Violent protest at UC Berkeley spills into streets

February 26, 2010 7:33:02 PM PST
University of California Berkeley officials are assessing the damage to a building after a protest turned violent late Thursday night and early this morning. Police say a group of people, mostly non-students, temporarily occupied a building, vandalized it and then began breaking windows along Telegraph Avenue.

It started with a late evening dance party at Sproul Plaza. Students were also there to protest the system-wide tuition fee hike. Then a group of people moved on to Durant Hall, temporarily occupying it before UC police moved in. According to the university, the majority of those involved in the vandalism were not Berkeley students.

"The tool sheds that are there and the ladder that were thrown across the way and then if you turn around you can see behind you where they used the tool chest to block any entry point we had as well," UC Police Captain Margot Bennett said.

By then, the group and others had gone off campus and on Telegraph Avenue and began breaking windows and burning dumpsters and eventually clashing with Berkeley police.

Occasionally police reacted with force. Two people were arrested -- a student and a former student.

Bennett showed TV crews some of the damage inside Durant Hall. The building is being renovated. Still, there were a few broken windows and a lot of graffiti painted on the walls.

"It's just vandalism," Bennett said.

Friday morning, students woke up to the news of yet another protest over tuition increases that turned violent.

"Honestly, I was in disbelief because I think there's way better ways that we can go around violence and vandalism, especially to little businesses like this," student Jorge Flores said.

"Going to Sacramento instead of doing protests out on the streets here, disrupting students' lives," student Tran Ngo said.

"I think it really shows the discontent of the Berkeley population in general over budget cuts, the administration and the UC regents," student Noel Pacheco said.

The building contractor is working on an estimate of the damage to Durant Hall.

"We are concerned this may hamper our efforts to bring attention to the issue to lawmakers in Sacramento," UC spokesperson Janet Gilmore said.

There will be a large group of students and professors going to Sacramento on Monday. On March 4 there will be a statewide protest. University officials say they will beef up security on campus.

The chancellor sent out an e-mail Friday saying that he believes that most of the people responsible to the damage to Durant Hall were not students. He is also asking anyone who may have seen something or that has pertinent information to come forward.