Day of Action ends in violence, two arrests

Calm protest punctuated by violent episodes

Eugene W. Lau/Staff
A police officer apprehends a demonstrator in Tolman Hall, where the Day of Action protesters occupied a room. The protest was propelled by persisting state budget cuts to the UC and accompanying tuition increases.

Tensions between police officers and demonstrators fluctuated throughout the course of a campus protest Thursday, culminating in a violent scuffle when one man was carried from Tolman Hall by his arms and legs.

At about 9 p.m., after over seven hours of protest inside the building, protesters were chanting in the lobby of Tolman and police officers began to move towards the doors to prevent a small crowd of demonstrators outside from entering the building.

(Watch a five-video series of UC Berkeley’s day of action)

Protesters then began running toward the west doors and an altercation with officers ensued. One man was carried away and arrested after being forced to the ground by police officers.

During the altercation, protesters became riled and threw objects at police, resulting in a cracked window.

The demonstrators left the building around 9:10 p.m.

Propelled by persisting state budget cuts to the University of California and accompanying tuition increases, a group of around 150 left a noontime rally in Sproul Plaza and marched through campus. Led by a small contingent of about 20 bandana-clad protesters carrying makeshift shields adorned with artwork from famous works of literature, the group eventually reached Tolman Hall around 1:20 p.m and stayed for over seven hours.

A crush of around 70 protesters rushed the western doorway of the building, urging the crowd to follow them.

Police and protesters scuffled as officers tried to pull several protesters away from the doors.

In the melee, at least one protester was pepper-sprayed by two police officers, said UCPD spokesperson Lt. Marc DeCoulode.

Protesters and police clash in front of Tolman Hall. - Anna Vinget/Senior Staff

Once inside, protesters continued to rally, their clamoring cries of “They say cut back, we say fight back” and other chants reverberating down the halls. After marching the length of the second floor hallway, demonstrators eventually gathered in room 2308.

In the classroom, the tenor of the demonstration cooled to a largely calm discussion — save a few tense reactions to the presence of police officers and local television media — in which the demonstrators introduced themselves to one another and shared thoughts about the condition of the university and the state.

“My dad is a gardener, my mom is a maid — I come from immigrant families, and how the hell am I supposed to afford this education?” asked freshman Stephanie Benitez.

Should the UC Board of Regents approve a multi-year plan that could send tuition and fees skyrocketing to over $22,000 by 2015, Benitez said she would no longer be able to afford her enrollment.

After discussing mounting student debt, the conversation shifted to building momentum for a planned walkout in early November.

Several protesters stressed the need for a thorough organizing effort in order to get large numbers of students to turn out. The walkout is being organized for Nov. 9 and 10 by United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union representing UC graduate students, readers and tutors.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the campus agreed with the motivations behind the demonstration.

“We share the students’ frustrations over the state’s disinvestment in higher education, and we support their right to protest,” she said.

One protester, Shane Boyle, said the group chose to “reclaim the space” at Tolman Hall because the campus closed the building’s 13 regular classrooms starting this semester.

Tolman — which houses the campus’s Graduate School of Education — was deemed seismically “poor” in a 1997 study of campus buildings. A lack of state funding to replace the building prompted the closure, though staff and faculty remain in the building.

A protester is carried away by police after being arrested inside Tolman Hall - Kevin Foote/ staff

After the demonstrators’ discussion ended around 4:15 p.m., they remained in room 2308 until making their way down the hall to room 2320 at about 5 p.m. in order to view a film about the Black Panthers.

The demonstrators regrouped in 2308 and began another meeting at about 7 p.m. One man was arrested around 8 p.m. because he grabbed a magazine clip from an officer’s belt earlier that day, DeColoude said.

Alisha Azevedo, Jaehak Yu and Aadia Samad of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.