Students rally, commemorate Free Speech Movement on Tuesday

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Ariel D. Hayat/Senior Staff

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Students protesting the UC tuition hike continued their efforts Tuesday, rallying inside Wheeler Hall and speaking at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the sit-in during the Free Speech Movement.

The noon rally was held by students from Open UC, a movement protesting the university’s tuition plan, and featured speakers from a wide range of groups to discuss the tuition hike and other issues. About 4 p.m., some of the student protesters spoke at the commemoration of the 1964 UC Berkeley sit-in at the steps of Sproul Plaza, known as the Savio Steps.

While Open UC’s most recent event — a march Nov. 24 through campus and Downtown Berkeley — focused on protesting the tuition hikes, Tuesday’s rally also included other issues such as a grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, environmental concerns and housing costs at University Village.

Rally speakers featured campus and community members such as members of UC labor unions Teamsters Local 2010 and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

“(The regents) are making decisions based on business and not on social justice,” said Khalid Kadir, a campus global poverty and practice lecturer. “They are treating the price of education as if it’s strictly of economic value, not considering the social value of this institution.”

At the rally, some students complained that UCPD officers removed posters, their sleeping bags and other belongings from the hall Monday night. Yet UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode said there was no record of officers moving possessions from Wheeler Hall.

Early Tuesday morning, UCPD told people sleeping in Wheeler Hall to leave because they were in the building during closed hours. Protesters had declared the protest over, and one person was not a student, DeCoulode said.
“There is a difference between a protest and people lodging in buildings,” he said.

Two hours after the rally ended, Robert Cohen, a visiting lecturer in the campus history department, held a Free Speech Movement commemoration on the Savio Steps.

The event was originally supposed to take place inside Sproul Hall’s lobby, where the 1964 sit-in occurred, but was moved because campus officials were concerned it could lead to an occupation of the building, according to Cohen. Sproul Hall was on lockdown throughout the day.

Some student protesters from the rally who attended the commemoration criticized the event, calling for people to concentrate less on the past and instead join them in fighting current issues. They said that people should “stop commodifying the movement” and that freedom of speech is still limited on campus.

Cohen disagreed, saying that the past and the present are not in opposition.

“This is public history, and these are hard-won struggles that brought this campus the right to free speech,” Cohen said.

At the commemoration, students from Cohen’s class read excerpts from letters written by UC Berkeley students during the Free Speech Movement about their participation in the sit-in and their resulting arrests.

“Will you sit by idly as tuition increases for students?” said UC Berkeley junior Julian Marenco, after reading a letter. “How will you leave a mark on this campus?”

Contact Frances Fitzgerald at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.