Capping another long day of demonstrations at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich addressed a cheering crowd of thousands from the top of the Mario Savio Steps Tuesday night, telling protesters how proud he was of them, and “how proud I am to be a member of this wonderful community.”
“Not only is the University of California at Berkeley the best institution of public education in the world,” Reich said. “More importantly, it has for years, for decades, dedicated itself to the principles of free expression, of social justice and of democracy.” He urged students to continue fighting for those ideals, just as earlier generations of protesters have done, some of them — beginning with those in the Free Speech Movement — right from Sproul Plaza.
“The sentiments Mario Savio expressed 47 years ago are as relevant now as they were then,” said Reich, a professor of public policy, author and social commentator with a nationwide following. Appearing as the presenter of this year’s Savio Lecture, Reich praised the Occupy Cal protesters for their “moral outrage,” and said democracy depends upon “the ability of people to join together and make their voices heard.”
“The days of apathy are over, folks,” Reich declared. “Once this has begun, it cannot be stopped, and it will not be stopped.”
Earlier in the evening, more than 1,000 protesters voted overwhelmingly to establish an encampment on the plaza. By the time Reich took the microphone at 9:15, a half-dozen tents had been set up near the foot of the steps.
In contrast to last week, however, police made no attempt to remove them or otherwise interfere with demonstrators, whose mood at the end of the day was downright festive. As people streamed out of the plaza, hundreds of others remained on or near the steps, dancing to pop tunes that blared from speakers by the entrance to Sproul Hall. Police chatted with students, or watched from the balcony of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, looking out from behind large, black-and-orange letters spelling the word “Occupy.”
“I am so proud of you today,” Reich said, drawing a direct line from 1964’s Freedom Summer and Free Speech Movement to Occupy protesters here and throughout the country. “You are already making a huge difference.”
Occupy Cal march winds through Berkeley streets
At least 2,000 protesters, including UC Berkeley students, faculty and community members, took part in a march Tuesday afternoon that headed west at 3 p.m. from Sproul Plaza along Bancroft Avenue. Chanting “No cuts. No fees. Education must be free! ” the marchers crossed intersections with the help of Berkeley city police officers on bicycles and motorcycles.
As the crowd passed Berkeley High School on Milvia Street, some students hung out of classroom windows and watched the spectacle. The mood of the march was generally upbeat, with passers-by shouting words of encouragement and motorists honking horns.
By 4 p.m. the protesters had looped around Berkeley City College and headed back to Sproul Plaza, where they joined hundreds of protesters arriving from Occupy Oakland. The crowd milled around the Sproul steps, and organizers held up a tent symbolizing the national Occupy movement.
A 5:15 p.m. a general assembly was planned, at which several proposals were to be discussed, including organizing a public debate with UC regents, state lawmakers and top UC Berkeley top officials, and whether to set up tents. A dozen UC Berkeley police officers nearby kept a quiet but watchful presence.
At the noon hour, Occupy Cal strikes a mellower tone
Shortly after noon, a crowd estimated at as many as 2,000 gathered on Sproul Plaza, where the University Gospel Chorus sang church music with lyrics adapted to the spirit of the Occupy movement. The choir is part of a music class taught by D. Mark Wilson, who served as conductor.
The mellow scene was in marked contrast to last week’s clashes between students and police. As people carried signs reading “Occupy Cal,” “General strike now” and “You can’t evict ideas,” a few dozen police stood by in groups of two or three, and made no efforts to interfere with protesters. Nearby, on Lower Sproul, 150 or so students staged a rally related to Saturday’s Big Game with Stanford. That rally featured music by the Cal Band.
Meanwhile, teach-outs continued on the plaza, and protesters planned for a march to Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College at 2:30 p.m., a general-assembly meeting on the plaza at 5 p.m. and a talk by Robert Reich at 8 p.m.
Left: The UC Gospel Chorus, led by D. Mark Wilson (bottom photo), performs social-justice music — from an adaptation of the Staples Singers’ “Move Along Train” to “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest.” (Cathy Cockrell / NewsCenter photos)
Listen to the choir:
Occupy Cal plans Tuesday strike and day of action
Occupy Cal protesters have called for a strike and day of action today (Tuesday, Nov. 15), with a noon gathering and teach-outs – classes taught outside – on Sproul Plaza, followed at 2 p.m. by a rally and march to Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College.
The protesters also have called for a 5 p.m. general assembly and encampment, which campus administrators have said is prohibited.
The Open University Strike and Day of Action day will be capped by an 8 p.m. talk by Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary and professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Originally scheduled for Pauley Ballroom, the 15th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture will be delivered on the western steps of Sproul Hall, which have been christened the Mario Savio Steps.
Demonstrations are scheduled for today and tomorrow to coincide with the Nov. 16-17 meeting in San Francisco of the UC Board of Regents, but the meeting was canceled yesterday because they had received information about the possibility of violence and vandalism.
As students prepared for protests, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau yesterday issued a statement about last week’s Occupy Cal protests, granting amnesty under the Student Code of Conduct to those students arrested last week for attempting to prevent the removal of tents, and announcing the creation of a review board to assess the police response to the protests.