Honorable Kristen Clarke 
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Justice 
Civil Rights Division 
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 

Dear General Clarke, 

Earlier this week, U.C. Berkeley’s Bears for Palestine circulated on the Internet a flyer urging students to “shut down” a speaker who supported Israel’s actions in Gaza. Despite a police presence, a move to a less convenient location was necessary for security purposes. The meeting became a by-invitation-only event, thus limiting attendance. Those objecting to the meeting overwhelmed the police, broke down the door, used anti-Semitic epithets and ultimately forced the cancellation of the meeting and the evacuation of those in attendance. 

Although the University has promised an investigation, it lacks the resources of an agency with criminal investigative powers and capabilities. Federal law limits the University’s ability to name names, so the public will largely be left to speculate on who was responsible for the outrageous events, and whether they have been sufficiently punished—and others deterred—by University sanctions  

The meeting that was interrupted was a lawful meeting conducted on a public university campus. Those organizing the meeting had a Constitutional right to conduct that meeting. Those who called for the disruption of that meeting because participants were Jewish, and those who participated in that disruption, are, prima facie, guilty of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)(B), amongst other federal statutes.  

We understand that investigating ostensibly political groups like Bears for Palestine and those aligned with it can be politically sensitive. No doubt, such an investigation will be met with claims of suppressing speech. But it is precisely the point that freedom of speech does not include contemporary Brownshirts violently shutting down speech they don’t like. What happened at Berkeley was a direct assault on American democracy and cannot go unchallenged and uninvestigated.  

We urge you to deploy the full resources of the Department of Justice to identify and prosecute those responsible for this outrage. 


Marc D. Stern 
Chief Legal Officer American Jewish Committee 

Download a Copy of this Letter | Read Marc Stern's Letter to Alameda County DA Pamela Price

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