Reich draws thousands to Sproul Plaza

(Derek Remsburg/File)
Derek Remsburg/Staff
(Derek Remsburg/File)

Thousands of people flocked to Sproul Plaza Tuesday evening in anticipation of the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture by Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley public policy professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Some settled onto couches set up earlier in the day on the grass by the Sproul steps, while others perched on the roof of the Golden Bear Cafe. An hour later, after listening to speeches and spoken-word performances from three Mario Savio Young Activist Award winners, the lecture began. Protest organizers said the sound system would be cut off by 10 p.m.


Click here for a full transcript of the speech.

“I’ll be short,” Reich said by way of introduction.

In his lecture, Reich acknowledged protesters’ opposition to budget cuts to higher education as well as concerns about the uneven distribution of wealth that triggered the nationwide Occupy movement. He encouraged demonstrators to continue to support the Occupy movement in the spirit of Mario Savio.

“The First Amendment right to speak is not convenient — it is expensive,” Reich said. “It can get messy.”

Mentioning that the top 400 richest Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans, Reich said one of the most important issues behind the protests “is not the wealth per se — it is the irresponsible use of wealth to undermine our democratic system.”

The crowd remained engaged throughout the lecture — which reached 3,500 people at its peak, according to UCPD — booing and hissing when Reich spoke about the income of corporations and cheering when he referred to the Occupy movement as a way “in which people are beginning to respond to the crisis of our democracy.”

“The days of apathy are over, folks,” he said.

As Reich’s lecture came to a close, protesters began chanting “Whose university? Our university” and encouraged the crowd to camp on the plaza throughout the night.

Alisha Azevedo is the lead academics and administration reporter.