we had this great demo last night in front of berkeley community theatre, about 500 people, lots of banners, lots of tv and mainstream press - the police had us backed up behind police ribbon out on the street across from the entrance to the theatre (they had closed both streets, towed cars, and spent $15,000 in city funds on "security").
my friend and i were at the front lines last night, right up against the fence to keep any ticket holders from slipping in! then we slipped in ourselves, with the cops on our heels (smile). Then as they started to let the ticket-holders (this was a private lecture series, for $145 a ticket!)) walk through, barbara and i and 2 others ran thru the police ribbon out onto the pavement in front of the ticket holders, and we sat down, blocking them from walking. the police came after us beating us. a little but not much, then the crowd exploded and everyone poured thru the lines making it impossible for the police to distinguish between us and the ticket holders.
Bedlam broke out, in a good way, meaning lots of chants and activity, and eventually it sounds like the police chief called netanyahu and told him they didn't think they could get rid of us without possibly harming some ticketholders! so he decided to cancel! then today he decided to cancel his speaking gig thursday in marin as well! what a great victory, to let him know his voice is not welcome here! so today we are jubuilant.....nothing like speaking truth to power!
press release: 1000 BERKELEY PROTESTERS STOP NETANYAHU
The Coalition of Jews for Justice in Israel and Palestine
contact: Laurie Polster
1 Dec. 2000, Berkeley
On November 28th, 2000, over 1000 Bay Area protesters carrying banners, bullhorns, and candles some with children on their shoulders effectively prevented former Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at the Berkeley Community Theater (a 3,600 seat venue) as part of The Marin-Pennisula-Berkeley Lecture Series. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, two thousand tickets had been sold at a price of between $222 and $320 (a potential net of roughly half a million dollars). As a result of this successful protest, Netanyahu chose to cancel his two additional speaking engagements in the Bay Area.
According to organizers, this was the first time that protests had forced cancellation of a lecture in the series’ eleven year history. The protest was organized jointly by the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, The Coalition of Jews for Justice in Israel and Palestine, A Jewish Voice for Peace, and the International Action Center and was promoted by Pacifica Station KPFA in Berkeley.
At 6:00 p.m., protesters began to assemble outside the Berkeley Community Theater, where two dozen Berkeley police had already established perimeters around the theater’s primary entrances. As the size of the protest grew, some police donned riot gear, while several U.S. State Department security personnel guarded a second entrance. Local Berkeley traffic was rerouted and a police helicopter circled overhead. The first audience members to arrive were escorted by armed police through the crowd of protestors, who remained behind police barricades. Ticket holders were greeted by protests of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and signs saying "Peace and justice for the Palestinians" and "Israeli repression made in the USA."
Led by Barbara Lubin and Penny Rosenwasser of The Middle East Children’s Alliance, the protestors employed civil disobedience to break through the police barricades in an effort to block the primary theater entrance. The lively crowd quickly joined together in this effort, effectively preventing ticket holders from entering the building. No arrests were made; as The Oakland Tribune reported, Berkeley police Lieutenant Russell Lopes explained, “We couldn’t discern the protestors from the ticket holders.”
According to the Associated Press, the protest continued for nearly an hour longer while over 2,000 ticket holders waited at the blockaded entrance. During this period, as Pacifica Radio reported, Netanyahu’s limousine circled the area awaiting permission to enter the grounds. Shortly thereafter, organizers informed the crowd that the event had been canceled. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Netanyahu himself, on the advice of the U.S. State Department, canceled his Berkeley appearance as well as his appearences in Marin and San Mateo.
Laurie Polster, with The Coalition of Jews for Justice in Israel and Palestine, said she came to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “It’s a very diverse crowd,” Polster said, “of Jews, Palestinians, and concerned Americans.”
One protestor, who asked not to be identified, said the Israeli-Palestinian situation is similar to the early days of the Vietnam War. "You can't just sit at home and watch young boys throwing rocks and being met by helicopters," she said.