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POET-BASHING POLICE: U.S. Laureate Robert Hass’ NY Times op-ed from the Occupy UC Berkeley front



Read the Pulitzer poet’s entire November 19, 2011 NY Times op-ed

Ben Margot/Associated Press | Clickable

Activists raised a tent in front of Sproul Hall on the Berkeley campus as police officers in riot gear retreated on November 9.

Poet-Bashing Police

November 19, 2011
Berkeley, CA


LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies.  The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.

The first contingency that came to mind was the quick spread of the Occupy movement. The idea of occupying public space was so appealing that people in almost every large city in the country had begun to stake them out, including students at Berkeley, who, on that November night, occupied the public space in front of Sproul Hall, a gray granite Beaux-Arts edifice that houses the registrar’s offices and, in the basement, the campus police department.

It is also the place where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement, which transformed the life of American universities by guaranteeing students freedom of speech and self-governance. The steps are named for Mario Savio, the eloquent graduate student who was the symbolic face of the movement. There is even a Free Speech Movement Cafe on campus where some of Mr. Savio’s words are prominently displayed: “There is a time … when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part.”

Click here to read Robert Hass’ NY Times op-ed in its entirety

© 2011 New York Times


Robert Hass interviewed at Sedge Thompson’s ‘West Coast Weekend’ radio show in December 2008



Police pepper-spray peaceful UC Davis protesters

What Pepper Spray Does to Your Body | Gizmodo

UC Davis Pepper Spray Video: Criticisms Pour in, Chancellor Linda Katehi Admits It’s ‘Chilling’
— International Business Times


Edouard Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” (The Luncheon on the Grass)

Lt. John Pike, the U.C. Davis campus police officer who pepper-sprayed passive student protesters, is popping up in some of the world’s most famous paintings as part of an Internet meme intended to shame him for his actions.




Mr. Hansen, the cop at the campus gate,
Put me through college.
While the dean of women
Advised against it, too complicated, the cop said,
You get enrolled some way, and I’ll let you in.
Every morning, four years. On commencement day
I showed him my diploma.

Later when radio news announced Clark Kerr
President, my first rejoicing
Was with Mr. Taylor
At the campus gate. He shook hands
Joyfully, as I went in to a Marianne Moore reading.

And we exchanged over many years
Varying views of the weather.

Then on a dark night a giant officer came up to the car
When we were going to a senate meeting, strikebound by pickets,
And smashed his billy club down on the elbow of my student driver.

Where do you think you’re going? I suddenly saw I knew him.
It’s you, Mr. Graham, I mean it’s us, going to the meeting. He walked ||||away,
Turning short and small, which he was, a compact man
Of great neatness.

Later when I taught in the basement corridor,
The fuzz came through,
Running, loosing tear-gas bombs in the corridor
To rise and choke in offices and classrooms,
Too late for escape. Their gas masks distorted their appearance
But they were Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Swenson.

Since then, I have not met an officer
I can call by name.

Josephine Miles

from Collected Poems: 1930-1983
© 1983 Josephine Miles


4 Responses to “POET-BASHING POLICE: U.S. Laureate Robert Hass’ NY Times op-ed from the Occupy UC Berkeley front”

  1. arthur monroe Says:

    Yes…the way to go with your article – which I loved reading the classic Manet pix – the whole thing of occupying the city etal – keep hitting them with truths they can’t deny; truths we’ve all endured for a long while …trapped in amerikkka. Ride On!!! Why not have a giant Poetry Reading!!! at the university? – or city Hall…

  2. Al Says:

    Thank you, Arthur. A giant poetry reading is not a bad idea. All I have to do is pass it along. Surely giants can take it from there.
    Abrazos to you, the magnificent painter. Al

  3. tioedong Says:

    I’d feel sorrier for the students if they weren’t spoiled kids using daddy’s money to attend a university that racially discriminates (against hard working Asians).

    And a “poetry” reading won’t work because these professional protesters, like the “boomer” types of the 1960’s, are all about tearing down civilization, not about restoring it, which is the jobs for poets.

    Besides, peaceful people don’t get into newspapers. Just look at the coverage of the huge pro-life march last week in SF…no story here, folks, just move along …

  4. Al Says:

    The only “professional protesters” I’ve sniffed out amount to the carefully planted agents provacateurs, those violence-prone undercover agents who deliberately do damage during demostrations. Their assignment: Break up stuff. Discredit the whole movement. Hostile press coverage will surely follow.

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