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.”

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  • ZZ

    “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.” – Yeah because we really only have ONE problem on this campus and in this country. Please Ms. Fong, I’d love to see you identify your ONE problem so we can all get behind it.

  • Stilleven

    Lets get a bit of reality – the federal tax disparity (or rather ‘not  more progressive’ is more accurate) is NOT an issue for California finances. there is the progressive tax in CA – the problem is that Sacramento democrats (yes they are and have always been in charge in the legislature) have finally reached the limit of promising give aways so as to stay in power. so, the reality is that the democrats have now enshrined so much spending with the unions giveaways, that the only flexible expense is education – from K through post-graduate.

    If the Occupiers really wanted to make a point, they should go to Sacremento and tell them they want a redistribution of the redistribution. CA is already the highest taxed state in the nation (income, property, sales, gas, etc.) so there is no more room to increase taxes (you haven’t heard about that as an option, now have you?).

    So its simply a redistribution of redistribution – and the Regents have no control over that — so effectively, the occupiers are a bunch of idiot brained time wasters.

    Now go to class so you don’t end up like one of them without marekteable skills (or basic economic understanding)!!!

    • [Sacramento democrats (yes they are and have always been in charge in the legislature) have finally reached the limit of promising give aways so
      as to stay in power]

      What’s funny is that the same lefty progressives to insist that socialism “works” in Europe are new completely silent regarding the current debacles in places such as Spain and Greece, where the governments there are finally forced to concede that there are too many people NOT working yet receiving various forms of government benefits for the gradually shrinking percentage of working people to continue supporting. As Maggie Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

      • Anonymous

        You realize, of course, that you’re cherry picking the worst two economies of a dozen? 
        How do you feel about the mixed economy of Germany? Or Norway? Or Sweden? Or Finland? Or France? Or England, land of Margaret Thatcher?

        This false dichotomy between pure socialism (which doesn’t exist) and our American system (which has had social safety nets for 80 years and the most profitable socialist organization in the world, the armed forces, for 230 years) is whats keeping you from actually engaging in debate.

        P.S. Look Ton, I can be civil and substantive. You wanna try and tone down the “lefty” “progressives” invectives for a sec?

      • Castorp

        “As Maggie Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

        Unlike the major US financial institutions in the United States, who can get endless bailouts from American working people.

    • “Go to Sacramento” … “Now go to class”

      I think you answered your own question. Not everyone can drop everything and drive dozens of miles for a long-term protest. So they protest at Cal. There’s other reasons I imagine, but the logistical one is huge. They’re getting attention at Cal, it’s their community, it’s where their friends are, so it works. Do you go to D.C. to vote? No.

  • Anonymous

    “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”
    The real irony is that the reporter assumes Occupy Cal is about the Free Speech Movement when all along the administration and UCPD have given protesters every opportunity to speak freely.  Camping and sleeping unfortunately are not forms of speech or artistic expression.

    • Anonymous

      That’s not irony Alanis.

    • Guest

      According to our Supreme Court, spending money is free speech. If bits of paper and cotton that symbolize value are considered free speech, why aren’t tents?

      Also, as a hard science major and a politically active student, I still go to labs and lectures during walkouts. That’s why this system of occupation is so important. I can go show my support at GAs at night, when class is over. For previous protests about fee hikes, this wasn’t the case.

      • Anonymous

        Using money to buy political ads is free speech.  Stuffing money into a pillowcase so you can sleep on it overnight not.  Making a tent out of laminated dollar bills could be considered free speech as long as it is used symbolically rather than as camping shelter.

        Also, good for you that you’re still serious about your science classes.  However, if you allow outsiders to infiltrate Occupy Cal and camp where they wish then you may not have a lab or classroom to go to any more.

    • Just because camping and sleeping aren’t “speech” as listed in the first amendment doesn’t mean they are WRONG. Why do so many people WORSHIP laws?

      Laws are flexible. Even in our joke of a democracy they do change sometimes. And, even when harmful laws remain, that does not make them GOOD. (pre-Civil Rights, nazi germany, attacks on arab spring protestors, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc).

      Tell me one reason why camping and sleeping shouldn’t be allowed. “It’s illegal” doesn’t count. Have you never jaywalked? Did you wait until you were 21 to drink? (Maybe)

  • What’s new

    Not “some” but “most”.

  • Guest

    To passively hang back is one thing. To just sit their lounging on the grass watching smugly while munching your burrito, then telling the school paper what you did, is thumbing your nose at the movement.

    • Looks like the little protesting narcissists are uspet that not everyone is admiring and wishing to emulate them.

      • Anonymous

        Not everyone is a middle-aged keyboard warrior,  smugly nay-saying from 400 miles away Ton.

