Continuing my liveblogging today — Thursday — on the second day of Occupy Cal. Newest updates at the top of the page.
9:30 am | An odd quote from Berkeley Dean of Social Sciences Carla Hesse in the Daily Cal, apparently from comments she made yesterday:
“‘I’d like [the activists] to think about what they’re doing,’ she said. ‘I’m worried if they destroy property, the public isn’t going to be very sympathetic.’”
But the group’s only formal statement, distributed earlier that day, said “We will remain peaceful and non-violent. We will do everything to ensure the campus is a safe space and will not engage in vandalism. We will take care of each other and the space we create.” There had been no indication of any plans for vandalism or property destruction.
The campus administration, however, had at the time Hesse spoke already made it clear that even peaceful, nonviolent, nondestructive protest would not be tolerated on the Berkeley campus if it did not conform to the university’s restrictions in every detail. UC police have for the last two years shown repeatedly that they are willing to engage in physical violence against peaceful protesters, and they did so again yesterday afternoon, not long after Hesse spoke.
9:25 am | Word on Twitter is that all 39 of yesterday’s arrestees have been released. Professor Celeste Langam reportedly sent out an email to friends on the faculty saying that she will make a public statement on her arrest at a later time. Meanwhile, a small group of activists spent the night in Sproul Plaza, apparently keeping one small tent up overnight. Next meeting scheduled for ten o’clock.
6:05 am | Yesterday the Berkeley administration made Occupy Cal an offer they had to know would be flatly rejected — the students and others could stay on Sproul Plaza, but with no tents. And no sleeping bags. Also no sleeping. And they would have to leave in a week. This wasn’t a good faith negotiation or an attempt to reach an accommodation that would — as Birgenau suggested he was hoping to — control “costly and avoidable expenses.” It was a piece of theater, a prelude to the use of police violence against peacefully demonstrating students on an American public university campus.
5:50 am| Lots to cover this morning, including the arrests of 39 people on the Berkeley campus, but I guess this is as good a place to start as any: Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgenau yesterday justified the bust of Occupy Cal with the following statement: “We simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition, on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism.”
Wow. That’s just … breathtaking.
5:46 am Pacific Time Thursday | I continued to track the events of last night (both Cal and Penn State) on Twitter yesterday evening, but didn’t manage to get back here for an overview post before literally falling asleep at my keyboard. It was a long day. Resuming coverage now.
5:59 pm Wednesday | Good roundup of the day up to now is here.
5:58 pm | Done with dinner. While I was gone the police retreated. Six arrests, apparently dozens of student injuries. All but two tents confiscated, but those two tents are still standing. Activists are requesting that the Berkeley administration explicitly — and publicly — declare that the police will not be directed to roust the encampment.
3:47 pm | Cops in riot gear are wading into the crowd with batons drawn, breaking the student line defending the tents. Activists are chanting “stop beating students” and “what law are we breaking?”
3:45 pm | Okay, I’m going to be late for dinner.
3:30 pm | I’m on the East Coast, and I’ve got dinner plans I can’t break. Back in a bit. I’ll be on twitter at @studentactivism as much as politeness allows.
3:08 pm | As I just tweeted, it’s a hell of a lot easier to take down a tent with nobody in it. And a hell of a lot harder to bust someone who’s in a tent. If Occupy Cal succeeds in setting up an encampment, the UCPD situation changes dramatically.
3:05 pm | Have been tweeting rather than liveblogging for the last little while because so much is in flux, but it appears that Occupy Cal students moved immediately to set up tents after the GA vote, and that UCPD immediately swept in to take them down. But then students locked arms in a semi-enclosed part of the lawn to protect their friends, and tents got set up behind their line.
2:49 pm | The vote on the encampment at the GA was 456-1 with 12 abstentions.
2:44 pm | A Daily Cal reporter is tweeting that there are no votes in opposition to the encampment proposal and only a handful of abstentions.
2:40 pm | The initial UC occupations in the wave of student action that began a little over two years ago tended to be “closed,” meaning that students (and others) took over buildings and barricaded themselves inside, shutting them down. As the movement developed, it evolved in the direction of “open” occupations, in which folks occupied spaces but left them accessible to others while the occupation was going on. That shift was not accompanied by a corresponding shift in UC administrative tolerance of the occupations — notably, 66 people were arrested on December 11, 2009 in an early-morning police raid on an open, peaceful occupation of Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall.
It’s now looking like a new occupation strategy is being adopted at Berkeley — the open-air encampment. My hunch is that the administration will find mass arrests of such a group hard to justify, but they’ve never backed down before.
This is going to be interesting.
2:33 pm | Twitter reports say the proposal for an encampment is receiving serious discussion and debate at the Berkeley general assembly. One report from a reliable observer not long ago put the size of the GA at something like 1000 people. The Berkeley administration has said it won’t tolerate an encampment, but it’s hard to imagine them going through with arrests on anything like that scale, particularly if — as I assume it will — this occupation is of a lawn rather than a building.
2:25 pm | From the draft statement: “We will remain peaceful and non-violent. We will do everything to ensure the campus is a safe space and will not engage in vandalism. We will take care of each other and the space we create. We will organize. We will have fun. We will not end our encampment until we are ready.”
2:15 pm | The Daily Cal has the text of a draft statement from #OccupyCal establishing a UC Berkeley encampment.
1:50 pm | The Sproul rally marched to the Bank of America branch and back. Next up: A General Assembly meeting.
1:09 pm | Not much of a surprise, but now it’s official: Occupy Cal will be setting up an encampment today.
1:08 pm | Word on Twitter is that the Berkeley demonstrators will be marching on a Bank of America branch at Telegraph and Durant, just a block off campus right by the Sproul Plaza entrance.
1:00 pm | Just tweeted this: “UC admin has quieted student protest since 2009 with mass arrests. Now there’s 1000s out at Berkeley. What next? #OccupyCal”
12:50 pm | On Twitter @jpanzar says there are a lot of faculty at today’s rally. Given the way that UC profs have distanced themselves from UC student protest in the last year or so, that’s a big deal.
12:47 pm | Sign: “Arab Spring, Chilean Winter: Meet the American Fall.”
12:43 pm | The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s student newspaper, has an #OccupyCal liveblog up here.
12:40 pm | Today’s Berkeley rally began a little over half an hour ago. According to multiple on-the-scene observers, the crowd already numbers in the thousands.
12:27 pm Pacific Time | Today the Occupy movement is coming home to Berkeley, and early reports suggest this is already the biggest action to hit the Berkeley campus since the September 2009 walkout that launched the contemporary student movement nationwide.