Protesters removed from building at UC Berkeley

December 11, 2009 2:22:58 PM PST
UC Berkeley police arrested dozens of protesters before dawn on Friday, ending a building takeover that lasted all week. Police moved with a sense of urgency because of a possible threat of things escalating.

The protesters are facing trespassing charges in the latest disturbance at a Bay Area university. Students are taking dramatic action against fee hikes.

Police saw a flier being put up by the people inside Wheeler Hall promoting a hip-hop concert inside the building on Friday night. It mentioned cops kicking in doors and had a picture of the building in flames. That's why police decided to move in at 4:30 a.m. Friday.

The protesters were brought out from Wheeler Hall in handcuffs and taken away for booking. Since Monday, these people had protested UC tuition fee increases of 32 percent by occupying Wheeler Hall -- not by shutting it down, but by keeping it open for use 24 hours a day and with the tacit approval of the university doing things inside their way.

"They have been having skill shares, teaching each other how to knit, etc. There have been film screenings, there have been meetings, nothing even remotely concerning violence, " said student protester Xander Lenc.

But the university brought in police to end it when it saw that some of the protesters were planning a concert in the Wheeler Hall auditorium Friday night. University officials saw a suggestion of violence in their publicity fliers.

"Up until recently they have been acting in a manner that was respectful to the rights of others. They were not interfering with academic activities," said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. "That changed, they began to break into locked classrooms and then the announcement of a concert that would go through the time when final exams were scheduled to begin. That was simply something that we could not tolerate."

"That's absolutely absurd. The idea that the people in here were at all violent or had any intentions of violence is laughable," said Lenc. "They have been here since Monday, peacefully studying. They have finals tomorrow."

This protest ends less than a month after the first takeover of Wheeler Hall where 43 people were arrested; just a few of them were non-students. This time says the university, 24 of the 66 people arrested are non-students. Eight people arrested last month were arrested again Friday morning. University officials say those few will have to come up with bail. The rest will be released on their own recognizance.

Some of the protesters say the concert planned for Friday night will happen anyway. They plan on holding an organizational rally in the afternoon to flush out the details.


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