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California | East Bay | Education & Student Activism

U.C. Berkeley Student Strike, 11/20/09 - students and supporters at the picket line
by Rubble
Monday Nov 23rd, 2009 10:42 AM
Hear 23 minutes of live audio at a student picket on campus outside the police barricades, urging passing students to "Join Our Picket!" The audio was taken between noon and 2PM.
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ucpicket.mp3 41.2MB

A stand-off between protestors and police started early Friday AM. In the early hours of the morning, students barricaded themselves into two classrooms at Wheeler Hall. Police also arrived early, and were able to arrest three who were moving furniture to reinforce the barricades on trumped-up sounding felony charges of attempted burglary, drawing battle lines that went on around the clock. Estimates have the numbers of students surrounding the building in protest around 2,000 for what turned out to be an all day stand off. Administrators reportedly sent out calls all morning for more City and County law enforcement personnel, maybe fearing a riot.

Students and other supporters also set up a barricade in a common walkway outside the police barricades. A stated purpose was to prevent any more law enforcement vehicles from getting in, and from taking arrested students off campus. The line faced off against three police officers in riot gear and blocked the natural path for students to get to and from their dormitories and other commonly-used campus areas.

By noon, the campus was overtaken by icy cold, pouring rain. The students, locked arm-in-arm under umbrellas and a tarp chanted to “Join our picket or go around”. Spirited discussions took place, including mad students who pushed through the line in protest, to students who either went around on their way or joined the line as encouraged. Classes were disrupted both by the picket lines and fire alarms pulled in many of the classroom buildings. Several students complained that there has been absolutely no meaningful dialogue despite attempts since the Summer months. Student - worker solidarity is clear in the key demands.

During the noon hour, organized cell phone calls to key administrators pushed demands and asked for cooperation. The two stated demands at that time were to rehire 38 laid-off janitors and total amnesty for the students and supporters protesting in and around the building. Two other demands included not raising rents on student union food stands, which are mostly run by immigrants, and to stop plans for the administration to take over a student cooperative building which students have run for the last 30 years. I doubt any of these demands were negotiated into agreement, and they seem absent from corporate media coverage.

Administrators offered through student spokespeople that if the crowd remained non-violent the police would do the same. This may have been partly met, as protestors were cited and released with misdemeanor trespassing charges instead of booked and locked up on more severe charges. However, there is talk of police batons and some type of “non-lethal“ projectiles - maybe “beanbags“ - being used violently. Administrators reportedly met with a group of faculty mediators later in the afternoon, starting around 2:30PM. About a thousand protestors were still on hand at 8PM when the occupiers were cited and release, making sure they were able to leave campus without further police action. The students were reportedly ready and able to stay the night if needed.

Rallies have been set up for Monday noon at Sproul Plaza and at 1:30PM the Oakland Courthouse.