With occupation fading, students aim to publicize efforts against tuition increases

Hayden Irwin/Senior Staff

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Students returning to campus after the Thanksgiving break reinvigorated plans to demonstrate against the UC tuition-increase policy Monday night at an assembly held by those who had been occupying Wheeler Hall up until the break.

Members of the assembly discussed the logistics of a rally Tuesday as well as the outreach strategy for Open UC, the group that maintained the occupation of Wheeler Hall. The continuation of the Wheeler occupation was not discussed during the meeting, though student activists said anyone could continue to occupy the building.

Beginning Nov. 19, students occupied the building for seven consecutive days to protest a controversial tuition-increase policy passed by the UC Board of Regents and to demand “full transparency” of the UC budget.

Over the break, about five individuals remained in an encampment built underneath a tree in front of Wheeler in solidarity with those protesting the expected hike in tuition.

The Open UC members voted against continuing the occupation over the break. The group stated that the actions of anyone who continued to occupy the building during that time would not be considered part of their movement.

“This issue is coming up at a time when students are incredibly busy,” said UC Berkeley senior Maiya Moncino, who is part of Open UC. “We respect that they have a lot of things going on. This movement is long-term. This is not the end but the absolute beginning.”

Community members erected a large tent made of tarps underneath a tree to shelter solidarity demonstrators from the cold and rain. UCPD has not evicted the encampment, which sharply contrasts with the response to the 2011 Occupy Cal movement, when UCPD confiscated tents and administrators prohibited encampments.

“I would not be surprised if they forced us to leave within the next two weeks,” said a community member who goes by the name August. “If they do, things will be going down.”

UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode said that there are no immediate plans to respond to the encampment and that police will deal with demonstrators according to how campus administrators see fit.

UCPD contacted those occupying the area to tell them they were in violation of trespassing, according to DeCoulode. The majority of those in the encampment, he said, were not UC Berkeley students.

Student activists are set to rally at noon Tuesday in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement’s biggest demonstration, when 800 students held a sit-in inside Sproul Hall.

Demonstrators will hold an “art party” in Wheeler at 11 a.m. Tuesday to draw support and make signs and banners for the rally.

During Tuesday’s rally, protesters will aim to raise momentum for the movement and will be educating demonstrators about what the tuition increase could mean for UC students, according to Moncino.

Students from various groups, workers from at least two unions and professors will speak at the rally. Teach-ins that include speakers from fast-food services will also be held. Rally planners also agreed to recognize a staged sit-in held by a campus history class.

According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, the campus will approach the protest as any other and consider action as the events unfold.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.