The Daily Californian Online

Crowds Flood UC Berkeley in Protest

By Emma Anderson, Melody Ng and Tomer Ovadia
Contributing Writers
Friday, September 25, 2009
Category: News > University > Student Life

During the peak of the protests, an estimated 5,000 people gathered on Upper Sproul Plaza to show their anger at the cuts made to the University of California, including an $813 million reduction in state funding for the current and previous fiscal years.Thursday's protest united faculty, union members and students.

Amid shouts of "Whose university? Our university!" and "Lay off Yudof!" thousands of protesters demonstrated on the UC Berkeley campus yesterday against the university administration's handling of the budget crisis.

A systemwide faculty walkout and a strike held by the University Professional and Technical Employees union united campus and university community members in teach-ins and picket lines in a call for reform to legislators and UC administrators.

The day's events culminated in a general assembly of walkout participants Thursday night that decided to reconvene next Wednesday to determine future action.

At the peak of a noon rally, an estimated 5,000 demonstrators flooded onto Upper Sproul Plaza, cheering and waving signs on the ground and overhead on balconies as they listened to speakers.

"Our problems are connected," said Isaac Miller, a member of the Solidarity Alliance, a group that helped organize the rally. "Our struggles have the same roots. If a crisis is a moment to choose, then it's time for us to make an educated decision. Our solidarity cannot be cut."

Union members approved the strike in July after negotiations with the university for a new contract had been ongoing for 18 months. Soon after, a group of faculty members called for the systemwide walkout to take place on the same day, saying they were angered by what they call a breach of their right to shared governance of the university.

After the almost two-hour rally, protesters marched around campus before moving onto nearby streets, forcing the Berkeley Police Department to stop traffic at several points during the procession, including the busy intersection of Bancroft Way and Shattuck Avenue in Downtown Berkeley.

While many students attended their classes as scheduled, many professors and GSIs cancelled or adjusted their lectures and discussions to accommodate the walkout.

The workers' strike forced the Bancroft Library to close due to a lack of security staff, according to Charles Faulhaber, the library's director.

Some speakers at the rally drew parallels between yesterday's events and the 1964 Free Speech Movement that brought thousands of protesters to the same plaza.

"They're telling us, 'screw you,'" said African American studies professor Percy Hintzen. "We have to be courageous like the '60s ... we have been called to change the world over and over again, and we are going to win this war."

But campus officials said yesterday that blame for the university's financial woes lies with the state government, which made an $813 million reduction to the university's budget for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau held a conference call with reporters yesterday in which he said he supports the repeal of Proposition 13, which many point to as a key cause of a decline in state revenues that led to the budget crisis.

"I think that students should be upset and they should be expressing their opinion on the fee increases," he said. "I tell them: go down to Sacramento, go down to your local legislator and tell them that it's the obligation of the state of California to support this great educational system."

Jelger Kalmijn, systemwide president for the union, said he was inspired by the unity shown at yesterday's events, and that although he is willing to work with the university, the union plans to continue protesting.

"This is just a taste of what's to come," he said. "I haven't seen this unity ... at the University of California in 25 years."

Hundreds of students gathered on the plaza at 6 p.m. to discuss what actions to take next, but tensions rose after the meeting was moved to Wheeler Auditorium and someone announced that students had occupied the second floor of a campus building at UC Santa Cruz.

Minutes later, someone announced that eight of the nine doors to Wheeler Hall's main entrance were chained shut, which caused panic and confusion.

Some attendees left the meeting, and UCPD arrived and removed the chains at about 9 p.m. Meeting organizers said those who chained the doors were unaffiliated with the general assembly.

The attendees voted to hold the next UC Berkeley assembly meeting next Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Lower Sproul Plaza to "determine the plan of organization" for a proposed Oct. 24 state conference.

"We're going to keep fighting forward because this does not end today," Blanca Misse, a GSI in the French department, said at the meeting.

Javier Panzar of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Get published online by sending your photos and stories from Thursday's protest to [email protected].


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