Politically Occupied: a recap of the past year’s political events at UC Berkeley

A look back at a busy year of protests and activism on campus and beyond

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For a university that has protesting in its DNA, tensions understandably flared over rising tuition costs, affirmative action and the Occupy Movement, as well as police presence on campus following a large protest in November 2011. While it’s impossible to predict the future, we can look back at events that will set the precedent.

Diversity Bakesale Sept. 27, 2011

At the beginning of the school year, SB 185 — a California bill that would have allowed public universities to consider nonacademic factors such as race, gender and nationality in the admissions process to increase diversity — was sent to the governor’s desk for approval. On campus, Berkeley College Republicans responded to the affirmative action-like legislation by satirizing the policy through a bake sale. The sweet treats were priced based on the buyer’s ethnicity and gender, igniting a campus-wide debate about diversity issues and admissions policy. Several weeks later, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill.

Nov. 9-15, 2011

Protests anticipating the possibility of tuition increases at an upcoming UC Regents meeting gained extra significance when organizers decided to rename them “Occupy Cal” as a reference to the expanding Occupy movement. The Nov. 9 protest drew more than a thousand participants for its noontime rally and “teach-outs” in and around Sproul Plaza. Police eventually moved in to clear the tents, resulting in dozens of arrests. Controversy surrounded officers’ use of batons.

Protesters rallied once again on Nov. 15 for a “Day of Action.” That evening, 3,500 people gathered on Upper Sproul Plaza to hear public policy professor Robert Reich give the Mario Savio Memorial Speech on the steps of Sproul Hall, only a short time after the general assembly voted to re-erect the tents. Although the encampment survived the night, police eventually confiscated the tents in a pre-dawn raid two days later.

Occupy the Library Jan. 19, 2012

Tables in the campus anthropology library were packed with students, but when the library closed at 5 p.m., the students stayed. The two-day “study-in” protested the library’s decreased hours due to budget cuts and the unexpected resignation of a staff member. To avoid police confrontation, faculty members from the anthropology department volunteered their time to supervise the protest after hours. Protesters numbered close to a hundred at its peak. Campus librarian Tom Leonard eventually agreed to meet students’ demands and restore the library’s hours.

Occupy the Farm April 22, 2012

When Albany City Council approved development of a project to build a Whole Foods Market, senior center and parking lot on university-owned land known as Gill Tract, members of Occupy Cal gathered with signs and chants, as well as shovels, hoes and seeds.

Protesters maintained the farm for several weeks despite university policy. In May UCPD officers dispersed the protesters who set up an encampment on the land, yet the protesters returned throughout the summer to maintain the crops they had planted. A lawsuit against several of the protesters — claiming that the occupation had interfered with research — was dropped in June.