Occupy-Style Repression Hits Brooklyn College, My Home

by Matthis Chiroux

Two non-violent student activists were arrested yesterday and a dozen others brutalized by campus police at Brooklyn College when they peacefully congregated in a hallway outside the president's office. The students were participating in a national day of action to defend education endorsed by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein and were attempting to deliver a petition to the president calling for increased aid and services for students when police moved in to choke, beat and arrest members of the crowd.

Both of the students taken into custody were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. One was charged with assaulting an officer, and they are as of 10 a.m. Thursday morning still being held in police custody. Both students are prominent non-violent organizers within the Brooklyn College Student Union, prompting intense suspicion that they were specifically targeted for arrest, especially given that video evidence clearly shows they were not involved in an impromptu 'sit-in' outside President Karen L. Gould's office after she refused to receive the petition signed by more than 1,000 students.

The videos contained in the link above depict a pandemonium initiated by police when they attacked an unarmed and peaceful crowd of students on their own campus, and further begs the question is Occupy-style repression coming to a campus near you? Also in question is the role New York City Police observed on the scene played in potentially coordinating this crackdown on the student movement to defend education at Brooklyn College.

In my shock and outrage at this repressive violence on my own campus, and in hopes that student-administrator relations at Brooklyn College have not passed the point of no-return, I penned the following letter to Pres. Gould last night, calling on her to free our students still in custody and drop the outrageous charges against them, as well establish an independent committee to investigate these events and review allegations of abuse against campus police.

Yesterday, they attacked students at Brooklyn College. Before that, they attacked students at Baruch College. Next, they might attack students at your local college, if we as students and citizens don't push back. If we can't occupy and speak freely in the hallways of our own campuses, the campuses that in America we pay for the right to occupy, then truly there is no more free space in America. The police state, having already laid claim to our high schools, is now occupying our colleges, and attempting to occupy our fears. Let this be a wake-up call to students around the country who value their education and freedom on their campuses to mobilize and lay claim to all which they are entitled to.

Let this also be a wake-up call to administrators around the country. Your students are not cattle to be whipped into submission, but can and will be driven into a stampede.


Dear Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould,

My name is Matthis Chiroux, I am a graduating Brooklyn College senior, a founding member of the Brooklyn College Student Union, a veteran of the U.S. Army, a writer for the Huffington Post, and now by necessity, an advocate for my fellow students you are responsible for having beaten and arrested this afternoon (May 2, 2012) in front of your office by campus security personnel.

I am writing to express to you my profound shock and revulsion at the conduct of your officers involved in brutalizing Brooklyn College students and arresting them for congregating on their own campus. While I was not present at today’s demonstration, I have seen extensive, detailed footage which depicts several wildly unacceptable acts committed by your officers against our students, including the choking of one student against a wall, the beating and shoving of others, the wrongful arrest of student activists not involved in “sitting in,” not to mention the creation of a dangerous atmosphere of chaos and pandemonium which did not exist prior to their violent dispersal of a noisy, but peaceful crowd of students.

Furthermore, the students wrongfully arrested have been charged with very serious and completely fallacious and unsubstantial charges, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and in one case, assaulting an officer. As I am writing you this letter, both are at Brooklyn Central Booking being processed like criminals for lawfully standing in a hallway which they pay, like all students, for the right to stand in. Tonight, for no justifiable reason, they will both spend in jail because you refuse to intervene.

I know both Julieta and Eric, the students arrested today, and can personally attest not only to their peaceful nature and intent, but to their dedication to the well-being of Brooklyn College and the family that embodies its splendor; students, faculty and administrators alike. They were present today for that precise reason. They believe their academic home is under threat, as do nearly all of us (even you, I am sure), and we love Brooklyn College and want only what is best for it.

But today, my home was transformed into an all-too-familiar battlefield, and you being the head of my household are responsible for rectifying this situation. Brooklyn College cannot become a warzone because a politically-minded group of students decides to peacefully congregate. In fact, the only difference between the students who were assaulted and arrested by campus security today and students who regularly congregate, sit, lie-down and even sleep all over Brooklyn College is that they had grievances to bear in doing so.

Since its inception in 2009, the Brooklyn College Student Union has never committed a single violent act, never destroyed any property, never violated any laws or school policies, and has consistently advocated for the rights and needs of all parties at Brooklyn College, not simply the student body. Regardless, within the past year it seems campus security has initiated a policy of violent repression against Student Union activists, and this trend is a startling outrage to say the least!

That now, your officers have falsely accused a student activist with a well-known reputation for peaceful poise and effective verbal facilitation with the violent assault of an officer is beyond outrageous and cannot be permitted in our home, and I believe you know this. Further, you must know that your officers may in all actuality have committed serious acts of unprovoked violence against Brooklyn College students today, violating their rights, and were as well responsible for creating an unsafe situation.

President Gould, I am calling on you to immediately do the right thing and take the following actions: First, you must see to the release of your students from police custody and have all charges dismissed against them. Second, you must place the officers suspected of misconduct in today’s incident, including the ranking officer on-site, on immediate administrative leave pending the results of an independent investigation to be conducted by an acceptable committee of Brooklyn College students, faculty and administrators. Third, you must give full access of said investigating committee to all documentation pertaining to today’s police action, including but not limited to internal and external correspondence, video evidence, witnesses testimony and personnel evaluations. Lastly, you must offer the student body some form of condolence for today’s events, and further affirm your commitment to the non-violent resolution of student grievances in the future.

Anything short this type of critical, timely action on your behalf will SERIOUSLY jeopardize your legitimacy as President of Brooklyn College in the eyes of the student body, almost all of whom stand united in opposing police brutality in any form, especially on our campus. I believe you are able to make the right decision now, not only to avert potential unrest on our peaceful campus, but because you know that Eric and Julieta and Student Union members are not criminals, and that ‘safety’ officers assaulting students is unacceptable at Brooklyn College.

Very Respectfully,

Matthis Chiroux

Brooklyn College, Class of 2012