Faculty Members Play Important Roles in Mediations Between Protesters and Police

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As a group of mainly UC Berkeley students occupied part of the second floor of Wheeler Hall Friday, numerous faculty members played a key role in securing their release and monitoring the police presence outside. At least one professor was arrested.

The faculty, along with ASUC representatives, met with campus administrators after the occupiers had been arrested. The efforts eventually led to the release of the occupiers from Wheeler into the surrounding crowd with only misdemeanor trespassing charges.

Among the faculty monitoring police at the scene was integrative biology professor Robert Dudley, who was arrested and charged with resisting and obstructing Berkeley police outside the building.

Dudley said he plans to "vigorously dispute" his arrest, which was captured on video and posted on YouTube.

"I was grabbed and thrown to the ground," he said. "I did nothing to provoke a forceful arrest."

Dudley had walked by the demonstration earlier in the day and returned after receiving an e-mail from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau about the increased police presence.

"I returned to monitor for myself what was going on," he said. "I was outraged by what I saw."

Ananya Roy, professor of city and regional planning, said she and linguistics professor George Lakoff attended a campus press conference held in Sproul Hall and later joined the effort to calm demonstrators and aid efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff.

Roy and CalSERVE Senator Cynthia Nava entered Wheeler and spoke to the occupiers through a door via telephone. Roy said the talk was not meant to discuss occupiers' demands.

"It was not a situation where demands were going to be met, it was a way to open a line of communication," she said.

The talks initially came to a standstill, according to Roy and occupiers, because the police insisted upon having them take place where the occupiers had barricaded themselves, while the occupiers wanted the talks to be public.

"(Police) required that they meet face-to-face within the second floor," said Will Heegaard one of the occupants and a peace and conflict studies major. "They refused to negotiate on the method of negotiation."

At the occupiers' insistence, student organizer and senior Marika Goodrich, along with Maria Blanco, executive director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at Boalt Hall School of Law, were given clearance by police to enter the building in order help overcome the impasse.

After more than two hours of unsuccessful efforts, police called the negotiations off, Roy said.

"I had felt that the clock had been ticking," she said. "I was not surprised that we were asked to leave and at that point I was very concerned."

Police entered the section of the building the students had occupied shortly after 5 p.m., arresting occupiers who were sitting on the floor with their arms in the air.

Following the arrests, Roy and several professors including Lyn Hejinian, chair of the Solidarity Alliance, stood outside California Hall and asked to meet with Birgeneau and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer.

ASUC President Will Smelko, Executive Vice President Tu Tran, External Affairs Vice President Dani Haber, Student Action Senator Noah Stern and UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya also joined the impromptu meeting, according to Haber.

Those in attendance quickly reached the settlement by which the occupants would be issued citations for trespassing and then released into the crowd.

The faculty and students at this meeting then returned to the crowd and informed it of the agreement.

Catherine Cole, a professor of theater, dance and performance studies, said Friday's occupation is an example of the role that faculty and student leaders can play in bridging a communication gap between administrators and students.

"The reasons you need those ... (leaders) is because of this huge gulf," she said.


Contact Javier Panzar at [email protected]

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