Law Clinic Attorneys' Statement on Protest Incident
November 23, 2011
Dear Chancellor Katehi:
We write first and foremost to express our solidarity with the courageous, nonviolent protests of the UC Davis students on November 18-23, 2011. As teachers, we are entrusted with the education of the students at UC Davis, but in the past few days, the teachers have become the students. We have proudly witnessed our students practice nonviolent civil disobedience against the privatization of public education and police violence. Martin Luther King Jr., the law school's namesake, recognized in his letter from Birmingham Jail the necessity of creating tension of the mind so that "individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal...." The nonviolent civil disobedience of November 18, 2011, has opened a dialogue at UC Davis and created a space for our students to critically analyze police policies and the meaning of public education.
We write also to express outrage at the UC Davis Police for using chemical weapons against nonviolent, peaceful protestors. We believe the police used excessive force and we condemn any UC Davis policy that permits the use of force or chemical weapons against nonviolent protesters. Dr. King advocated for a moral responsibility to "disobey unjust laws." If we are to recognize his call and invoke his name, UC Davis should allow a forum for students to safely and openly critique society's institutions and laws.
Moreover, at the core of the protests, is a question from which we must not lose focus -- the social and economic accessibility of public education for students of color, LGBTQI students and students from low-income communities. In the past few days, we have witnessed the flourishing of political and social discourse around these and other significant issues and hope the University will pause at this crucible moment to cultivate and nourish this progress.
In that vein we request that this University do the following:
1. Take meaningful steps to reduce student tuition.
2. Expedite a formal, independent investigation of the events of November 18, 2011 and request full accountability and disciplining of those found culpable for actions against student protestors.
3. Advocate for the dismissal of criminal charges pending against UCD students arrested on November 18, 2011.
4. Not pursue any academic penalty against students for exercising their rights to nonviolent civil disobedience.
5. Enact new administrative protocols immediately to avoid the brutality witnessed on November 18 on our campus by students, staff, faculty, alumni, our nation and the world.
Holly S. Cooper