The beleaguered campus
Sir: Recently you mentioned there had been riots in Berkeley (23 May), but in this you were misinformed: amazingly, there were not riots here. What did occur was a new escalation in methods of maintaining law and order for which the State of Cali- fornia seems a little shy of claiming credit.
Some people planted some grass and trees on a piece of derelict land owned by the university. They wanted to make a park, in a part of town notably lacking in such amenities. The university suddenly decided to make a football ground there after all, and during the night fenced in the lawn and put a large force of police to guard it and tear up the garden that had been planted. The park people began to march on the city hall to protest. One or two threw stones, and a policeman was cut. All this was wrong, and though the park does seem a good idea, landowners, even public ones, have a right to keep their property as an eyesore if they wish. The response of author- ity, however, seems excessive. For nearly a
week we were deafened by police and army helicopters circling overhead at less than
200 feet. The city was occupied by truck- loads of National Guard with rifles and flak vests, and police used shotguns, loaded with buckshot, to kill one man, blind another,
and wound nearly a hundred others. Tear gas was used so freely that schools and
hospitals were unable to continue and nerve gas was also used. The herding of crowds by ground forces into an area where they could all be conveniently gassed by bomb from a helicopter seemed particularly exces- sive. Most of the victims including the man who was killed had nothing to do with the park, but were incredulous spectators or people trying to go about their business. The local press published a photograph of a policeman firing, after careful aim, at the back of a single fleeing man (who had the temerity to have grown a beard).
And yet, sir, there were no riots, though I cannot pretend we were all sufficiently docile as to be unmoved by the miasma of tear gas that hung over the town.
Another new police method should be brought to your attention—punishment by bail. For example, a graduate student in our
department was arrested while discussing RNA with a friend and charged with a typical
collection of charges like inciting to riot, assaulting a policeman and so on (yes, such things do happen to one's friends here). His bail was $9,000, and whereas such a charge
would, of course, be acquitted, a tenth of the bail is retained in any case. For com-
parison, a policeman who killed a man—. though only a negro in the South—was granted bail of a few hundred dollars.
Thelma Rowell 2301 Rose Street, Berkeley, California