All week, a group of protesters have “occupied” Wheeler Hall, to no one’s inconvenience. I put “occupied” in quotes, because they simply set up shop in an open atrium near the front of the capacious building, sleeping there, holding lectures, putting up signs in the halls and, well, that’s pretty much all they did. They called it the “open university” and as I was in and out of the building all week, I found myself not at all inconvenienced by their presence.
The police had been watching them, but they came to an agreement that if the occupiers would stay where they were, and not get in anyone’s way, they would be allowed to remain until Saturday when official finals begin. The occupiers abided by the deal, and then this morning, at 4:40 am, the Berkeley police swept in and arrested 65-76 people in their pajamas, taking them all off to Santa Rita correctional facility in buses, posting a stiff bail, and locking the building down. Because the protest had received official sanction to exist, many of these were people who had no intention to be arrested and would have dispersed if given the option. They were not.
To recap: students occupy a building, with police permission, and everything continues as normal. Then, without even ordering them to leave, the police arrest them all and then, having liberated the building from students, they lock the place down, preventing the university community at large from using it.
The occupiers had planned to end their week-long occupation with an all-night concert, featuring Boots Riley of The Coup. It was scheduled to end at 8 am tomorrow. The first scheduled final exam is at 9 am tomorrow. So the official explanation, from their own stupid bullshit press release, is that the “unauthorized all-night concert featuring guest artists and a DJ…threatened to disrupt final examinations that are scheduled to take place in that same building tomorrow,” even though the group’s own plans were to stop an hour before the first exam.
The administration hack that says idiot things to the press said that “Once the group refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized all-night concert in an academic building, we had to take steps to ensure that finals could go forward. Our primary responsibility is to the campus’s core academic mission and the 35,000 students who are not participating in the protest.”
Natalia had to move her final exam to another building because the cops, not the occupiers, shut her out of her classroom. It’s the police who are preventing people from using the building now, and who have been hassling whoever didn’t look right to them all week. The occupiers, however, were arrested for trespassing in a building whose doors are not locked and arrested for an infraction that was not even scheduled to not occur until 9 AM tomorrow.
Update: From the press release put out by the Open University people themselves:
“People were not given a final warning – police burst in while people were sleeping and immediately started locking doors and arresting people. Many students have papers due today, and finals to take starting tomorrow,” said Elias Martinez, an undergraduate from Political Science. “There had been cops in here all week, they were acting like it was okay. We had no idea.”
The police raid at UC Berkeley came one day after students participating in an occupation at San Francisco State University, also railing against budget cuts to public education, were arrested by SFSU Police at 3am.
Douglas Virgos, an undergraduate student, spent the night in the UC Berkeley building but then left on a food run in the early morning. “I got back and saw that the police had put handcuffs on the doors. I was there all night and never heard police tell us we had to leave.”
Students and faculty supporters who gathered on the scene shortly after raid alerts went out say they saw the students, some of them without shoes and wearing only their underwear, being loaded onto Alameda County Sheriff’s buses headed to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.