Police end takeover of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Hall

November 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Students at UC Berkeley barricaded themselves inside a campus building all day on Friday to protest the 32 percent increase in student fees.

The protesters who barricaded themselves in a U.C. Berkeley building were cheered like rock stars when they finally came out Friday night. Earlier, it was a very different experience for some of their sympathizers outside.

One protester said her hand was broken as she was gripping onto a barricade and a police baton came down onto her hand. Police have denied using unnecessary force, but multiple video clips have surfaced on YouTube of protesters clashing. In the end, the protesters walked out of Wheeler Hall peacefully.

Thousands of people gathered outside throughout the day to offer support for the protest going on inside the U.C. Berkeley building, but the largest crowd came together to watch the 41 people leave Wheeler Hall.

"I think it's definitely not over. I think that this occupation is another beginning," said Cal sophomore Lana Zelko.

"It's very inspiring to see them. I mean they gave up whole day, they risked police brutality, risked getting arrested, standing up for what they believe in -- standing up for pubic education. It's very inspiring," said Matt Kintz, a student.

Several students and professors told stories of police hitting protestors with batons and shooting them with rubber bullets.

"He looked at me and said 'Get back' and I'm like 'This is our university, you can't tell us to get back,' and then he takes the baton and stabs my stomach and then he takes a gun and shoots me with a rubber bullet," said protester Adam Astan.

"I saw one girl get bashed on the head, and had a huge gash in her face and another girl who got trampled on by the police officers trying to push the barricades out on us, while we were just standing there chanting peacefully," said protester Gina Dang.

They're united against a 32-percent tuition increase the regents just voted on. Protesters said they wouldn't come out until officials agreed to rescind the fee and promise not to arrest them. After about 10 hours of trying to talk-the SWAT team took the locked doors off the hinges and went in.

"There were never really any negotiations in the first place. It was an all-or-nothing position, either meet our demands or we have nothing to talk about and that wasn't a basis for a conversation we wanted to have," said U.C. Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof.

The 41 protesters who took over Wheeler Hall early Friday morning were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing, 37 of those are students, but university officials say this won't impact their status at Berkeley.

In addition to taking over the one building, protesters also pulled fire alarms at four different buildings Friday morning. Classrooms were evacuated, but that didn't mean classes were cancelled. One teacher held class outside in the rain and used the side of a building for a chalkboard.


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