Some students choose not to protest on Day of Action

UC Berkeley sophomore Courtney Mullen sipped coffee as she pulled out her black notebook to study organic chemistry. She had just finished lunch and needed to prepare for class.

Mullen did not immediately see the irony of being at the Free Speech Movement Cafe while more than 1,000 protesters gathered on Sproul Plaza for the Open University Strike and Day of Action on Tuesday at noon.

She would have made more of a commitment to protesting, except she had developed a fear of potential police violence after seeing what happened six days earlier.

“Attending the (Nov. 9) rally was inspirational and exciting, and it was moving to see so many people gathered on Sproul,” Mullen said. “That’s why I wanted to go to Cal. But as for my own safety, as well as other people around me, I don’t know if I would handle seeing people being hurt without breaking down or crying.”

Mullen was just one of the majority of UC Berkeley students not participating in Tuesday’s demonstration, though she was one of the few who actually wanted to be among the more than 1,000 protesters on a campus of more than 35,000 students.

Several others, like freshman Duncan McAdam, kept their distance because they did not like the direction the Occupy Cal movement has taken.

While the massive crowd gathered on Sproul Plaza and a gospel choir performed for them over loudspeakers during the noon rally, McAdam bit into a burrito.

He wanted to enjoy his lunch from Taqueria Oso de Oro in the sun on the grass in front of Sproul Hall, but he did not want to be part of the protest — despite his proximity to it. Had the protest’s focus solely been on fee increases, McAdam might have participated, but he said he did not like the other Occupy Cal demands.

“I don’t see how pinning all of the cuts on the (UC) Regents will help,” McAdam said. “(The protesters are) making a complex set of problems simpler than it should be. But it’s nice to see people doing stuff, even if it’s not the most constructive effort.”

Just through Sather Gate, freshman Victoria Fong sat on one of the benches in front of Dwinelle Hall nursing a Frappuccino and bag of potato chips. Fong said she is strongly against any more fee increases because she has friends who may not be able to afford their education next year.

Fong went to the Nov. 9 demonstration because of this belief, but she has since stepped back from her activism. Even though she had breezed by Tuesday’s protest around noon, she was glad to be away from the crowd.

“I understand what they’re doing,” she said. “My only problem with it is that there’s so many things being represented as part of it. I’m not against it at all. It’s just that there’s so much being asked that trying to have one concrete argument for (the movement) is kind of difficult.”

While most of the protesters left Sproul Plaza at 2 p.m. to march around the city of Berkeley, a large group stayed since Oakland artist Jon-Paul Bail was making screen-printed posters in front of the Golden Bear Cafe.

Some people in line had protested earlier in the day, but others were just students and onlookers passionate about getting posters.

Sophomore Adam Cohen was halfway through the line after waiting half an hour, but he was committed to waiting since he wanted a souvenir of the day’s events.

“I just really like the way it looks,” he said. “I want a memory that lasts.”