Drawing on Occupy movement, protesters turn out en masse

Protesters filled Sproul Plaza Wednesday afternoon for the Nov. 9 Day of Action.
Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Protesters filled Sproul Plaza Wednesday afternoon for the Nov. 9 Day of Action.

Large turnout at Wednesday’s Day of Action showed signs that UC Berkeley’s signature student protest movement, widely perceived to have been losing its muster in recent years, may have found strength in the nationwide Occupy movement.

After more than two years of protests that decreased in size, Wednesday’s demonstration saw the crowd on Upper Sproul Plaza swell to more than 1,000 individuals. Those involved attributed the national appeal of the Occupy movement as a sign that student protests may be able to carry Wednesday’s momentum into the future.

#occupycal: Read complete Daily Cal coverage

Since about 5,000 protesters swarmed Upper Sproul Plaza on Sept. 24, 2009 and the violent confrontations with police during the occupation of Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, 2009, demonstrations in response to budget cuts and rising tuition have declined.

But on Wednesday, organizers tapped into the energy of the Occupy movement — a broader, more decentralized narrative targeting economic inequality. Speakers tied university issues, like the state’s disinvestment from higher education, to the big picture focus of Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland.

“This is part of a larger conversation about wealth equality,” said ASUC President Vishalli Loomba.

Even campus administration recognized Occupy Wall Street’s motivating role. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande said “the Occupy Wall Street is an important point” and added that he supported the goals of resolving economic inequality.

Signs that hung from Sproul Hall likened the UC Board of Regents to the richest 1 percent of America, the scorn of the Occupy protests.

“After Occupy Wall Street, I was getting worked up, almost raging that nobody in America was standing up and showing their disappointment with how corrupt the government really was,” said Avi Lieberman, a Berkeley High School student.

Several different movements, ranging from United Auto Workers and other unions to a pro-Palestine group, drew upon the central message of the Occupy movement.

“I think (Occupy Cal) crossed coalitions,” said UC Berkeley junior Aseem Kever. “It came together with the Occupy movement. We really do identify as the 99 percent. That shared identity hadn’t been together as much as it is now.”

Despite the broadness and expansiveness of the protest, several individuals at the event said they felt personally impacted. Organizers mobilized the campus by going directly to classrooms to speak about the financial issues specifically facing the University of California and the UC Berkeley campus.

“I was at Occupy Oakland — that was good, but this really connects to me,” said freshman Rishi Ahuja.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Julia Joung worried that the momentum would not continue, though. She said that while she supported the message of Wednesday’s protest, she questioned whether the student movement would continue to have as much vigor if the Occupy movement was not occurring simultaneously.

Many realized the historical significance of the encampment’s location on the Mario Savio steps, a place where demonstrators had encamped in the ’70s in opposition to the South African apartheid.

“I chose to come here because of the history in civil rights and the Free Speech Movement,” Kever said. “If I’m here, I want to participate, and I leave a legacy.”

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  • guest

    You have choices, use them.
    If tuition is too high, go to a cheaper school.

  • Ott

    I want to know if the really egregious officers were from Alameda County Sheriffs.
       Overhead baton blows, or sharp jabs to nonthreatening people totally violate policy. A blunt blow to the head can cause brain damage and police officers aren’t supposed to do this

  • Phideas

    “‘This is part of a larger conversation about wealth equality,’ said ASUC President Vishalli Loomba. ”

    This is exactly, in one sentence, a description of why these protests are nonsensical.  It is not to have a conversation to go outside and shout at the sky.  The students of California have done exactly zero things to get organized as a political body and exert actual influence in the form of voting and fundraising.  The government of California will continue to find them easy to ignore until they do this.

    Get over this childish nonsense about the 60s and civil unrest and use the intelligence that was supposed to exist when you were admitted to Cal to cause reform.  You have the internet, the greatest organizational tool ever built.  Use it.

    • This site really needs a *dislike* button, so much ignorance going on here.

  • Cal Professor

    Cal professors support the UCPD in general terms, but do not support their ongoing use of violence to suppress dissent and to violate the freedom of assembly.  Faculty do not support the fleabag administrators responsible for these decisions.

  • Guest

    I’m a UC Berkeley student and I support the UCPD.

    If these fleabaggers try to set up tents, break out the batons and physically remove them.

