UC Berkeley protesters march before returning to campus for general assembly

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff

Enthusiasm ran high for Occupy Cal as more than 700 UC Berkeley students, faculty and supporters marched off-campus to gain more support during Tuesday’s Open University strike and Day of Action.

The march stopped at both Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College as protesters made their way through city streets before returning to campus for the 5 p.m. general assembly meeting.

As protesters walked, they chanted “no hikes, no fees, education must be free.” Members of the community waved at them from windows and honked their car horns in solidarity.

The march began with a speech from Robert Slaughter — a St. Mary’s College student who was arrested at an Occupy Cal demonstration last Wednesday — on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.

“I was beaten and assaulted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s department and other officers,” Slaughter said to the crowd. “What we have faced in the previous days before was a deliberate attack on our civil rights.”

Students from St. Mary’s College joined the strike in solidarity with Slaughter and Occupy Cal. There is a walk-out planned Wednesday at the college, according to Elizabeth Henningsgard, a student at the college.

Before protesters began to march down Bancroft, there was an outbreak of applause as people on the top floor balcony of Eshleman Hall unfurled a banner that said “Stanford is with Cal.”

“We’re students — we have every right to protest against unfairness.” said UC Berkeley senior Kevin Kemp during the march. “I feel it shouldn’t be that much of a financial struggle to continue our education.”

An undergraduate petition calling for Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s resignation circulated during the protest. Multiple participants called for the marchers to pause and sign their name and student identification number on the petition.

As of 3:30 p.m., over 200 signatures had been recorded, according to UC Berkeley senior William Skewes-Cox.

“This is engaging a lot more issues,” said UC Berkeley junior Nikolas Soelter. “It’s more than just budget cuts.”

Over 100 students from the UC Berkeley School of Law also joined the rally in solidarity with the movement, according to third-year graduate student Seph Peta.

“I’m here because I’m upset,”  said UC Berkeley junior Star Berlin. “Police brutality is not cool.”

During the march, some professors and students stayed behind to guard the encampment. Some read books from a bookshelf on Sproul — a collection created to facilitate an open university — while one protester played the piano.

UC Berkeley senior Natalie Lowell said the strength of the Occupy movement is that it has created a space for discussion to speak about the many issues that UC Berkeley students are facing.

“We want a change, but the current system won’t allow you to change the system,” Lowell said. “A lot of issues are issues you can’t vote just up or down — there needs to be a discussion.”

At the general assembly, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. when the marchers return, future actions for Occupy Cal will be discussed and voted on.

Oksana Yurovsky of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.