        • And not everyone who graduates from Cal chooses to spend the rest of their life hanging around Berkeley because they are too scared to grow up, get a job, and move out in the real world.

          • Anonymous

            Ah wrong on all counts, again.
            Don’t stop assuming Ton.

          • I know enough about you that I don’t have to assume much at all. Your lefty narcissism and arrogance is clear for everyone to see…

          • Anonymous

            There’s a lot there to take issue with but the biggest problem is this insane notion that the SunBelt is somehow more real than the Bay Area. 
            Berkeley is no more or less real, American or imaginary than San Diego. 

          • Unlike Berkeley, people in Phoenix and Las Vegas don’t harbor silly notions that their local issues are somehow world news…

          • Anonymous

            No one is holding a gun against your head and telling you to read the Daily Cal.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t go to the protests because you fear police violence? That’s the point of police violence. I’m sure not showing up is the best way to make it stop.

  • Brian Fejer

    Our Leaders are lucky the majority of Americans are lazy, apathetic, cowards!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, the Democrat politicians who control California certainly are lucky they have not been tossed out yet for ruining our once-proud Golden State.

  • Student

    Thank you for this article. I think it’s important for people to know while the majority of students are against the fee hikes, many of us are not supporters of Occupy Cal. 

    • Guest

      What are you going to do about the fee hikes?

      I’m not trying to be biased or a “troll”, but problems do not just wish themselves away…I believe in what the “Occupy” Cal is doing for reason that they ARE doing something.  And the excellent thing about the process there is that if you do have a better idea of how to stop the fee hikes, you can bring it to the general assembly and get it voted on. Again, wishful thinking does nothing. Imagine if MLK thought he could “wish” african-americans to equal rights or if Gandhi thought that he could just “wish” for Indian independence.

      • guest

        i understand how many students only want to focus on fee hikes because that’s the issue that is most directly relevant to their own lives and reality, but they also have to understand the intersection between higher education and other issues that the occupy movement is trying to tackle. yes, many students at cal are privileged to not necessarily be faced with issues such as immigration status, school closures in oakland, police brutality/racial profiling, etc. but to ignore these other problems just because you personally do not face them IS one of the reasons why there is such a huge wealth disparity in this country. everyone is thinking about their own well-being and not the well-being of those who are much more vulnerable and voiceless than themselves. so, while you may not 100% agree with the tactics or proposals put forth by occupy cal (even i don’t, but i’m still out there for GAs pretty consistently), this is part of a larger movement and a set of ideas fighting to create a more just society. everyone’s heart is truly in the right place, and it’s important to not just stand there for the sake of getting a poster and telling your kids how you were a part of the movement. please, educate yourself on the issues, come out to GAs and share your opinion, make sure your voice is heard, and actually take actions, not souvenirs. 

        • Johndoe

          Well said.

          That’s what makes the Occupy movement so great. It is not just one set of demands but complete systemic reform which is required.

          Keep strong guys, the movement is in its infancy, but is growing stronger by the day.

          • [That’s what makes the Occupy movement so great. It is not just one set of demands but complete systemic reform which is required.]

            Actually, that’s what makes these people so pretentious and idiotic. If they think the solution to budgetary issues is to erect tents and get in confrontations with the police, they are clearly too stupid to be taken seriously, other than as petty criminals and the like…

        • Anonymous

          Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

      • Guest

        How about suing their asses? Wasn’t their a successful lawsuit recently against fee hikes for professional students?

      • [I’m not trying to be biased or a “troll”, but problems do not just wish themselves away…I believe in what the “Occupy” Cal is doing for reason that they ARE doing something.]

        And is the “something” they are doing going to resolve the issue? Really now, how does putting up tents and engaging in a physical confrontation with a group of people who had nothing to do with the issue in the first place (campus cops) going to accomplish anything constructive?

        One of the problems in Berkeley is that a local population of geriatric hippie holdovers from the 1960’s as well as academics who are long in theory but short in practical experience in how the world really works, results in a mindset where protests, pretentious statements, and other symbolic acts primarily intended to feed the narcissism of the local activist cadre take precedence over actually researching the root causes of issues and developing workable solutions. The local militant faction LOVES protests because it gives them the opportunity to parade around and make statements in front of TV cameras and get their names in the local press. That is a lot more fun and exciting, and feeds their adolescent needs for constant attention, compared to doing the grunt work and working with other grownups to come up with a viable solution…

        • Guest

          There are definitely a small amount of “anarchists” in Berkeley who show up to any protest just to do damage, but so far in Occupy Cal, the students and reasonable Occupiers far outnumber that minority. That’s why the only violence has been from police carrying out orders from university officials. Notice that there were no “militants” burning trashcans, breaking windows, or lobbing bottles. This is Berkeley, not Penn State. Students are intelligent.

          • note: not all anarchists are violent or militant.

            I agree with your general sentiment, just wanted to put that out there for all the anarchist-haters.

        • Tony,

          Why not take advantage of this medium to engage in a civil exchange of ideas with people you consider your ideological opponents, rather than just dumping invectives on them?

          That would be a real grown-up approach.

          • [Why not take advantage of this medium to engage in a civil exchange of
            ideas with people you consider your ideological opponents, rather than
            just endlessly dumping invectives on them?]

            Oh, and the lefties who call people “ignorant” and “xenophic” and “bootlickers” any time anyone disagrees with them have NEVER done THAT on org, right? Come one now, you just join the party or what? I have offered plenty of analysis backed up with facts and reason to substantiate my position, while the Occupy Cal types were busy putting up tents and challenging the cops. Now who’s not being constructive again?

          • So your response to those you are calling lefties is to basically just descend into the same gutter you perceive them as inhabiting, and then trash them for not being grown-up?

            (Are the Occupy Cal students”types”, or actual human beings just like you and me?)

          • An informed Cal Student

            Well Tony, 
            First of all, I think it is incredibly “ignorant” of you to assume that everyone protesting is a bunch of “lefties” or “hippies.” I would highly recommend for you to actually come out of your little narrow-minded hole and attend a general assembly. Also, if you have opinions, the GA is a great place to voice them in a proper and “constructive” manner, where you can address the Occupy movement directly. Second of all, the tents have been very controversial, however, you need to understand that they are a symbol of the 99% and of the fact that everyone deserves a place to live. In addition, for practical reasons, the tents serve as shelter  for occupiers who spend the night tirelessly on Sproul. If you remember the Chancellor’s statement last week, we were allowed to stay on Sproul 24/7 for one week, but we couldn’t bring tents, which is absurd and impractical. Thus, now I hope you understand why tents are so important for the Occupy movements, both here and around the country.

            Lastly, I don’t think Occupy Cal should be seen as occupiers and students vs. the cops. Yes, the cops did brutalize non-violent protesters, for which there should be serious legal consequences, but the cops are not who we are protesting against. This is a fight for affordable education and for the people in power to change their ways. Unfortunately, the cops are always the ones who serve for the administration and carry out unjust orders charged from the administration, so when it seems like the Occupy movement is against cops, it is actually against those who give the cops their orders (i.e. the administration). 

            Well, hope that clears some of this up for you, buddy.

      • Anonymous

        “What are you going to do about the fee hikes? ”
        What makes you think one student can do anything about the fee hikes?  In fact, what makes you think Chancellor Birgeneau can do anything about fee hikes?  What good have all those previous mass protests done?  We still see huge fee hikes in UC and CSU because of economic reality.

        It’s time to realize class warfare makes everyone poorer.  Learn to work with the 1% instead of against them.  Vote to welcome big businesses and jobs back to California.  Expel the parasites (unions, regulations) that are killing our economy and making higher education unaffordable.  Earn another degree in something useful for our economy (such as engineering or medicine) so that Google and Roche will expand their labor pool here in the Bay Area instead of India or China.

        I doubt my suggestions will be welcomed in the GA.

        • I agree that “one student” can’t do a whole lot about the fee hikes. But, hundreds, thousands voicing their concern might be able to. No guarantee, but in theory we have a government for the people, a government that changes when people voice opposition in votes or protest.

          At the very least, occupations in general — if not at Cal — create communities (including education and discourse) that offer alternatives to the formal institutions that, for whatever reasons, cannot affordably provide what everyone wants.

          On the other hand, earning a “degree in something useful” is but a tiny drop in the ocean. As is voting. (I do it anyway.) Working with the wealthy might get you more money, but that is a short term benefit. And, might I add, selfish.

          It is absurd to think that it is more noble to be one person with a big fancy job and house and car (waste waste waste) than to be one person in a tent making speeches pondered by hundreds.

    • Guest

      But when the fee hikes are stopped because of actions by Occupy/Re-Fund, I’m sure you’ll have no problem reaping the benefits of their sacrifices and hard work.  It’s called freeloading.

      • What’s new

        Yeah, cause the several years of protests which have only ADDED to the costs of the University, thus requiring even higher fees, has been so successful in reducing tuition.

        See you in dreamland.

        • Anonymous

          The costs of the protests are chump change compared to the deficits California is facing. 
          Obviously the correct solution is to do nothing and let all the poors be weeded out.

          • And what have lefties like you done to reduce those deficits? Every time we turn around, you clowns are endorsing some new idea – tuition for illegals, high speed rail, etc. to bust the budget in this state – and you wonder why there’s no money left?