of Black bodies hanging from Sather Gate on campus.

“I don’t like the idea that although I feel like I have a lot to bring to the table in the way I look at the world, that I can still be seen as a threat,” said Mack McGhee Jr., a student at Laney College. “I don’t like the idea of my little brother growing up and having the looming fear of the people who are supposed to protect him.”

Among the churches that participated were The Way Christian Center, McGee Baptist Church, Congregation Netivot Shalom, The Church Without Walls and others.

Courtesy of the Post News Group. December 20, 2014 (

Berkeley City Council Hears Police Abuse Claims, Fails to Act

By Judith Scherr

More than 100 people came to a raucous Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday to vent their anger at what they said was police use of excessive force at Dec. 6 protests against the grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo and Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Maria Moore

Maria Moore

But many of those lining up to speak, had hoped for more than an opportunity to vent. They wanted city council action.

Council action on urgency issues not on the agenda requires a two-thirds vote. The three progressives,  Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson, urged the council to do so, in order to discuss a Police Review Commission recommendation to temporarily ban police use of tear gas, over the shoulder baton strikes and firing projectiles.

Police used all three against protesters Dec. 6, contending that they were the object of bricks and bottles thrown by protesters.

The council refused to address the recommendation and also turned down a separate motion calling for a council meeting within a week on the issue.

Willie Phillips: Willie Phillips addressed the issue of accountability saying, in Berkeley, “we don’t know if there are issues around profiling because we don’t keep records of that.” Photos by Judith Scherr.

Willie Phillips: Willie Phillips addressed the issue of accountability saying, in Berkeley, “we don’t know if there are issues around profiling because we don’t keep records of that.” Photos by Judith Scherr.

Mayor Tom Bates, loudly heckled by the crowd, instead called a meeting for Jan. 17, where he said “experts” would discuss relevant issues.

But Anderson argued, “These are urgent matters. If someone on this dais is hoping that passions will cool (by Jan. 17) and things will go away, you’ve got another think coming. If we don’t act with expeditious intent then people will be justified in making the judgment that we’re shirking our responsibilities.”

Speakers addressed what they said was excessive force.

African American activist Moni Law said she was protesting peacefully on Dec. 6. when she was “punched in the back with a Billy club.”

Stephan (with an S) Elgstrand showed the council a projectile police shot at protesters.

Stephan (with an S) Elgstrand showed the council a projectile police shot at protesters.

“I’m not against police,” Law said.. “I’m against brutality.”

Another speaker was Maria Moore, sister of Kayla Moore, the African American transgender schizophrenic woman who died in police custody in 2013, after friends had called for help due to Moore’s bizarre, but not threatening, behavior.

“We live in a culture where individuals of color suspected of minor crimes are met with a police presence that leads to lethal force,” Maria Moore said. “Police blame the victims. Eric Garner chocked to death – that was his fault – he resisted; Michael Brown was a thug, he had it coming; Kayla Moore was mentally ill.”

Moni Law

Moni Law

Barbara White, vice president of the Berkeley NAACP, also linked Ferguson and Berkeley. Berkeley has failed to implement a program to collect data on the race of people stopped by police. She said the issue is bigger than the “appalling” deaths of Brown and Garner.

“It’s structural racism in America that’s not being addressed,” White said. “Black lives matter. They matter all the time in every area of life. We want to eat. We want a job. We want housing. We want our kids to be educated. And certainly, we want to go out in the street and not be killed.”

Courtesy of the Post New Group, December 19, 2014 (

UC Berkeley Students Continue to Protest Tuition Hikes

UC Berkeley students sit-in against tuition hikes

UC Berkeley students sit-in against tuition hikes. Poto courtesy

By Nikolas Zelinski

Students rallied in front of Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on Tuesday as part of their fight to keep tuition fees affordable and for more transparency in the university budget.

Their organization, the Open UC movement, is opposing tuition increases and is attempting more generally to bring attention to the runaway commercialization of education.

UC students protest

UC students protest

The effort, which included a seven-day occupation of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley, is a response to the UC Board of Regents decision to increase tuition by five percent per year for the next five years. The total increase in cost would be around 28 percent.

The protest on the steps of Sproul Hall came on the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) leader Mario Savio gave his famous speech on the same steps.

Savio was once dubbed one of the most powerful student organizers and political activists in America. In the Sixties, he was one of the students who joined the Mississippi Summer Project, which worked for voting rights in the South.

When he returned to school, Savio helped lead the FSM and gave his now famous speech on Dec. 2, 1964, calling for students to sit –in at the university, to throw their bodies on the gears to “machine” to bring it to a halt to defend free speech and the right to be active in the fight for civil rights.

Students at the Tuesday rally felt that it was important to have the demonstration on the same date because “We are fighting the same fight.”

