UC Berkeley students on hunger strike forced to move

May 11, 2010 12:21:16 AM PDT
An ongoing hunger strike on the UC Berkeley campus grew heated Monday afternoon, when protestors marched to the chancellor's campus home to demand a meeting. Riot police then responded. Demonstrators want the university to denounce Arizona's controversial new immigration law, among other demands.

Protesters demanded a meeting with UC Berkeley's chancellor. Campus officials say he agreed to meet with the protest organizers on one condition, that the hunger strike end Monday night. Neither the meeting, nor the end of the hunger strike happened.

"We do have our people looking after us. I will not sleep alone tonight just to make sure I don't go into any medical situation," said protester Rufino Romero.

It has been eight days with no food for Romero and almost a day without water. He is one of about 20 hunger strikers hoping that the UC administration hears their pleas soon.

Romero said he is willing to do this "until the chancellor realizes he needs to talk to us like human beings and not some type of revenue for his university."

Monday, about 100 protesters marched to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus residence to demand that meeting. Police in riot gear blocked the entrance and had to escort people who had been attending an event inside to their cars.

The protesters carried a long list of demands. They want the university to denounce Arizona's new immigration law, make the school a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, and want to stop cuts to low-wage workers on campus.

"We want him to come out and talk to us. We want him to face and negotiate. That's something that the administration has been neglecting for the past nine days," said UC Berkeley student Jorge Gonzalez.

Earlier on Monday morning, campus police broke up the hunger strike encampment in front of California Hall. UC officials say they have the health of the students in mind.

"We've asked the students to pack up their things and leave the site. It's been an encampment for six days and we're very concerned about their health and welfare and safety," said UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes.

For the strikers, they say getting the message out is what's important.

"What's happening in Arizona is not right. It's legalized racial profiling," said Romero.

A 22-year-old hunger striker fell ill over the weekend and had to be hospitalized. He was treated, released, and back out among the marchers on Monday.


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