Occupy: Day of protest begins slowly at UC Berkeley
A planned “day of action” to protest education cuts began quietly on the UC Berkeley campus Tuesday, with students hanging banners and some teachers holding classes in the early morning chill on Sproul Plaza.
Student activists working with the groups Refund California and Occupy Cal are calling on teachers and fellow students to stay out of classrooms to attend teach-ins, workshops and rallies that oppose tuition increases and call for raising taxes on big banks to fund higher education.
They are also protesting what they call excessive police force at a rally last week that resulted in dozens of arrests and several injuries. Organizers said Tuesday’s demonstrations would be peaceful and will include a march on banks in downtown Berkeley.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, planned to hold his Mario Savio Memorial Lecture on Tuesday evening on Sproul Plaza in conjunction with the protests.
Savio was a leader in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960s.
Students said they also will attempt to re-establish an Occupy Cal encampment, which could provoke a police response. University officials have said they will not allow any campers.
Many students said they supported the goals of the demonstrators and were critical of university leaders and lawmakers.
The University of California and Cal State University each lost $650 million in state funding this year, and they could each lose another $100 million mid-year if state revenues fall below projections.
“Everyone should have access to education,” said Nuha Masri, 22, a sociology major from Upland who was attending a Spanish class on the steps of Sproul Plaza. “The way the system is functioning, it’s making the gap even bigger between the poor and middle class and the wealthy. Many middle-class students can’t afford to come to college anymore.”
Demonstrations are also planned Tuesday at Cal State campuses in Fullerton, where students were to conduct a flash mob in the main quad, and Los Angeles, with rallies and theatrical presentations on the impact of education cuts.
-- Maria LaGanga in Berkeley and Carla Rivera in Los Angeles
Photo: UC Berkeley students participate in a World Poverty in Practice class during a teach-in Tuesday on the steps of Sproul Plaza. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press