A protest on Monday at noon inside the Cal Student Store, organized by the Queer Alliance Resource Center, or QARC, and the bridges Multicultural Resource Center, took an unexpected turn when the store locked all of its entrances about 30 minutes into the protest.
QARC and bridges were campaigning to move from their current location in the Eshleman Hall basement into Eshleman Hall’s fifth floor and the Cal Student Store, respectively.
The student store closed in response soon after and asked the 40 to 50 demonstrators inside to leave, but they did not comply, according to Sgt. Sabrina Reich, UCPD spokesperson. She added that by the time officers arrived on the scene, there were also 30 demonstrators outside the store entrance closest to the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue.
David Lemus, organizing and community development director for bridges, said both student groups wanted to improve campus resources and environment for underrepresented students by having a more visible location.
“(QARC and bridges are) practically invisible on this campus,” Lemus said. “No one knows how they can find us, our spaces are way too small — so there’s a clear lack of visibility and accessibility.”
Joseph Greenwell, the dean of students, toured the QARC and bridges spaces and heard the coalition’s concerns last Monday, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff.
ASUC Executive Vice President Alicia Lau said in an email that the power to reallocate student program space lies with the Student Union Board. Because the store is leased out to an outside operator, BBA Solutions, there are potential legal ramifications to infringing upon the existing contract, according to Ratliff.
“The ASUC Senate is actively working to find solutions to offer space that is accessible, safe, open and reflective of the important work that these two community groups do,” said ASUC President Will Morrow.
By the time an emergency rally was called at 2 p.m., 100 or more protesters had formed a human barricade blocking the Sproul Plaza entrance into campus.
“We’re making a big statement and really challenging the Student Union,” said Carolyn Nguyen, executive director for bridges. “What do they prioritize: students or generating profit?”
At 2:23 p.m., demonstrators inside opened the student store, allowing protesters outside to flood inside. David Surratt, associate dean of students, also entered the store and spoke privately with several student organizers.
Protesters gathered inside announced they would occupy the space until Greenwell and Daryl Ansel, associate dean of students and executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, came to meet with them at the store. About 3:45 p.m., Greenwell, Ansel and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Na’ilah Suad Nasir arrived at the store to talk with the demonstrators.
After a little more than an hour of deliberation, they reached an agreement. According to Nguyen, campus representatives agreed to email the groups later that evening with a timeline of how long the process would take to reallocate the student store space for bridges and potentially offer alternative locations more visible and accessible than the store.
Protesters left the store about 5:30 p.m. Many of them plan to reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. for an open meeting called by the campus representatives with the Student Union Board in the Multicultural Community Center.
“I’m glad we’re getting another meeting that’s actually going to be about planning rather than just negotiating,” said Jerry Javier, board director for QARC. “I’m disappointed it took this long.”