Protesters set up tents on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza Friday, exactly one year after an encampment last fall ultimately resulted in campus police using batons on protesters.
Friday’s demonstration was meant to memorialize Occupy Cal’s demonstration on the same day last year. In that instance, more than 1,000 people gathered on Sproul in a statement of solidarity with the national Occupy movement and to protest rising tuition levels at the University of California and broader income inequality in the United States.
When protesters set up tents on campus then, police used batons against them to remove their encampment, citing campus policy prohibiting camping on university grounds.
“It’s been one year, and no one has been held accountable for the illegal beating that students, staff and faculty took,” said protester Ergoat Oneiric.
About 10 protesters gathered Friday to put up the tents, and, though they originally said they intended to stay on the plaza overnight, they ended up leaving Friday night.
They also set up an art piece resembling a police baton and a paper mache rat meant to symbolize university corruption, according to Ian Saxton, a campus graduate student and protester present at the demonstration.
“We’re out here to declare that Occupy is not dead, and the way the university has treated the nonviolent student protesters is unacceptable,” said Saxton.
Organizers were unfazed by the low turnout and said Friday’s protest is only part of a buildup to a larger demonstration scheduled for Thursday to coincide with a UC Board of Regents meeting.
“Basically, student groups will go to the city to demonstrate at the regents meeting, and Occupy will hold this space on Sproul for them to come back to,” said Navid Shaghaghi, an organizer and recent campus graduate. “Today is just about memorializing the beatings of the past and raising awareness for what we are doing in the future.”
James Conrad — a local fiction writer — read portions of a novel he wrote about a man fighting to find decent employment during the recession and then led a small group of protesters in an “informal teach-out” about the novel.
The protesters also held a general assembly meeting to decide what to do if police asked them to clear out.
On Friday, UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett said the police department was working with the campus administration on how to react to the tents. Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the administrators were aware of the tents and were monitoring the situation.
Members of the temporary encampment decided late Friday night to leave campus voluntarily to plan with other members for Nov. 15, Shaghaghi said. After they had packed up, he said, police approached the group and informed them that they were not permitted to be on campus.
Passer-by reaction to the demonstration varied but leaned on the side of disinterest. At one point, shouts of “Go home!” rang out across the plaza, and elderly tourists and middle school students took pictures with a protester holding a sign that read “Fuck the Police” in bold red letters.
Staff writer Gladys Rosario contributed to this report.
Contact Sarah and D.J. at [email protected].