UC Berkeley demonstrators occupy San Francisco bank

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of protesters, including students from UC Berkeley, occupied a Bank of America branch in San Francisco Wednesday afternoon during an Occupy San Francisco march.

Of the 95 demonstrators cited for trespassing at the bank, around five were UC Berkeley students.

The UC Berkeley demonstrators were part of a larger group that crossed the bay earlier Wednesday to march past offices with which UC Regents have ties. At its peak, the march swelled to over 1,000 protesters, most of whom were students from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley.

Demonstrators targeted Bank of America because UC Regent Monica Lozano is a board member at the bank.

Upon occupying the bank, protesters called for Lozano to sign a pledge promising to support, among other things, higher taxation of the super rich and the reversal of recent tuition increases. Bank management called Lozano, but she did not answer. Protesters then left a message demanding her signature on the petition.

Organizers expressed satisfaction with turnout and how the occupation had unfolded.

“I think we made it clear … that students, teachers and workers have paid enough, and now the regents and their corporations and the rest of Wall Street need to pay for public education,” said Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student and financial secretary for the United Auto Workers Local 2865.

The union, which represents graduate student workers at UC campuses, spent around $20,000 to provide buses for students who wanted to attend the rally or, if they were in Southern California, a protest at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach, according to Eaton.

Many UC Berkeley student organizers expressed dissatisfaction toward the ASUC for sending out a last-minute email to students the previous night announcing plans to bus students to Sacramento for a different rally.

“The ASUC broke processes of democratic coalition (by) sending (out the) email about Sacramento,” said Blanca Misse, a fifth-year graduate student in the UC Berkeley French department.

She said more students might have come had the ASUC not diverted attention from the San Francisco protest.

Even with the ASUC’s decision, hundreds of UC Berkeley students arrived in San Francisco with signs and banners declaring their support for public education and the Occupy movement.

“We’re tired of all the fee increases,” said Ryan Ng, a UC Berkeley sophomore. “I’m not covered by financial aid, and another fee increase when (I’m) already struggling is just terrifying.”

The protest was organized by ReFund California, a statewide coalition aiming to “make Wall Street banks pay for destroying jobs and neighborhoods with their greedy, irresponsible and predatory business practices,” according to its website.