Community Evaluates Riot's Impact on Advocacy Efforts

Photo: <b>UC Berkeley alumnus Zachary Miller</b> was arrested and booked for inciting a riot, resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer in the streets south of campus.
Tim Maloney/Staff
UC Berkeley alumnus Zachary Miller was arrested and booked for inciting a riot, resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer in the streets south of campus.

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Raw Footage: Feb. 26 Riot in the Streets of Berkeley

In the early hours of Feb. 26, a riot broke out on the streets south of the UC Berkeley campus. Chaos ensued as the mob danced, chanted and resorted to vandalism.

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Rioters Clash with Police
Images from the riot early Friday morning.

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Photo: <b>Rioters on Telegraph Avenue</b> clashed with police early Friday morning, chanting and vandalizing public property. Two were arrested and two officers sustained minor injuries.   

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Correction Appended

Though individuals touting the cause of public education rioted Friday morning, organizers of the upcoming day of statewide action said the March 4 demonstrations will not be defined by further violence.

Rioting broke out Friday morning on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus where 200 people gathered to dance, clashed with police and vandalized public property. With days remaining until the statewide protests planned for March 4, student and faculty organizers said advocating for public education is the best way for the campus community to move forward.

UC Berkeley senior Marika Goodrich, 28, was arrested at the intersection of Durant and Telegraph avenues and booked for assault on a police officer, inciting a riot and resisting arrest, according to Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel. Zachary Miller, 26, a UC Berkeley alumnus and an organizer for the "Rolling University," was also arrested at the intersection and was booked for inciting a riot, resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer.

Both are being held at Berkeley City Jail and will be arraigned Monday. Two officers suffered minor injuries but did not require medical attention, according to a BPD statement.

Activists from all sectors of public education are expected to rally for increased state investment on March 4.

But some organizers of the upcoming protests said the student movement is decentralized. Whether more rioting, building occupations or confrontations with law enforcement ensues is a matter of what individual activists decide, said graduate student Callie Maidhof, an organizer and spokesperson for the Durant Hall occupiers.

"The riot seems likes a very clear example of what happens when the state has abused its power for so long," she said. "We're not a centralized movement. If (the riot) is not what people want to see happen on March 4, that's not what they'll do. Nobody is forcing anybody into situations they don't want to be in. If they wanted, they could leave (the riot) but people didn't; they got excited."

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande condemned the occupation and riot in a statement sent Friday to the campus community in which they said they believe the majority of the occupiers were not UC Berkeley students.

"Initial investigation indicates that about 100 people came onto campus with clear intent to break into at Durant Hall," they said in the statement. "Such action does incredible damage to our advocacy efforts with Sacramento and with the California public to preserve public higher education."

What began as a dance party on Upper Sproul Plaza to raise support for March 4 led to the occupation of Durant Hall late Thursday night. By 1:30 a.m. the crowd began moving to the intersections of Telegraph and Durant avenues.

While some continued to dance, others overturned newsstands, broke windows and set a dumpster on fire. About two dozen officers from UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department responded to the scene, engaging in intermittent clashes with the rioters until the crowd dispersed following the arrival of additional law enforcement officers at about 3:10 a.m.

"It turns the majority of students away from the cause ... because they think the process has been hijacked," said ASUC President Will Smelko. "(Next week) is our chance to lobby the government and not have the (news) dominated by headlines of fires and destruction."

"I don't think that (the riot) was justified," said sophomore Saba Haile. "Strikes that are organized and for the right reasons and aren't going to destroy people's property that have nothing to do with it, that's fine-freedom of speech."

But the recent riot should not compromise the plans nor goals of the March 4 demonstrations, said Christopher Kutz, chair of the campus division of the Academic Senate and one of about 100 faculty members who signed up to rally at Sacramento with SAVE on March 4.

"We must not let ourselves get distracted by the antics of a small group however much it makes the news," Kutz said. "There are so many students and staff and faculty that understand the issue is California's disinvestment (of) higher education ... I don't really see (the riot) making a difference."

According to Shannon Steen, an associate professor of theater, dance and performance studies and faculty coordinator for SAVE, planning for Thursday's rally on the capitol has been approved by state officials. As required by the California Highway Patrol, the rally will have one safety officer for every 50 participants, she said in an e-mail.

"SAVE fully expects all participants to comport themselves peacefully and legally," Steen said in the e-mail. "Participants in the rally need to exercise restraint when interacting with police to avoid confrontation."

Graduate student Blanca Misse, a member of the UC Berkeley March 4 Committee, said she supported the rights of those who were present Friday morning to protest but the effectiveness of the night's events is still unclear.

"The discussion here is there is a huge attack on public education," Misse said. "There is a movement of students and workers to fight this attack. There is a diversity of tactics. I don't think that doing this dance party and taking Durant Hall is particularly useful for a movement, but I'm not against it. I don't see any reason to repress it."

When the committee discussed the riot and logistics for March 4 at a Feb. 27 meeting, reporters from The Daily Californian were asked to leave.

Michael Pearlson and Mihir Zaveri of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Correction: Thursday, April 22, 2010
Monday's article "Community Evaluates Riot's Impact on Advocacy Efforts" incorrectly stated that Christopher Kutz, the chair of the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate, was quoted in an e-mail. In fact, Kutz was quoted in a phone conversation.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Emma Anderson and Javier Panzar at [email protected]

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