'Open University' Protesters Arrested

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UCPD officers arrested 66 individuals taking part in the Wheeler Hall "Open University" protest early Friday morning and transported them to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Beginning at about 4:40 a.m., 65 individuals were arrested inside the campus building and one was arrested outside for "inciting (occupiers) to violently resist" the arrest, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. At least one individual was a UC Davis faculty member, he said.

Mogulof said 61 individuals are being released as per a request by campus officials, with 60 charged with misdemeanor trespassing and one with misdemeanor resisting arrest.

"The university made that request to make sure no students had to spend the night in jail and run the risk of missing finals," Mogulof said.

The remaining five individuals are being held by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Mogulof said. Four of the five are not UC Berkeley students or California residents, and they must post bail to be released. One individual was on probation for a felony.

Wheeler Hall is currently open only to authorized faculty and staff, and scheduled review sessions are being held in nearby buildings as indicated by signs posted on Wheeler, according to a campus press release. Mogulof said Wheeler is expected to reopen in time for finals on Saturday.

The occupation began on Monday, and organizers said it was a way to reassert student control of campus spaces.

"There were no reports of any confrontations or resistance, and for most of the people involved it seems to be their wake-up call," Mogulof said.

Mogulof said senior university officials including the chancellor made the decision to conduct the arrests after occupiers appeared to be moving forward with plans for an "all-night hip hop concert" later today and began breaking into locked classrooms in Wheeler.

"There had been an understanding of access to certain areas and they began to violate those understandings, and we began to have grave doubts about their ability and willingness to honor those understandings and not interfere with the rights of others," he said.

Mogulof said eight of those arrested had been previously cited for similar actions, including the Nov. 20 Wheeler occupation and Nov. 18 architecture and engineering building occupation.

Blanca Misse, a GSI in the French department who has been involved in organizing protests against recent student fee increases, said she observed the arrests while standing outside of Wheeler.

"(The police) just arrived suddenly," she said. "Some of (the occupiers) were just in their pajamas."

At least 24 of those arrested are not UC Berkeley students, Mogulof added.

Mogulof said occupiers had advertised that the concert would take place "from 8 p.m. until the cops kick in the doors" and that attempts to have the occupiers consider alternative arrangements were refused.

"We took the action because our primary responsibilities are to protect the rights and needs of the 34,000 students who are not taking part in this action," he said. "We couldn't allow anything to disrupt the beginning of finals early Saturday morning."

Misse and a handful of other individuals said they would take BART to Dublin to support those arrested.

Students involved in the "Open University" said the discussions with the administration should have involved all those inside Wheeler, instead of only a few representatives.

"They saw that's how we work," said Senior Nick Palmquist, who said he has been studying in Wheeler throughout the week. "They've seen that we operate democratically, and they rejected that when they made the decision to come in."

Ella Mershon, a GSI for English 45B, said in an e-mail that her students were originally required to turn in essays to 322 Wheeler by today, but were unable to do so because of the arrests.

"Not once this whole week have the actions of the Open University prevented me from going to class, holding office hours, or using the library, lounge or computer facilities," she said in the e-mail. "In their efforts to prevent the Open University from holding a rock concert, the administration has created a disruption to my work far more vexatious than any music event could have been."


Contact Chris Carrassi, Tomer Ovadia, Javier Panzar and Mihir Zaveri at [email protected]

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