Campus officials laud peaceful protest, stand by ‘no encampments’ policy

Toward the end of a day that was marked by calm in the wake of Wednesday’s campus protests, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and two other campus leaders praised organizers and speakers “for setting an example of peaceful protest and mobilization,” while calling again for protesters to comply with the university’s “no encampments” policy.    

Students on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall on Thursday

(Roibín Ó hÉochaidh / NewsCenter photos)

Thursday morning saw a single arrest of a nonaffiliated man for interfering with police, bringing the total number of arrests to 40. Sproul Plaza was quiet for most of the day, as small groups of students gathered to take part in teachouts and informal discussions. As darkness fell, a few hundred students mustered on the steps of Sproul Hall to discuss protest plans for next week. 

In a message sent to the campus community, the officials said the policy was “born out of past experiences that grew beyond our control and ability to manage safely.” Those experiences, “along with the present struggles with entrenched encampments in Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City, led us to conclude that we must uphold our policy,” they added.

“We have been in discussions with the ASUC, Graduate Assembly, and other student leaders who have provided a number of alternative proposals for working with the student protesters,” the letter goes on. It calls on protesters “to observe campus policy or, if they choose to defy the policy, to engage in truly non-violent civil disobedience and to accept the consequences of their decisions.”

The letter is signed by Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande. Read the full message >

Wednesday’s Day of Action ends with 39 arrests

11:45 a.m. | Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dozens of students are meeting today on Sproul Plaza, some in teach-outs led by graduate student instructors, following yesterday’s Day of Action for Public Education at UC Berkeley, which ended with 39 arrests.

Six of those arrested on Wednesday were not affiliated with the campus, 32 were students, and one was a faculty member. All of those arrested were charged with willfully obstructing, interfering, or delaying of police action, and all but one were cited with failure to leave an unlawful assembly. Two of those arrested additionally were charged with battery on a police officer.

Sign on Sproul steps Thursday Wednesday’s protests started with a number of peaceful teach-outs and a massive midday rally at Sproul Plaza, which drew as many as 3,000 people, including students, staff, faculty and members of the community. The crowd rallied against state cuts to public education and repeated tuition increases.

“I’m here standing in solidarity with all of you to send a powerful message that this disinvestment in public higher education needs to end,” said Joey Freeman, ASUC external affairs vice president, addressing the rally.

Confrontations with police officers and sheriff’s deputies began later in the afternoon, when about 200 protesters — taking cues from the national Occupy movement — pitched half a dozen tents outside Sproul Hall, despite repeated warnings from campus officials that encampments would not be allowed.

Protesters had formed a human shield around the tents, linking arms and singing, “We shall not be moved.” Tense standoffs and confrontations occurred as police officers sought to remove the tents.

In the early evening, Harry Le Grande, vice chancellor for student affairs, spoke with protesters to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He expressed the campus administration’s support for their right to express themselves and offered the group an opportunity to maintain a 24-7 presence on the plaza for the next week if they would agree to refrain from prohibited activities associated with an encampment, such as erecting tents, using sleeping bags and cooking.

“We hope that you will work with one another and us to maintain these guidelines,” Le Grande told the crowd, adding that if protesters failed to comply, they would receive a 10-minute warning before any enforcement action by police.

The remaining protesters voted to reject the offer and continue their efforts to establish an encampment on campus property.

Starting around 9:30 p.m., police officers began clearing the additional tents that had gone up outside Sproul Hall.

A number of other Day of Action protests, including marches and demonstrations outside banks, took place throughout the state yesterday on college campuses, including UCLA and UC Irvine. The events at UC campuses are expected to lead up to the UC Board of Regents meeting on Nov. 16.