Occupy Cal plans encampment despite Chancellor’s warning

In direct violation of campus policy, protesters plan to set up encampments as part of Wednesday’s Day of Action.

Demonstrators will take part in Occupy Cal, a central component of the larger November Days of Action protest, when they establish an encampment on campus, according to Shane Boyle, campus head steward of UAW Local 2865, a union representing graduate student workers. They plan to do so despite a campuswide email sent Monday night in which Chancellor Robert Birgeneau explicitly outlined the campus prohibition on encampments on campus property.

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“Encampments or occupations of buildings are not allowed on our campus,” Birgeneau said in the email, which was also signed by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande. “This means that members of our community are free to meet, discuss, debate, and protest, but will not be allowed to set up tents or encampment structures.”

UCPD will take “appropriate actions” to enforce the Chancellor’s directive, according to UCPD Lt. Alex Yao.

Still, protesters plan to go forward with the encampment, according to campus union head steward and organizer Amanda Armstrong.

“When we decided on this, we knew that in the campus code of conduct encampments were prohibited,” she said. “We basically don’t see that as a legitimate restriction on free speech and free assembly, so we’re going to engage in civil disobedience to assert our right to occupy a public open space.”

While the administration maintains a strong stance against any encampment, the ASUC endorsed the Occupy Cal movement, as well as the larger November Days of Action, in a bill sponsored by CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright and Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein.

“I’m not opposed to it as long as it’s done in a peaceful manner,” said Albright.

But Albright said he doubts the ability of the ASUC to provide any material support to the occupiers due to logistical issues.

Armstrong expects a few dozen people to begin setting up the encampment tomorrow.

“When it’s able to take hold, it will grow to who knows how large — dozens, maybe hundreds,” said Boyle.

However, concerns about a potentially heavy-handed response from UCPD and the administration have worried organizers, according to Boyle.

As a result, the demonstrators have kept both the time at which the encampment will begin and the location of the encampment secret.

The group expects to make an official decision at a general assembly meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Armstrong.

In mid-October a general assembly convened an encampment working group — composed of undergraduate students, graduate students and union members —  responsible for preparing for Occupy Cal. Since then the group has acquired tents, gathered medical supplies, arranged for legal support and even reached out to Occupy Oakland to obtain food surpluses, according to Armstrong, a member of the working group.

Both Occupy Oakland and Occupy Berkeley endorsed efforts to occupy Cal at their respective general assemblies.