Students protest UC President Janet Napolitano’s visit to campus Thursday

Protests happened around campus intermittently to voice their discontent against UC President Janet Napolitano's visit to UC Berkeley.
Alejandra Gonzalez Ramirez/Staff
Protests happened around campus intermittently to voice their discontent against UC President Janet Napolitano's visit to UC Berkeley.

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Update: The protest outside Blum Center ended 5 p.m. Friday.

UC President Janet Napolitano has been protested across her tour of the UC system, and her visit to UC Berkeley proved no different as individuals from several campus coalitions coalesced in two separate demonstrations Thursday – one continuing into the night – to express their discontent.

As of 1 a.m., the demonstrations remained ongoing, although a diminished version of earlier iterations, with about 30 to 40 protesters outside the Blum Center for Developing Economies, inside of which nine students have locked themselves.

BAMN, a group that advocates for immigrant rights, began the first round of protests at 10 a.m. with a small group of about 15 people outside Sutardja Dai Hall. Three hours later, about 150 people gathered on Upper Sproul Plaza for another protest led by the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition.

Both groups expressed disapproval of Napolitano’s history of deportation as the former Secretary of Homeland Security and of her nonacademic background.

Jasmene del Aguila, a UC Berkeley freshman watching the Sproul Plaza protest, said she supported the demonstrators because she knows undocumented students attend the university, adding that these individuals should have the same opportunities as other students.

In comparison, Nic Jaber, a UC Berkeley sophomore who also observed the protest, was not convinced the SCSC had the right strategy.

“Whether or not she enforced immigration has nothing to do with her proclivity to be our UC president,” Jaber said. “She’s trying to work with us, and we just keep slapping her in the face.”

The protesters then marched through campus and blocked the entrance of the Blum Center, near where BAMN was still stationed.

Nine SCSC students entered the Blum Center about 2:40 p.m., chaining the door and locking themselves inside, according to SCSC organizer and UC Berkeley alumna Natalie Sanchez. She added that the students are risking arrest, and some are risking deportation.

The protesters have three demands to the administration: that individuals inside the building receive amnesty, that Chancellor Nicholas Dirks call for Napolitano’s resignation and that those in solidarity cancel classes Friday and “build a strike.”

Fernanda Sanchez Pillot and David Lemus voice their concerns to fellow protesters on Sproul.

Outside, some students spoke in megaphones while about 200 to 250 people chanted at the height of the protest about 3 p.m.

During the demonstration, about 18 undergraduate students were in a listening conference with Napolitano in Sutardja Dai Hall. About 3:30 p.m., the majority of these students walked out to join the protesters outside.

About two hours later, Dirks exited Sutardja Dai Hall. The protesters began to shout, claiming they too deserved an audience with Dirks. After turning and briefly listening, Dirks walked away, and the protesters began to loudly chant, “Shame on you.”

Although BAMN and SCSC have similar goals, they differ in how they are demanding change, according to Ram Murthy, a UC Berkeley senior and BAMN member, who said he would prefer to confront Napolitano face to face. SCSC, however, did not wish to address her.

“We don’t want her,” Sanchez said. “We don’t want to talk to her.”

While at the protest, UCOP spokesperson Dianne Klein said Napolitano has responded in many ways to the protesters’ concerns, and although many students are protesting Napolitano’s political history, her stature and prominence are to the university’s advantage.

“She advocates for us in ways normal mortals can’t,” Klein said.

UCPD will continue to maintain its presence at the protest but will not arrest any protesters unless the administration deems it necessary, according to Lt. Eric Tejada. Those inside the building expressed they were willing to risk arrest and would not leave until their demands were met.

Two UCPD officers arrived on the scene at 9 p.m. and warned protesters for the first time to leave the area. As of 10 p.m., however, police had not taken any action to remove the protesters.

Contact Sahil Chinoy and Adrianna Dinolfo at [email protected].

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  • Mark Smith

    One more thing…. according to this article, some of these protestors risked being “arrested” and the possibility being “deported”. These student protestors need to learn the definition of IRONY.

  • Mark Smith

    Do you even know what you are talking about? First of all , most of the student body supports her. A few hundred protestors out of 200,000 students, is not the “the student body”. She is very legitimate as a professional and as a leader. She is a role model to every student who wants success. Read about what she has done and what she stands for. You will be amazed at how wrong you really are in opposing her. And from an education stand point, she is incredibly accomplished and her education has put her where she is.

  • Mark Smith

    To all you UC students… go to class!!! if you are truly about education, research what this woman stands for, what she had accomplished and how hard she has worked. She should be a role model to all of you! The woman is a patriot.
    AND… the facts most of you protesters ignore, is that over 80 % of the deportations under her watch at DHS were people who committed crimes, mostly violent crimes and felonies! Most of you don’t even know what or why you are protesting. Just educate yourself. You can read right? If you want justice you need to know all of the truth not just some of it.