UC Berkeley student briefly sets up tent on Chancellor’s lawn, moves to Sproul

UC Berkeley senior Alex Kim holds his cat Obi outside Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus home Thursday morning.
Kelly Fang/Staff
UC Berkeley senior Alex Kim holds his cat Obi outside Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus home Thursday morning.

While most UC Berkeley students chose to head home for the Thanksgiving break, senior Alex Kim decided to do something decidedly different early Thursday morning.

Kim cancelled his plane ticket home and instead lugged camping equipment and his pet cat Obi to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s front lawn around 5 a.m. There he pitched a tent in solidarity with the Occupy Cal movement that has shaken the campus over the last three weeks.

Kim stayed on the lawn for about four hours until deciding to relocate to Sproul Plaza later Thursday morning.

Kim, who is taking a vow of silence until the New Year, said in a typed letter to The Daily Californian that he would appreciate a public apology from Birgeneau for the destruction of “creative property and personal property” when the Occupy Cal encampment was cleared out last week and “perhaps even an invitation to join him at his table tonight to make up for the fact that I broke my mother’s heart by canceling my plane ticket home.”

“In all seriousness, Our dear chancellor, Birgeneau needs to shape up or get out before we force him,” he continued in the letter.  “Occupy Cal has only been a beautiful community building activity and we all intend to keep it that way. It’s just too bad he doesn’t see it for what it really is. An awakening of our generation.”

Kim, an English major from Downey, Calif., has been on a self-imposed Internet-blackout since he was arrested last week when police officers cleared out the Occupy Cal encampment for the second time. He added that he has not listened to the audio-apology Birgeneau released Tuesday regarding police use of force at Occupy Cal but wanted the Chancellor to apologize again in a public setting.

Birgeneau, who sent the recording on his way to the East Coast for Thanksgiving, is not currently at his campus home.

As far as the encampment goes, Kim said in written messages with The Daily Cal that he would stay on the lawn of Birgeneau’s campus home until police arrest him. But around 9 a.m. Kim said UCPD officers approached his tent and asked him to leave the lawn.

“They said it’s a holiday and not to get arrested or give them trouble till (Monday),” Kim said.

So Kim obliged and moved his tent to Sproul Plaza Thursday afternoon. Setting up tents is against campus policy, but since police used batons and pepper spray to clear out encampments at Occupy Cal and Occupy Davis, the campuses have taken a more laid-back approach to enforcing the no-tent rule.

Regardless of what happens to him or his encampment, Kim said that he hopes to raise awareness for the elderly and disabled in California as well as to give thanks to the people who have been continuously occupying Sproul Plaza since Occupy Cal began on Nov. 9.

“This is mainly for them,” he wrote in the letter. “To show my thanks for keeping the occupation alive.”

Earlier in the morning — after spending close to 40 minutes driving stakes into Birgeneau’s lawn and fumbling with his tent cover — Kim expanded on his reasoning for continuing with the Occupy Movement.

“I continue to participate in protests because they are a means for opening up a space for discourse & discussion usually basically bringing people together – students, peers – people who would otherwise probably never know that they’d be so much on the same page. ”

Read the full text of Alex Kim’s letter: