Rally on Sproul Plaza, Sit-In Mark First Day of UC Berkeley Strike

Photo: <b>Demonstrators</b>, including union members, students, faculty and other supporters, gathered Wednesday for a noon rally and march to protest the 32 percent student fee increase.
Tim Maloney/Staff
Demonstrators, including union members, students, faculty and other supporters, gathered Wednesday for a noon rally and march to protest the 32 percent student fee increase.

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Strike Against Fee Increase

On Wednesday, students, faculty, and supporters gather to strike and speak against the proposed fee increase.

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Photos of UC Berkeley Strike, Nov. 18.

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Photo: <b>Protesters</b> took action on the first day of a three-day campuswide strike, picketing around campus and rallying in front of Sproul Hall.    

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More than 1,000 union members, students, professors and other supporters assembled at a noon rally in front of Sproul Hall Wednesday to kick off three days of action decrying a vote on a student fee increase by the UC Board of Regents.

The day's activities also included picket lines around campus, a march and the occupation of a campus building. According to UCPD Sgt. Andrew Tucker, officers arrested one person who possessed a knife and whose "activity rose to the level of inciting violence."

Wednesday's rally coincided with a two-day worker strike by the local chapters of the University Professional and Technical Employees and Coalition of University Employees unions.

At about 1:30 p.m., the rally transitioned into a march around Berkeley, eventually settling at California Hall where nearly 400 people linked arms around the administrative building.

Later on in the evening 37 people-18 of which were UC students-occupied the architecture and engineering building while police waited outside. The occupants emerged from the building after giving their names to the police, who said they would be discussing the possibility of criminal charges.

Student organizer and senior Marika Goodrich said she thought the day's events were successful in conveying students' anger toward the university administration.

"By taking action inside a building they are showing to the university if they don't listen to us, student action will escalate," she said. "There are definitely people who are committed to staying here all night."

Protesters did not specify what escalation might entail.

The protest began at 5 a.m. Wednesday, when a smaller demonstration comprised mostly of union members formed picket lines at campus entrances.

"We want to change the priorities of the UC administration," said UPTE Local 1 President Tanya Smith, who was just laid off from her campus research position. "The decimation of UC's resources is unacceptable. Student fees don't have to be raised like this."

By noon, protest organizers and supporters gathered en masse on Sproul Plaza for a rally, which featured speakers including well-known UC Berkeley professors Ananya Roy and Robert Hass, as well as a host of union members and representatives from several UC campuses.

Although supporters attempted to block the campus' south entrance, many students still made their way to their classes as some protesters shouted at them to respect the picket line.

"I'm totally in support, I just feel it's almost detrimental to my education to strike and miss class," said Sundar Sharma, a nonresident freshman.

Sharma, who has Canadian citizenship, said he plans to transfer to school there, where he would pay only $1,500 a semester, if student fees are increased.

Despite the union members' decision to strike and form a picket line, no major disruptions in classes or campus services were reported.

Fewer than 50 union members officially notified their supervisors that they would strike, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

UCPD officials estimated that about 1,000 people attended the rally-20 percent of the attendance of a similar rally held Sept. 24. But protest supporters say the lower turnout is not a sign of fading momentum.

"I also think there are a lot of people who went down to UCLA for the regents' meeting," said senior Tavae Samuelu, a social welfare major and speaker at the rally. "This was a universitywide effort and I'd like to think the turnout that happened today happened at UC Davis and UC San Diego as well."

At 2 p.m. two buses carrying about 80 supporters departed the campus for UCLA to join the 500 protesters at the regents' meeting, according to Liz Perlman, bus trip organizer and member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299.

Allie Bidwell, Mihir Zaveri and

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Contact Chris Carrassi and Javier Panzar at [email protected]

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