Failed Meeting Means Strike Will Continue

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A week-long strike focused on a recently passed Arizona immigration law will continue after strikers and campus officials failed Monday evening to arrange a meeting between Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and protesters.

Administrators said the strikers would be able to meet with Birgeneau Wednesday if they ended their strike by 7 p.m. Monday. When strikers said they would not end the strike Monday night, campus officials arranged to have the meeting Tuesday. The protesters then said they would end their strike in conjunction with a meeting set for Tuesday, but campus officials maintained that a discussion would not be held unless the strike ended Monday night.

Now, more than 20 students and union workers will continue the strike, eight of whom will go without both water and food starting Tuesday. They said they will continue to go without food until they have met with Birgeneau in person.

"We want at the very least to have a negotiation," said UC Berkeley junior Kathy Vega. "This puts into perspective how much they disregard the voice of the students."

Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor of public affairs, expressed frustration with the hunger strikers' decision to continue the strike. She said administrators have tried to address the protesters' concerns by meeting with them several times and releasing three statements responding to their demands.

"I don't know what they are about anymore," she said. "We have tried to accommodate their requests, and I'm at a loss. We're really disappointed and concerned about their well-being."

The strikers are demanding that Birgeneau publicly denounce a recent Arizona immigration law, make UC Berkeley a sanctuary campus and provide extended protections for undocumented students, drop all student conduct charges against activists, stop cuts to low-wage employees, suspend conduct procedures and initiate a democratic, student-led process to review the code, as well as commit to using nonviolent means to ensure safety at demonstrations.

Birgeneau fulfilled one demand in a May 7 statement calling for the repeal of the Arizona law.

Hunger striker and UC Berkeley junior Juan Manriquez said he felt "let down" that the meeting with Birgeneau will not happen. He has gone without food for the past week and starting tomorrow will go without water as well.

"I didn't think that it would have to come to this extreme and hopefully the dry strike won't have to be for long," he said.

At around 6 a.m. Monday morning, strikers were forced to leave their camp in front of California Hall, where they had been stationed for a week, after being told by campus officials they would be arrested if they did not. By around 2 p.m., strikers and their supporters began to block the four entrances to the building, demanding a meeting with Birgeneau. The group of about 150 marched to Birgeneau's campus home at around 5:20 p.m. More than 100 demonstrators sat in front of the steps leading to Birgeneau's home while dozens of police from UCPD, the Berkeley Police Department, the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, many dressed in riot gear.

At the time, Birgeneau was hosting a dinner for students who participated in the Senior Class Gift Campaign.

"Inside, you couldn't even hear them," said senior Daniel Kuenzi, who was at the dinner.

Protesters left at about 7:40 p.m. once it was announced that the meeting with Birgeneau would not take place.

Holmes said she could not say yet whether there will be efforts to set up another meeting in the future.

"I can't predict what will happen next," she said. "Right now we're just dealing with the disappointment of what occurred tonight."

Soumya Karlamangla and Sarah Springfield of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Tags: ROBERT BIRGENEAU, CALIFORNIA HALL, HUNGER STRIKE, UNIVERSITY HOUSE


Emma Anderson is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]



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