Live Blog: Protesters Gather Atop Wheeler Hall
Date Added Thursday, March 3, 2011 | 8:04 pm
Last Updated Friday, March 4, 2011 | 3:52 am
Category: News > University > Academics and Administration
Emma Anderson, Jordan Bach-Lombardo, Adelyn Baxter, Nina Brown, J.D. Morris, Javier Panzar, Claire Perlman and Amruta Trivedi of The Daily Californian reporting from the field.
For real-time updates, check twitter.com/dailycal.
After the terms were announced at about 8:45 p.m., the rooftop protesters exited Wheeler Hall at 9:17 p.m to a group of about 150 people waiting outside.
Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard negotiated with UC Berkeley School of Law student Daniela Urban on terms to address the protesters' demands. As a result, students who occupied the top of Wheeler today and those who held a sit-in within the building last night will not be charged with student conduct violations, while students with charges pending from the Nov. 20, 2009, Wheeler Hall occupation will have the option to accept probation through the end of the semester rather than going through with their hearings.
It has just been announced that the protesters on the ledge of Wheeler will come down without facing arrest. They are also currently arranging a meeting with Birgeneau to discuss Operational Excellence.
A speaker just announced that the protester taken off roof and arrested earlier today, junior Alex Poska, is being held at the Berkeley Jail Facility. He was arrested and booked on a charge of trespassing with intent to damage property.
They are now passing around a hat to collect $2,500 for his bail.
Protesters said they will be announcing the status of their negotiations in five minutes.
ASUC President Noah Stern, who said he has been trying to contact administrators throughout the day, said he has been unable to do so.
Student Action Senator Farrah Moos said she directly called LeGrande, who said he had gone home, though he was expected to return to Wheeler at 6:15 p.m. She said he told her the police are in charge now and that, most likely, none of the administration would stay.
A crowd of about 100 onlookers continues to observe the protesters on the ledge, as police urge people to leave.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez said he was disappointed with how police are handling the situation.
"They don't care about our safety," he said.
ASUC CalSERVE Senator Stefan Montouth said he was skeptical about whether or not the administration could meet the protesters' demands.
"I've been a big advocate for more student representation on Operational Excellence for a long time," he said. "We in the ASUC have been trying to increase that representation and we've had a hard time ourselves. Seeing things like this shows that students are serious. It's a shame it came down to this."
Professor Timothy Walsh from the University of Quebec, Montreal was here with his wife, who was giving a guest lecture at UC Berkeley.
He said that although he does not know much about California's public education crisis, he decided to join the protest when he saw it.
"I'm old enough to remember the free speech movement so I'm glad to know the spirit is still alive," he said, sitting with his arms locked with another protester. "I do not want to see education become just a privilege of the rich."
There are still about 100 people, including ASUC Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein, sitting on the west end of Wheeler's front stairs.
Protesters are saying they are willing to stay all night to support those on the ledge. They are now playing music and getting ready to camp out.
Police are now setting up barricades along the stairs at the front of Wheeler.
Junior Keli Benko is currently being treated by a medic from Berkeley Fire Department. She said the police were pushing back and that she was hit in the stomach and then on the head with the end of a baton.
At least 50 police officers - including those from UC San Francisco, Oakland Police Department and Berkeley Police Department - are inside and surrounding Wheeler Hall.
Protesters have announced that there are metal barricades being brought through the back doors of Wheeler.
Two graduate students, Amanda Armstrong and Julia Chang, are currently treating students that have been pepper sprayed. They said they have treated about five people so far.
UCPD Officer Peter Odyniec said they have read a dispersal order asking protesters to move off the stairs.
Police have now blocked off the rope that protesters were using to bring supplies to the roof.
Students sitting between the building and the police officers are tearing off pieces of red cloth, cut from the same material as the banner on the front of Wheeler to express solidarity with those on the roof.
LeGrande has still not returned to address the protesters.
As police begin clearing the front steps of Wheeler, some students said the officers are using batons and pepper spray to clear the area.
About 14 Berkeley Police Department officers in riot gear are approaching Wheeler and clearing the steps outside.
Protesters are calling for the spectators to call their friends and ask them to bring blankets and sweatshirts for the eight remaining on the ledge. They say they are planning on staying as long as the deliberations take.
Urban, who has been negotiating on behalf of the protesters, announced the protesters' new demands, which include that a date be scheduled with Birgeneau to discuss Operational Excellence, that all student conduct charges from last year and a half be dropped, that two students selected democratically from protester community as well as one union member sit on Operational Excellence and that there be amnesty for those currently sitting on the ledge.
LeGrande will come back at 6:15 p.m. with a decision on the demands. If the demands are met, Urban said the eight protesters will come down and completely cooperate.
UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada just declared that those gathered on the outside steps of Wheeler are participating in unlawful assembly.
