Early this morning several dozen students launched a takeover of Wheeler Hall, a building on the University of California’s Berkeley campus. Their occupation is the fifth in the last two days in the UC system, and comes in response to yesterday’s vote by the UC regents to raise student fees by 32%.
Wheeler Hall, which houses a 760-seat auditorium and dozens of classrooms, including many large lecture halls, is one of the most prominent buildings on the Berkeley campus. It has been the site of many student demonstrations in the past, including occupations calling for university divestment from South Africa in 1977 and Israel in 2002.
Police reportedly confronted students as they were attempting to occupy the building, making three arrests and using pepper spray and batons on protesters. A group of students was able to make their way to the second floor, however, and to barricade themselves inside.
The Wheeler occupiers have hung a banner from two upper-story windows that reads “32% FEE HIKE 1900 LAYOFFS NO CLASS.” They have also been using a bullhorn to address students outside the building. Police have cordoned off the entire building at this hour.
9:20 am | Twitter reports from the protesters suggest that there are about three dozen activists inside the building, and that police are attempting to disassemble doors to the rooms that are being occupied.
9:30 am | Another Twitter report, citing sources among the activists currently occupying Wheeler, says that the students arrested this morning have been charged with burglary. Also, the Daily Cal student newspaper is now liveblogging the occupation.
9:45 am | A statement from the UC Berkeley administration says that Wheeler Hall is closed “until further notice.” It confirms that three people have been arrested, including one non-student. The title of the statement is “Protest Action Closes Wheeler Hall.”
9:50 am | Twitterer @ucbprotest writes: “The protesters inside Wheeler Hall demand the janitors jobs be reinstated and the protesters inside and those arrested this morning go free.” Another tweet: “The protestors demands, again, are that the 38 AFSCME workers that were laid off are re-hired, and that the protestors receive amnesty.”
10:00 am | The Daily Cal has a new story up on the occupation. It quotes an organizer as saying that the group entered the building at about nine o’clock last night, not this morning as has been reported elsewhere.
10:55 am | Multiple reports on Twitter that fire alarms have been pulled in one or more buildings around campus.
11:55 am | The Daily Cal is now reporting that fire alarms went off in five campus buildings this morning, causing all five buildings to be evacuated.
3:15 pm | I’ve been away from the computer for the last three hours, following the situation via Twitter on my iPhone. It appears that the occupation may be moving toward a negotiated settlement, but the situation is still fluid. You can follow my UCWalkout2 Twitter list to see the feeds of fifty activists, journalists, and others involved in the situation, and watch the story there as it develops.
3:20 pm | The occupiers are squelching the idea that any negotiated settlement is imminent.
4:20 pm | The students in Wheeler have been jousting with the administration over the terms and conditions of any negotiations. Meanwhile, the occupation continues, and the outside support action seems to be going strong.
4:50 pm | Word has come via Twitter that UC Davis’ Dutton Hall is now occupied. This is the sixth UC building occupation in two days, and the fourth to be still going simultaneously at this hour.
5:00 pm | A Twitterer inside the occupation suggests that the cops are breaking down the barricades.
5:05 pm | Multiple reports on Twitter of police use of force against demonstrators outside Wheeler.
5:15 pm | Police seem to be arresting the occupiers. I’ll hold off on posting more until I have detailed, confirmed news to report.
5:25 pm | Police are inside the building arresting students.
6:20 pm | Berkeley is saying that forty-one students were arrested at Wheeler tonight. Fifty-two were arrested at UC Davis yesterday, and fourteen at the Regents meeting at UCLA on Wednesday. That’s more than a hundred UC students arrested in budget protests in just three days.
7:30 pm | The occupiers have been given citations, and are being released into the crowd that still surrounds Wheeler. No bail, no trip to the police station, no headaches trying to figure out how to get the arrestees past the outside demonstrators. The occupiers are being released a few at a time, and the first group was released just moments ago.