Spotlight on the Mideast
Berdahl urges that reasoned discourse prevail at Berkeley

10 April 2002 | Marked by passionate, heated words but conducted peacefully, simultaneous pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli rallies took place Tuesday on Sproul Plaza, with protesters largely heeding Chancellor Berdahl’s call for “reasoned discourse” and respect for the right of free expression.

However, the afternoon ended with the arrest of 79 student and non-student supporters of the Palestinian cause, who occupied the lobby of Wheeler Hall following the noontime rallies.

The protesters were given the choice to disperse or be arrested. Those who chose arrest were cited for trespassing, and the students among them will be subject to campus disciplinary action. Six of the 79 were also cited for resisting arrest. One protester, who bit an officer, was taken to Berkeley city jail and charged with assault on an officer. Approximately 75 percent of those cited were Berkeley students, according to the UC police.

The two peaceful rallies drew about 800 students, faculty, staff and members of the public to Sproul Plaza, said UC Police Sgt. Howard Hickman.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s rallies and others to follow, Chancellor Berdahl held a press briefing Monday, calling on the community to preserve the principles of civil debate and reasoned discourse.

“Even in exceptionally troubling times — times when passions and emotions run deeply — the great value of a university is that it is a free and ordered space in which civil debate and reasoned discourse can prevail,” the chancellor said.

The current crisis in the Middle East, “arouses deeply felt passions and convictions,” he said. “For most of the campus community, and for people everywhere, it is not about taking sides, but about finding a means to end the suffering on both sides.”

The chancellor cited Berkeley’s proud history in the defense of free expression. “We do not expect everyone to think alike. We expect people to disagree. We expect people to express their differences forcefully.”

But he emphasized the university’s responsibility to provide a neutral forum for safe, civil discourse and to protect the rights of all to pursue their teaching, learning and research, “uninterrupted by anyone.”

“Acts of violence or vandalism or personal attack have no place here,” he said.

For updates and the full text and a video of Chancellor Berdahl’s statement to the press, see


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