Berkeley Joins Nationwide Protests for Public Education

Campus Protests Start Small, End With 17 Detainments for Refusing to Leave Wheeler Hall

Adam Romero/Staff

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Photo: Demonstrators rallied for public education on Sproul Plaza earlier in the day. The campus protests were part of a nationwide day to defend public education, which was joined by local school children as well.    Photo:    Photo: Marco Amaral is being detained by police Officers in Wheeler Hall Wednesday night after he and 16 others refused to leave.

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While protest actions planned for March 2 at UC Berkeley were generally uneventful during the daytime as participation in the day's events proved significantly lower than in previous protests, the day of action ended with a faction of demonstrators refusing to leave Wheeler Hall and the subsequent detainment of 17 people.

Following a day filled with rallies, marches and snacking that began with a noon demonstration in front of Sproul Hall - with numbers peaking at less than 200 throughout the day - a small group of protesters reconvened on the steps of Wheeler Hall at about 5 p.m. and later moved inside.

The building officially closes and must be cleared out by 10 p.m., according to campus officials. The 17 protesters who sat on the floor, linked arms and refused to leave were zip-tied and detained. UCPD Police Chief Mitch Celaya said that unless those detained have any other criminal actions pending, they will be cited for trespassing and released. Student organizer Marco Amaral was among those detained.

Those who do have pending criminal actions will be booked and appear in Alameda Superior Court Thursday.

"As far as I know, they will only be cited for trespassing," Celaya said. "However, because I did not see every arrest, there could be an additional charge for those who resisted arrest."

Some 70 other demonstrators gathered around the building while detainment took place inside, some shouting at police who were lined up blocking the building's main entrance, while others ran to the east side of the building chanting "let them go."

Earlier in the day, roughly 100 people gathered in front of Sproul Hall and then marched around campus, garnering no more than 200 people total as they entered Doe Library and continued to march through Wheeler Hall before returning to Eshleman Hall.

"I think it is suicidal as a state to cut from higher education," said UC Berkeley junior Grant Hutchins during the day's demonstrations. "With the cuts that are happening now, I have to say that this is a horrific path the state could take."

Though protest organizers had initially planned for a picnic in the afternoon on Memorial Glade, protesters moved their picnic's location to the seventh floor of Eshleman Hall for fear of rain after the noon rally. However, they were told by campus event staff that they could not stay past 3:30 p.m. because the protesters had not properly completed the reservation process.

While the number of people protesting was much smaller than the hundreds and sometimes thousands who participated in previous protests such as on March 4, and Oct. 7 of last year, protesters said the showing was by no means a failure.

"These things come in waves ... Students are by definition a transient population, the leaders graduate," said UC Berkeley lecturer Michael Cohen, who spoke outside Wheeler Hall. "The task of an event like this is to remind (students) what is at stake. Nothing got changed overnight. Decision makers are so insulated from the democratic process."

But the lower number of protest participants troubled ASUC Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein, who said that the campus community was not adequately educated about the problems it will face if Brown's proposal to cut $500 million in state funding to the UC is approved.

"The crisis is not acute yet, but people need to wake up to the train that is barreling at them," he said.

Previous funding cuts from the state have already lead to cuts across all campus departments and has lead to increased tuition fees systemwide.

Future reductions threaten to curtail enrollment - which could leave many instate students who are guaranteed admission to the university by the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education without access to a UC degree - as well as further cuts to departments.

"The frustration is palpable on campus," said UC Berkeley senior Alex Tan. "Faculty and staff are worried and students aren't getting what they need."

Alisha Azevedo, J.D. Morris, Rachel Banning-Lover, Kate Randle and Jessica Rossoni contributed to this report.


Contact Jordan Bach-Lombardo and Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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