Protesters Sit In at Doe Library

Tim Maloney/Staff

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After a noon rally that drew hundreds of students, faculty and staff members to UC Berkeley's Upper Sproul Plaza as part of the Oct. 7 day of action, over 500 students stormed the campus's main library this afternoon and declared a sit-in at its largest reading room until Chancellor Robert Birgeneau responds to demands protesters issued earlier today.

Student organizer Marco Amaral said that students will remain in the room for a planned 4 p.m. general assembly to further address the demands that students presented to Birgeneau earlier this morning and to decide where to continue their actions today. Demands include the democratization of the UC Board of Regents, the establishment of free public education and the full funding of ethnic studies on the campus, among others.

For the first hour of the sit-in, UCPD officers stood at the entrances of Doe Library's North Reading Room, preventing additional protesters from joining the demonstrations because the room's 400-person capacity had been surpassed. Since then, police officers have reopened access to the library, including to allow individuals to bring food and water for the protesters inside.

Following a noon rally at the steps of Sproul Hall, which drew a peak crowd of about 700 people, about 500 protesters split off and marched around campus before reaching the library and pouring into the reading room during peak study hours. The crowd of protesters took over the room, many standing on tables and asking the students who were studying to join them.

"This is how we take back our university," said student organizer Eric Garcia, yelling into a bullhorn as hundreds swarmed into the room.

Though some of the students studying expressed agitation about the disruption that the demonstration was causing, many who stormed the room said the action was necessary due to the administration's failure to respond quickly to their demands. Many students said though they sympathized with the protesters, they thought the tactics were in contradiction to what the protesters where advocating for.

"There is something ... wrong in my opinion about disturbing people who do have the right to study," said Sofie Garden, a sophomore majoring in integrative biology.

For others, the action was an appropriate response to the campus's handling of massive budget cuts from the state. Citing planned layoffs and an increase in the number of out-of-state students, freshman Renzhi Zhou said that the campus was "selling itself out."

"(The administration) is only funding what is going to bring in money," he said while sitting on top of a table in the library. "This is not what Berkeley is. That is not why I came here."

Elizabeth Dupuis, director of Doe and Moffitt libraries, addressed the crowd, telling them that though the librarians support the protesters and their demonstrations, they ask that students follow library rules of conduct and adding that librarians are dealing with the same budget cuts as students.

"No one in the library knew (the protest) was going to happen, but we understand very well what the students are talking about," said Tom Leonard, the university librarian. "Many (librarians) have the same social activist perspectives as students do."

After officers began letting students enter the room, students from Laney College in Oakland joined the sit-in upstairs while a campus Filipino group also sat in, holding banners.

Dozens of protesters are currently holding teach-ins in the four corners of the room, discussing the implementation of Operational Excellence at UC Berkeley and online education in the UC, two controversial initiatives which have drawn the ire of many students, faculty and staff.

Trine Kristiansen, a foreign exchange student from Norway in her last year at UC Berkeley said she had never seen this kind of action before.

"I admire it," she said. "It is so good that people are involved ... and taking control of their own destiny."

Noor Al-Samarrai, James Zhao, Mary Susman and Alisha Azevedo of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Javier Panzar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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