New coalition protests ‘oppressive’ UC Berkeley campus climate

Opponents of the Increase Diversity bake sale hold signs on Upper Sproul Plaza.
Giana Tansman/Staff
Opponents of the Increase Diversity bake sale hold signs on Upper Sproul Plaza.

Over the course of just a few days, “The Coalition,” a newly-formed multicultural student group, planned and executed a die-in, and recruited over 250 demonstrators.

The organization, which formed out of protest to the Berkeley College Republicans’ bake sale, made its presence known Tuesday by conducting a demonstration on Sproul Plaza with over 250 participants. However, the group’s grievances extend far beyond the bake sale, all the way to the generally “poor campus climate,” according to Salih Muhammad, chair of the Black Students Union and coalition demonstrator.

“When you see that there is such a large power that’s overtly oppressing, then that calls for coalition building because, clearly, individually it’s not working,” said Ruben Canedo, another member of the coalition. “This is why we gotta come together, to show this is not just an individual issue, but it’s a collective issue, a systemic issue.”

The group’s chosen protesting tactic Tuesday involved hundreds of demonstrators lying in the center of Upper Sproul Plaza dressed in black.

The event gave the group a voice, according to coalition member Naomi Wilson.

“Hopefully we achieved in making some folks feel uncomfortable in terms of them really questioning how they feel about (SB 185) and the situation and encouraging them to really do their research,” Canedo said.

The Berkeley College Republicans and their supporters, however, did not show that they felt the demonstration’s impact.

“I hope its comfortable for them,” said Ward Connerly, a former UC regent and a main proponent of Proposition 209, who sat at the bake sale table, in response to the demonstration.

Communally, the group decided to end the event an hour early due to safety precautions regarding the heat.

During the event, coalition members passed out leaflets enumerating eight demands of the group.

The demands “all serve a specific purpose, not for the individual self, but for the betterment of the system,” Canedo said.

The coalition seeks to be brought to discussions with administrators on issues impacting students, he added. However, on Tuesday no members of the coalition spoke to any administrators, including campus Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and campus Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry LeGrande, who made appearances in Sproul during the day.

The Coalition has made some plans for the future.

“We look forward to hosting teach-ins on why the demands are so necessary,” Canedo said.

However, Canedo and Wilson could not comment on future events because any decisions to that effect would need to be made by the community.

Canedo said the large numbers — over 250 student demonstrators — were due to already “existing oppression.” Canedo said that when people feel vulnerable, “our instincts call for a coalition.”

The organization operates “laterally,” meaning that every effort is a collective effort, according to Canedo. When a decision needs to be made, the issue is brought to the community for discussion.

“Things run a lot more smoothly when you’re with family,” Canedo said.

Read The Daily Californian’s coverage from behind the Berkeley College Republicans’ bake sale table.