Members of the campus’s Black Student Union blocked Sather Gate on Saturday morning, redirecting Cal Day attendees around both sides of the gate as members protested the current campus climate for black students at UC Berkeley.
After assembling in front of Sproul Hall holding Black Lives Matter signs and speaking into megaphones, the students marched to Sather Gate about 11:30 a.m. For more than an hour, they remained lined up in front of the gate, tying rope across it. By about 1 p.m., they reopened the gate.
“This inconvenience is nothing compared to the inconvenience that black students feel on this campus,” said Myles Santifer, chair of the BSU and a UC Berkeley junior.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people streamed through campus for Cal Day, an annual event held to showcase the campus, particularly to prospective students and parents. Although a few people attempted to push through the gate — one man tripped as he tried to struggle through — most people walked around it.
The protesters allowed people with disabilities and families with young children through. Campus staff members also put up signs in front of the gate with instructions on how to circumvent the gate.
“Peaceful protest, peaceful protest,” the protesters chanted.
In addition to protesting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged after police killings of unarmed black men in various places across the country, the students spoke of 10 demands made by the BSU to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. Released last month, the demands include proposals to hire two full-time black admissions staff members and to rename Barrows Hall to honor Assata Shakur, an activist who has been dubbed a terrorist by the FBI.
Dirks has met with BSU members and responded to the demands in a letter, in which he described ongoing efforts to meet black students’ needs, such as hiring a student-athlete development adviser to work with black athletes. He also emphasized a campus initiative being developed to make broad changes to the campus climate and the numbers of black students and faculty on campus.
BSU members, however, have criticized the Dirks’ response to their demands, which Santifer described as dismissive, and have urged for more immediate action.