The crowd has decreased to less than 200.
LeGrande is currently making a statement on behalf of the administration.
"You have chosen a method of protest that I cannot support," LeGrande said on behalf of Chancellor Birgeneau.
He is urging the demonstrators to end the protest and is offering to meet with them to discuss their demands.
The administration is currently preparing a statement and are sending Multicultural Center Coordinator Elisa Huerta to the fourth floor to negotiate with the protesters.
Protesters just unveiled a red banner that says "Our university" and "Stop the cuts, fight back" in smaller letters along the side.
Daniela Urban, a member of Campus Rights Project, is talking with a man who looks like UCPD Lt.Marc DeCoulode.
Police are starting to lock the doors and have completely evacuated the building.
Protesters are standing in front of the doors, trying to control the entrances and are urging more people to come up to the fourth floor to show solidarity.
Officers are now positioning themselves in front of the open doors.
Two of the three women detained from the second floor are UC Berkeley seniors - Suzy Babb and Noa Kornbluh - and will receive student conduct charges. The third woman, Laney College freshman Christine Vertiz, said she was told she will most likely receive a citation for trespassing.
About 200 to 300 people remain gathered outside. UCPD has evacuated Wheeler Hall.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry LeGrande, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jeff Prince and Associate Chancellor for Government, Community and Campus Liaison Linda Williams have been up to the fourth floor to speak with the protesters, according to Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard.
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau just sent a campuswide e-mail announcing that Wheeler Hall has been closed until further notice.
"The campus is dealing with a health and safety issue in Wheeler Hall and the building is being closed," he said in the e-mail.
About 250 people are now gathered outside of Wheeler. Protesters in front of the building are speaking on a megaphone and addressing the crowd.
According to UCPD Lt. Alex Yao, there were originally nine protesters on the ledge and one was pulled in and arrested.
"The main concern is safety," he said. "The protesters have placed themselves in significant danger by being there."
The three women - two of whom are students - that were detained on the second floor had their names taken down and were told they would receive a letter from the Office of Student Conduct, according to Yao.
The three women that were detained on the second floor have been released.
A "Thanks to the Regents" poster has been hung off of the front of Wheeler and shows students holding signs saying how the budget cuts have hurt them.
Three women who were trying to hang banners on the second floor of Wheeler have been detained.
People on the second floor are trying to hang banners on the balcony listing their demands, which remain the same from protests on March 2: democratize the UC Board of Regents, no more budget cuts, put an end to Operational Excellence and drop the charges against student protesters.
Protesters said they are not going to negotiate.
People on ground outside of Wheeler Hall threw floss up to protesters who dropped the floss to attach it to a rope.
They then brought the rope up and lowered it again in order to receive a backpack full of water bottles from the crowd.
"I think it's a little drastic to be standing on Wheeler to spell out demands," said UC Berkeley freshman Tyler Hansen. "But it is a good demonstration of civil disobedience in a nonviolent way. I would support what they are doing."
ASUC Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein is one of those in the crowd and said he thought the protest was a good action because classes would not be interrupted.
"It's a very bold move to get that message out there," he said. "I commend them, I think it's really courageous."
But sophomore Jose Palomo said that while he supported the intent of the protest, he was angry with the protesters because his political science midterm was interrupted when the fire alarm in Dwinelle Hall was pulled.
"This reaction is appropriate because public education is getting more and more expensive," he said. "But do it on a Saturday or Sunday. Don't screw up midterms."
Among those gathered outside Wheeler is ASUC President Noah Stern, who said he is concerned for the safety of the protesters.
"I'm very concerned about safety," he said. "Falling four stories would not be good."
Those gathered in front of Wheeler have been throwing oranges and apples up to the eight remaining protesters. One protester was pulled inside through a window by a UCPD officer.
At least 10 UCPD officers have gone into Wheeler and have cleared the third and fourth floors.
About 200 people have gathered outside Wheeler Hall, including professors and GSIs that have brought their students out in solidarity.
Freshman Joyce Lim said her section came to Wheeler after a class vote.
"We decided to come down here to make a statement," she said. "We've been learning about strikes of the working class."
ASUC Independent Senator Waseem Salahi addressed the crowd and urged them to call their friends to garner more support for the protesters.
"The administration lacks basic things, like ethics and humanity, but they do have one thing - UCPD," he said.
One of the protesters, UC Berkeley student Cristina Urista, said the nine plan to stay on the balcony as long as possible.
"We've decided to escalate because the administration isn't really taking seriously our demands," she said. "We've been doing this for over a year now, and the situation is getting more and more desperate."
After 17 people were arrested for refusing to leave Wheeler Hall after 10 p.m. last night, nine demonstrators have now gathered on the fourth-floor balcony of Wheeler, protesting fee increases and budget cuts to higher education. Six have linked their arms and three others are delivering water.
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