Police attack SFSU occupation
Alex Fu and Sid Patel report from San Francisco on a building
occupation at SFSU that ended in a police assault and dozens of arrests.
December 11, 2009
IN THE early morning hours of December 10, police in full riot gear
attacked a peaceful building occupation at San Francisco State
University (SFSU) that was organized to protest budget cuts,
furloughs for faculty and fee hikes.
The police broke into the business administration building through a
window and proceeded to clear it with guns drawn, endangering the
safety of all the activists. Officers forced open doors from the
inside and violently shoved aside students picketing the entrances on
the outside, throwing some to the ground. In all, 28 students were
cited and released, on charges ranging from traffic citations, to
failure to disperse, to trespass.
Clearly, the SFSU administration decided to both ignore the
grievances of students and collude with police to violently remove them.
The occupation of the building began early Wednesday morning. About
20 students barricaded themselves inside, declaring an end to
"business as usual" and presenting a list of demands. Hundreds of
students came out to hold pickets at each of the building's entrances
throughout the day.
At the high point of the action, over 300 students formed a human
chain that circled the building. Cash-strapped students found ways to
donate blankets, food and drinks to both the occupiers and those
picketing outside. Members of the community, faculty and staff came
out to show support, and protest organizers from City College of San
Francisco, University of California Berkeley and University of
California Santa Cruz came to campus to participate in the solidarity actions.
Back at UC Berkeley, just over two weeks after 40 students occupied
Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, the building has been
occupied again, this time by a larger group of students proclaiming
an "open university."
The occupation began on December 7 at around 2:30 p.m. when students
took over the main auditorium in Wheeler and the entrance lobby,
decorating both with banners and signs declaring the building to be
liberated space. An extensive schedule of teach-ins, study sessions
and other events have been planned, and on Friday night, Boots Riley
of The Coup is scheduled to perform.
As a result of the drastic cuts to basic services throughout the UC
system, the semester at UC Berkeley has been cut short by a week.
This final week has been renamed a "reading/review/recitation
week"--or more commonly, a "dead week."
The protesters at Wheeler have called for students and workers to
reclaim the week as a "live week" in a show of defiance to the
administration, and as tangible proof that our universities can be
run in the interests of all, and not just those of corporate fat cats
and self-serving administrators.
The SFSU occupation took place in the midst of registration for
spring classes, as more and more class sections have been cut and
fees are increasing. The idea that galvanized the very frustrated
student population is the idea that if they take our classes, we'll
take their buildings.
"I came out because I support my friends who are a part of this,"
said student Keri-Ann Oddman. "I'm probably going to get dropped from
financial aid, and I'm basically done with it. It's either action
now, or they're going to walk all over us."
When some of the occupiers were released from detention, they spoke
out. "Today, we saw an increased excitement and involvement in
student activism," said senior Aaron Salazar. "And that is what gave
a lot of us our endurance to carry on. From here, we need to take
those people that showed up and plug them into organizations, so that
this energy can grow and materialize into a victory for workers
around the state."
Freshman Napaquetzalli Martinez added: "The most inspiring part of
the occupation was that it was part of the larger working-class
struggle, not only about the cuts at our school."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE OCCUPATION was an important indicator of the campus mood as
organizers move toward a day of strikes and protests to defend public
education, set for next March 4, and to involve not the UC and CSU
system campuses, but teachers, parents and students in pre-K through
12th grade education. At SFSU, mini-General Assemblies were held at
each entry point to the occupied building, where ideas for March 4
The administration at SFSU has demonstrated that it has no desire to
engage with students about even the most basic demands, such as
restoring a several-thousand-dollar budget for the Ethnic Studies
Student Resource and Empowerment Center. The shameful fact is that
many of these administrators enjoyed big raises on top of their large
salaries and perk-packages over the past few years, even as classes
have been cut, faculty and workers laid off, and fees hiked.
One important criticism of the occupation has come from faculty and
students involved in the campus movement--the action was organized in
secret by a small group of activists, and intentionally excluding
other leading campus activists. The result was that the number of
occupiers was small, and outside support had to be put together
hastily. This only made it easier for the police to break up the occupation.
Secondly, the occupation was organized on the same day as a planned
SFSU General Assembly--and actually caused its cancellation. Dozens
of students, faculty and staff had been planning for the general
assembly as the next step in building a democratic, united movement on campus.
Building the General Assembly is still an urgent task--the next one
will take place on Wednesday, December 16 (postponed from the
previous week). A united, democratic effort is the best hope of
building for mobilizing students, faculty and staff to strike and
shut down SFSU's campus on March 4--and of moving beyond to get the
budget cuts taken back.
