Occupy Cal calm, but poised for showdown


U.C. Berkeley police removed the last remaining tents on Sproul Plaza Thursday morning. One man tried to hold on to a tent being removed by police, but he was quickly restrained and arrested.

"It just seemed like a premature and immature move on their part to just snatch it away like that," said Cal student Richard Grijalda.

By midday, only a handful of demonstrators were still at Sproul Plaza with their sleeping bags and cardboard boxes, but they were able to go to and from classes.

"We've been using cardboard, and we slept in the cardboard," said protester Naomi Cruz.

It was a much different scene Wednesday evening when campus police, assisted by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, told students to disperse. With batons in hand and riot gear, the police moved toward the students.

Some protesters wore gas masks to protect against any potential tear gas.

Close to 40 people were arrested and several tents were taken down and confiscated. University spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the school maintains a policy of forbidding any kind of encampment.

"We've seen how things unravel," said Gilmore. "First there is one tent, then it grows, and then it's weeks and months, and safety issues and other issues arise, so we know going down the road that is not where we want to be."

Cal alumni Mike Dundas said after watching the news, he had to see for himself what was happening.

"We've gotten used to seeing this kind of thing in the Bay Area," Dundas said, "but to see it happening to Cal students in the way it happened last night -- it was pretty surprising even for around here."

At least 39 people were arrested Wednesday after police moved in on the crowd that at its largest was estimated at 1,500 people. University officials had told the protesters that they would not be allowed to put up tents in Sproul Plaza but protesters ignored the university's rules.

Around 9 p.m. there was a crowd of about 200 people and riot police moved in on them to take away their tents. The police swept into the plaza from two sides and immediately engaged the students who were three-deep with arms linked around the eight Occupy Cal tents that they were protecting.

The crowd of spectators immediately rushed in to meet the police face-to-face and began chanting "peaceful protest, peaceful protest." As the tension escalated, plenty of people started feeling the business end of a Billy club as the officers bull-dogged their way toward the tents and began tearing them down.

The crowd stayed in their face the whole time chanting, "shame, shame" and several of them were wrestled down and placed in plastic handcuffs.

Earlier Wednesday night, vice chancellor Harry Legrand warned the crowd they would be arrested if they camped out, used sleeping bags, cooked, or even slept in Sproul Plaza. He was booed off by the crowd and about two hours later the police marched in with a strategic plan to pinch off the protesters and regain the tiny patch of grass that was Occupy Cal.

"I think is a really horrible effort at crowd control if you want to call it that," Greg Levin of the Cal history department said. "I also think there's some really bad tactical decisions being made by the administration towards peaceful protesters. So how is this going to end and what is the positive for the administration, the university? It's certainly not positive for the community."

Protesters say they were surprised at how quickly and how strongly police reacted to the protest. Police have not yet released a statement on Wednesday's action.

The Occupy Cal protesters will meet at Sproul Plaza at 6 p.m. for a general assembly. Some demonstrators are calling for a general strike on Tuesday, Nov. 15 and are discussing plans to disrupt the U.C. Regents meeting on Nov. 16 and 17 as well.

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