UC Berkeley: Hundreds Protest on Day of Action

The Daily Californian Online

October 8, 2010

Protesters staged a sit-in within Doe Library's North Reading Room as they waited for Chancellor Birgeneau's response to their demands. (Evan Walbridge/Staff)

Thursday’s national day of protest in defense of affordable public higher education began in small numbers but escalated throughout the day as UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff and community members came out to show their support through teach-outs, sit-ins and a noon rally in front of Sproul Hall that at one point drew a crowd of over 700 people, as estimated by UCPD.

Oct. 7 began with less than 10 picketers at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue at about 7:00 a.m., chanting and distributing flyers and red arm bands to passersby. Protesters later delivered a list of demands for Chancellor Robert Birgeneau at about 10 a.m., accepted by Associate Chancellor Linda Williams at California Hall.

The demands included the democratization of the UC Board of Regents, free public education and full funding for ethnic studies on the campus.

The number of protesters grew steadily throughout the day. Professors and graduate student instructors in front of California Hall and around Moffitt Library held regular class sessions as well as discussions on the state of public higher education. Ashley Ferro-Murray, a graduate student instructor of theater, dance and performance studies, said she hoped the protests would foster a discussion between the administration and students regarding higher education.

“This is another opportunity to share with the public concerns about education, have conversations with others and ask questions of the administration,” she said. “We can use today to continue this movement into the future.”

At around 11:30 a.m., about 100 protesters paraded into Dwinelle Hall, carrying banners and shouting “Walk out now,” while marching into classrooms to rally student support. Protesters, consisting mainly of students, proceeded to march into Wheeler Hall and Pimentel Hall. Fire alarms were pulled in buildings such as LeConte Hall and the Valley Life Sciences Building, forcing evacuations from both buildings.

Protesters then marched to Sproul Hall for an hour-long rally on Upper Sproul Plaza that included speeches from students, union members and faculty members.

“We have a common cause and we are here to show that,” said Ricardo Gomez, ASUC external affairs vice president and student organizer, at the rally. “In a movement, you are no longer just you. You are one of ‘us.’ Students can change the future. The power is here with the people.”

Following the rally, protesters marched throughout campus, chanting and attempting to rally more student support before finally swarming into Doe Library and congregating in the North Reading Room to hold a “sit-in” until Birgeneau responded to their list of demands.

Protesters, shouting “Whose university, our university,” marched into the room, hanging banners and disrupting students who were studying. Police from UCPD and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office blocked entrances to the room and continued to monitor the activity of the protesters.

For more than six hours, protesters continued to meet, hear speeches from students and community activists and hold teach-ins on topics spanning Operational Excellence, the Multicultural Center and a proposed UC online education program. At one point, students from Laney College in Oakland came to join the sit-in to show support.

The protesters held a meeting at around 4 p.m., and many offered varied proposals for how to proceed in the coming days, weeks and months, including a slew of protest actions and a potential academic student employee strike on Nov. 1.

The number of protesters dwindled throughout the day, and by evening only a small number remained in the library. By 7 p.m. most had dispersed, but not before drafting a response to a letter by the administration addressing protesters’ demands.

Article Link: http://www.dailycal.org/article/110687

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