The tuition hike was opposed by faculty, the student body, and the governor. The Democratic-led Senate has introduced SB 15, which would essentially nullify the tuition hikes made by the board.

The bill would add $156 million to the higher education budget next year from the general fund, but it will simultaneously cut $102 million from the middle-class scholarship program, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee.

Senate Democrats are also calling for cash incentives for California State University students who finish before the six-year average. San Diego Sen. Marty Block said, “If students take 15 units per semester, they will get out in four years instead of six years and save about $60,000 compared to the typical six-year student,” according to the report.

The bill and other recent actions by university administration are seen as a farce by some students.

“Education is a right, not a privilege,” said one student who asked that her name not be used. “It’s not just about the education itself that you want people in the community to have access to, but all of the things that come with having an educated society, (making people) more likely to vote, more likely to work, etc.”

“These are things that makes a democracy work,” she said.

Courtesy of the Berkeley Post, December 4, 2014 (

Berkeley High Alumnus and Whistleblower Threatened with Arrest

By Ken Epstein

Most people would consider Ralph Walker a model Berkeley High School alumnus.

Ralph Walker

Ralph Walker

He ran track for two years when he was a student at BHS, graduating in 1971. He later worked as an assistant track coach for two years.

Over the years, Walker could often be seen at the school, supporting BHS athletics and participating in alumni activities. He started coaching and organizing an afterschool track club for youth, which has operated in both Berkeley and Alameda.

Lately, he has been raising his voice against “a lot of racist stuff going on at Berkley High,” including racial conflict among students and harassment and hostility against Black staff and students by administration.

Things began to get worse for Walker after he reported that he had learned that a noose had been found hanging on a tree on the Berkeley High campus, discovered by a BHS safety officer on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 1.

“I got a call from someone that there was a noose on campus, and the administration did not notify the parents. So, I let people know about it on Facebook,” he said. ”I’ve been hearing that some people at the school are upset that I did that.”

Since then, he had an argument with the woman who heads BHS security, and he filed a discrimination complaint against her. “When I filed the complaint at the district office, I was told I would get a reply within five working days. It’s been two weeks,” he said.

This noose was discovered  on the Berkeley High School campus on Oct. 1.

This noose was discovered on the Berkeley High School campus on Oct. 1.

While the district did not respond to his complaint, Walker did receive a text message last Friday from the Berkeley Police Department officer who works at the school, which said, ““If you come to the school, you will be arrested for trespassing because you’re going there to protest,” according to Walker.

“I have a pretty strong connection with a lot of parents up there,” he said. “A lot of them tell me stuff, and they don’t want me to say their names.”

“But they shouldn’t be scared to stick up for their kids,” Walker continued. “I’ve been talking about the racial problems at the school – from bad coaches to bad teachers. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Walker said he received a call this week asking him to come to BHS for a meeting with the administration on Friday, but he was not told the reason for the meeting.

More than a week after the noose incident, the school notified Berkeley residents about it. In an email on Oct. 9, BHS Vice Principal Jorge Melgoza wrote: “This act of hate has never been, and will never be, tolerated on this campus.”

Melgoza said there was no video footage of the incident, no students had reported seeing the noose prior to its removal, and police had located no suspects.

He also apologized for the eight-day delay in communicating about the incident with the community, writing: “Berkeley High School Administration takes full responsibility for not bringing this matter to the attention of the larger community sooner.”

In an interview recently with the Post, he said BHS would organize small group discussions with the student body to raise understanding of the meaning of this hate incident.

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

However, according to several BHS classified employees and teachers, there have been no discussions with students or assemblies.

“I don’t think they really care,” said an employee who asked not to be identified. “They say they care with their words, but their actions don’t back it up.”

Councilmember Darryl Moore

Councilmember Darryl Moore

They have not done anything, said another BHS employee. “They are trying to sweep this under the rug.”

At a teacher in-service meeting on Monday, the school had a 45- minute presentation on ancient African history and a short video clip on the history of lynching – not followed up by discussion. “I don’t know what that was about. What did that have to do with teaching anybody about the noose? Asked a teacher.

Vice Principal Melgoza and the district’s public information officer, Mark Coplan, did not returned calls from the Post.

The Post also emailed questions to Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Max Anderson about the police threat to arrest Walker and the failure of Berkeley High to deal with the noose incidents.

Councilmember Moore told the Post that he had not heard about the noose incident but felt that something should have been done sooner to educate the school community.

“If the noose incident happened on Oct. 1, it should have been done two weeks ago,” he said, adding that ““I know Ralph (Walker) – he has done a lot of good work with young people.”

Moore said he would follow up, making inquiries and calling Berkeley Schools’ Superintendent Donald Evans.

By press time, Mayor Bates and Councilmember Anderson had not responded to the Post.