    • Wabbit

      Exactly! And when somebody spits on the pavement we should call the national guard to come with tanks and eliminate the bustard!

      • And we should make silly extrapolations as well, right?

      • Justwondering

        >implying anyone is calling for the National Guard
        >implying that spitting on the sidewalk is the same as an illegal encampment
        >implying that spitting on the sidewalk is even illegal in Berkeley

        Is it possible for you to try to make a point without being an idiot?
        If so, you should try doing it.

      • Anonymous

        Nice straw man argument. I hope they failed you in R1A because clearly you don’t have basic logic….

  • Akhmatova

    UCPD? A danger to the community.
    All the 5-0 need to be 5150’d.

    • Alan Gregory

      Occupy protesters? A danger to the community.
      They destroy local businesses and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in cleanup & overtime for city workers.

      Cal did right by shutting this down before it could get started, or we could have another nightmare like Occupy Oakland on our hands.

      • Or, you know, local governments could stop WASTING tax money by attacking innocent, peaceful protesters and go after REAL crime. But real criminals are too scary for Bay police, better attack hippies and unionists.

        Also occupations don’t hurt local businesses, that is a lie put out by Oakland CoC which is just a front group for Wells Fargo &BofA. We WANT them to hurt, that’s the whole point. They ruined our economy, we’ll make them pay.

        • Donkey Dong

          then why occupy the plaza instead of just camping in front of BofA and Wells Fargo?

          then why occupy Oakland instead of crossing the bay to camp in front of the Wells Fargo corporate offices?

          are the protesters too stupid to use BART?

          Corporate Offices

          Wells Fargo

          420 Montgomery Street

          San Francisco, CA 94104 

          • Uh bc at Cal the Regents are the ones fleecing the students to enrich the banks.

            Cal admin. is filled with bank execs.

        • Anonymous

          Attacks on Wells Fargo and BofA are like the racist attacks against Jewish moneylenders in pre-industrial Europe.  People who don’t understand interest rates, economics, or remedial math assume they’re being ripped off so they attack the ones lending them money instead of asking why they had to borrow money in the first place (hint: banks don’t set tuition rates).  Besides, Wells Fargo and BofA are both “too big to fail” so if you destroy them, Obama is going to rescue them with your money, so what’s the point?

          • Whaaaaaa

            Are you comparing anti-semitism to hating banks that INTENTIONALLY went after minoritys/POC with predatory loans?

            And hint: Bank CEOs are regularly on the board of trustees for colleges like Cal and DO push for fee hikes. There is a BofA exec on the Regents board RIGHT NOW.

      • Alan: Kindly provide the name of one (1) business that “Occupy” nonviolent protestors have “destroyed.”   The dictionary defines destroy as “extinguish, to kill, to defeat completely, or injure beyond repair or renewal.”  Just one news article about a permanent business closure directly caused by any Occupy protest will do. I couldn’t find any but maybe you are better at searching.

        How many millions have the big banks cost cities all over the countries in police protection and blight/squatter removal for empty foreclosed single family houses?

        How many millions does WalMart cost all of us in taxpayer funded foodstamps and government healthcare services for their employees? Far more I’m sure than a few Occupy protests.

        OO is an expression of direct democracy, or in your case, “nightmare.” Don’t let a few bad apples color your perception of a genuine movement.   I was there last night. Yes it was messy and last night in particular, the OO GA was a bit of a waste of time. But it was far more engaging than many city council meetings I’ve been to.

        • Donkey Dong
        • [OO is an expression of direct democracy]

          Our Founding Fathers deliberately structured this country as a Constitutional Republic to expressly limit the influence of mob rule, which is typically used to single out and deny the rights of unpopular minorities. In addition, unless you’re out there working and paying taxes like those of us who have been out of college for 5, 10, 15 or more years, you really have NO right to consider yourself part of the 99%…

          • Hi. Been graduated for a couple years. I know how the systems screws both grads and students. These students know they have not many prospects and are scared, as they should be.

        • Guest

          [OO is an expression of direct democracy]

          LOL.  So is it “direct democracy” to shout down Oakland city council members?  Is it “direct democracy” to forcibly prevent media members from entering your encampment?

          No, OO is mob rule.  Nothing democratic about it.