The Day After

by zunguzungu

There were student protests across the entire University of California system yesterday, and though you can find a better slide-show of images here and a more representative sample of images and reporting at Cal’s student paper or the SF Chronicle, I took some pictures of what I saw (the first of which are in this post) and am now going to try to give a more narrativized account. Most accounts put the number of protesters at UC Berkeley at about 5,000, which seems about right to me.
shadowsThe rally began there on Sproul Plaza, in the shadow of the same building which was the backdrop for Mario Savio’s famous “Gears of the Machine” speech in 1964; at the base of the steps the students are standing on was where the most iconic part of the Free Speech Movement protests began:

When I first got there, the rally was well underway; I knew I could catch the crowd at its peak somewhere around an hour after the official start time, and when I arrived the crowd was pretty much fully formed. I first took a picture from the top of Barrows Hall — which, fyi, is the best place on campus to get a birds-eye view of Berkeley’s panorama — but Sproul Hall was in between me and the bulk of the crowd. Another photographer was on his way up when I was walking back down, so I told him where the best shot was but warned him that it wasn’t very good. Barrows was empty as a tomb; it’s a strange thing to be in a campus building that empty during the day, and the silence in the hallways takes on a particular character when there’s so much noise outside. This was the shot we both came away with:

wideThe crowd goes wide rather than deep because of the steps that go down into Lower Sproul Plaza; if you look closely, you can see the point where it would make no sense to stand, because you would no longer be able to see the speakers. And seeing them was the best you were likely going to be able to do. You could hear the familiar cadences of the kinds of speeches that are usually given at these kinds of events, but the acoustics of the spot and the PA system they were using conspired to make the actual words difficult to make out. That, of course, was not the point of the event, but it was frustrating.

After I took some other photos (the ones in the other post), I made my way to Le Petit Cheval, a Vietnamese restaurant with internet and copious seating, to upload them (LPC, by the way, was once home to the finest $5 lunch special on campus but has raised its price to $6.75 since I’ve been here, and I fear that when I’m gone no one will remember how glorious it once was.  UCB has the Free Speech Cafe to keep that memory alive, of course (I bought my morning coffee there), but who will remember the glory days of five bucks for lemon grass chicken, green beans, and eggplant tofu? I fear for the younger generation.)

When I had uploaded and digested, I walked back down towards Telegraph avenue, assuming the entire show was over. I knew that the original rally was to have changed into a march after the speakers were finished (and you can see a youtube video of that march here), but what I had not realized was that it then became a real, honest to goodness piece of (mild) civil disobedience. From the top of the MLK student center, I was able to snap this shot of a smaller (but still very substantial) crowd peacefully blocking the main intersection near campus, where Telegraph Ave meets Upper Sproul:

pdI also got some shots of these folks from down there, by handing my camera to a guy in a white t-shirt who was standing on an electrical box of some sort. Guy in white t-shirt took the following picture:

bigAs I indicated in the last post, it’s pretty disappointing (if unsurprising) that the AP used the image below as their pictorial representation of the entire protest. Just to put the two images into comparison, the spot where that sad little group of two or three dozen protesters are circling (in the image below) is about where the tiny patch of empty space is in front of the speakers (in the image above, which is a much smaller group than the original).

For more information on the cuts and on what’s happening, check out BerkeleyCuts, and get the lowdown from Catherine Cole and  George Lakoff. And this blog formally endorses the reading of the entire budget situation offered by the Academic Cog, here. Go read it!