After Oakland eviction, Occupy UC Berkeley Steps Up

November 14, 2011
by Tracey Taylor ,

Peaceful demonstrations at Occupy Cal on November 9th. Photo: Tracey Taylor

With the dismantling by police of the Occupy Oakland camp early this morning, the Occupy focus has shifted to UC Berkeley where students are preparing to hold a general strike on Tuesday. Reports suggest that Occupy Oakland protesters may march to Berkeley to join Occupy Cal demonstrations tomorrow too.

But plans by protesters to demonstrate at a Regents’ meeting scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday this week at Mission Bay have been foiled, as the meeting has been rescheduled at the advice of law enforcement officials.

Meanwhile, the violence used by police on November 9th continues to draw comment. Writing in the Huffington Post, cultural commentator Jesse Kornbluth points to reports that say several UC Berkeley faculty were assaulted in the clashes, as well as students. They included 70-year-old former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Haas, and English Professors Celeste Langan and Geoffrey O’Brien.

Cal professor Robert Reich, who is delivering the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture tomorrow, has agreed to move its venue from the Pauley Ballroom to the Mario Savio Steps in Sproul Plaza at the request of the Occupy Cal General Assembly.

“This is in protest against the use of excessive police force against non-violent demonstrators who were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech in a symbolic encampment,” wrote Lynne Hollander Savio in an email release co-signed by the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture and the directors of the Young Activist Award Board. The lecture is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

At least five of the protesters who attended Wednesday’s Occupy Cal demonstration have said they will file a civil suit against UC Berkeley and the UCPD, according to the Daily Californian. And a group of Cal students is calling for the resignation of four senior CU Berkeley officials, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, for what it calls “their betrayal of the people’s trust” during the Day of Action.

The administration has promised to investigate the police behavior. Today, Chancellor Birgeneau released a message to the campus community saying he had asked Professor Jesse Choper, UC Berkeley’s former Dean of Law, and current Chair of the Police Review Board, to launch an immediately review of the police actions. (Read his full message here.) A 2010 investigation into how UC Berkeley police and university officials handled the November 20, 2009 occupation of Wheeler Hall, concluded they did a poor job.

UC Berkeley may be joined by more college campuses over the coming weeks as Occupy strongholds, as camps on city property are increasingly being disbanded for health and safety reasons. The New York Times reports that tents have been erected in a “gated” enclave at Harvard. Natalia Abrams, an organizer with Occupy Colleges, a national group coordinating college-based protesters, said, “We are trying to get mass numbers of students out.”

Meanwhile, the off-campus Occupy Berkeley group is taking a low-key approach. On Sunday, it canceled its plans to try to shut down downtown Berkeley’s Chase Bank and instead held an informal information session outside the bank. One of the men involved, Nick Dominguez, told the Daily Californian that the Occupy Berkeley general assembly did not want to be associated with the image of the “more physically aggressive protests”.

One stalwart Berkeley protester is determined to carry on the fight, however — even if he’s doing it solo. At the time of writing, Zachary Running Wolf remained perched on a wooden pallet in a tree on the sidewalk of 14th Street at the former Occupy Oakland site. Authorities are looking into whether tree-sitting constitutes “lodging” and whether he could therefore be forcibly removed.

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