BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Labor organizers say that the arrest of a black man at a protest in Berkeley on Thursday against alleged pay inequality throughout the University of California system indicates the university is honoring the repressive legacy of the Jim Crow South.
John De Los Angeles, a spokesman for Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said David Cole, a 51-year-old cook at a UC Berkeley dining hall, was protesting peacefully when he was arrested near the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way about noon on Thursday.
De Los Angeles said Cole sustained injuries to his head and had to have stitches in his eyes and nose after officers threw him to the ground when they arrested him.
But UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher said in a statement that Cole had been part of a protest that blocked the intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft and that Cole ran toward an occupied vehicle that was making its way through the intersection and threw the sign he was carrying at the vehicle.
Fisher said when a UC police officer tried to detain Cole “he became uncooperative and disregarded instructions from the officer.”
Fisher said the officer asked for assistance and he and other UC officers tried to detain Cole but Cole resisted so multiple officers were needed to take him into custody.
Fisher said Cole was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and resisting an officer.
Cole sustained a cut that required treatment at a hospital and he later was transferred to the Berkeley City Jail, where he was booked, according to Fisher.
Cole was then released from jail because UC police advocated that he be cited and released without needing to post bail, Fisher said.
De Los Angeles disputed Fisher’s account of the incident, saying that witnesses said Cole didn’t do anything to the vehicle.
De Los Angeles said the vehicle drove toward the protesters who were in the intersection and made contact with several of them and then someone other than Cole threw something at the car.
The union spokesman said the protest at UC campuses across the state was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the deaths of two black Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, killed when their truck’s compactor malfunctioned, prompting a strike by union workers.
Dr. Martin Luther King was visiting the striking sanitation workers when he was assassinated in April 1968, De Los Angeles said.
In a statement, the union said, “As AFSCME workers across America reaffirmed their commitment to the cause of racial equality, dignity, and respect for workers, the University of California chose to honor the repressive legacy of the Jim Crow South.”
The union said, “This incident only underscores UC’s deplorable record and continued resistance on issues of racial justice. We will not rest until UC agrees to provide its workers with adequate protections for immigrants and people of color.”
In his statement, Fisher said UC police and the campus administration “always see the use of force as a last resort and it is used only when a person is not cooperating or complying with the instructions of officers involved in carrying out their duties.”
He said UC police command staff “will carefully review this incident,” which he said is standard practice in all incidents involving the use of force by campus police.
Fisher said anyone with information about the incident should call UC police at (510)642-6760 and ask to speak with an on-duty watch commander.
He said that after the police review is completed, he and other campus leaders, including the chancellor, will determine whether an independent review is needed and proceed accordingly.
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