8 arrested in vandalism of UC chancellor's home
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Eight people were in custody Saturday after a crowd of angry
protesters broke windows and threw burning torches at UC Berkeley
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus residence in protest of fee
hikes and budget cuts, authorities said.
As many as 75 people - some of them carrying torches - surrounded the
mansion, known as University House, on the north side of campus off
Hearst Avenue at about 11:15 p.m. Friday, police said.
The crowd, including a man taken into custody in a university protest
a day earlier, chanted, "No justice, no peace," and began smashing
planters, windows and lights. Several hurled their torches at the
building, said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.
Birgeneau was sleeping at the time and was awakened by his wife, Mary
Catherine, Mogulof said. They were frightened, but unharmed, he said.
"These are criminals, not activists," Birgeneau said in a statement
issued Saturday morning. "The attack at our home was extraordinarily
frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger condemned the attack Saturday as a form of
"California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any
leaders, including educators," Schwarzenegger said. "The attack on
Chancellor Birgeneau's home is a criminal act and those who
participated will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law."
The demonstrators had marched earlier Friday night from Wheeler Hall
to the chancellor's home. Most of the protesters ran away when police
arrived, but some of them threw torches and other objects at officers
and patrol cars, Mogulof said.
UC Berkeley police arrested Cal students Zachary Bowin, 21, and
Angela Miller, 20, on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education
official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied
building, vandalism and assault with a deadly weapon on a police
officer, Mogulof said.
Six nonstudents, Julia Litmancleper, 20, of San Francisco; John
Friesen, 25, of Fullerton (Orange County); Donnell Allen, 41, of San
Francisco; David Morse, 41, of Oakland; Laura Thatcher, 21, of
Rolling Hills Estates (Los Angeles County); and James Carwil, 31, of
Brooklyn, N.Y., were arrested on the same charges.
Most of the eight remained in custody Saturday in lieu of $132,500
bail and were scheduled to appear in court Monday or Tuesday.
The incident came a day after university police arrested 66 people -
including Friesen - in connection with a four-day protest last week
at Wheeler Hall. The building was also the site of a Nov. 20
occupation and clash between protesters and officers from several
E-mail Henry K. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Police crack down on California student protests
California governor denounces "terrorism"
By Marge Holland and Kevin Martinez
14 December 2009
California police, with the support of university administrators, are
engaged in a major crackdown of student protests against budget cuts,
tuition increases and the attack on public education.
On Saturday night, police arrested eight students who were among
about 75 involved in a protest at University of California Berkeley
Chancellor Robert Bergenau's home on campus. In an ominous attempt to
intimidate students involved in protests, and in a sign of the
measures the state is preparing to take against those opposed to
budget cuts, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denounced the
students for engaging in "a type of terrorism."
The action followed the arrest of 66 students in the early morning
hours on Friday. Police stormed into Wheeler Hall at the UC Berkeley
campus, where the students were engaged in a week-long occupation.
This followed by one day the arrest of 25 students at San Francisco
State University, who were also engaged in an occupation to protest
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that as many as 75 people
surrounded Bergenau's mansion, known as University House, Friday
night. The protesters were alleged to have broken windows and thrown
torches at police and Bergenau's residence, and to have overturned
planters and scattered garbage brought from nearby student housing.
Eight people, including two UC Berkeley students and two UC Davis
students, were reportedly taken into custody.
The Daily Californian online reported Saturday that "all are charged
with rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary,
attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism and assault
with a deadly weapon on a police officer. The eight were all issued
exclusion orders which bar them from returning to campus, police said."
No one was injured in the incident, but the police and university
officials responded with hysterical denunciations. "These are
criminals, not activists," Bergenau declared. "The attack at our home
was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely
feared for our lives."
The eight students remained in custody Saturday with a bail set at
$132,500 and are expected to appear in court Monday or Tuesday.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately weighed in by declaring,
"California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any
leaders, including educators. The attack on Chancellor Bergenau's
home is a criminal act and those who participated will be prosecuted
under the fullest extent of the law."
As always, it is impossible to rule out the role of police
provocateurs. It was when police attempted to break up the
demonstration that it turned to vandalism. According to eyewitnesses,
many of those detained by police were bystanders who were swept up by
the police in the confusion. Jobert Poblete, a UC alumnus, was at the
march on the chancellor's house but decided to leave when "things
were getting out of hand," he told Liveweek.net.
Police then took into custody James Carwil, 34, a visiting PhD
student from the City University of New York. "Carwil hadn't been
doing anything at the time. Now he's in jail on his birthday, and
they just raised his bail from $50,000 to $132,000. There's no way we
can raise that much money. This is a travesty," said Poblete.
Callie Maidhof, a student organizer, told Liveweek.net, "Regardless
of what one thinks about the events of last night, the minor
vandalism that occurred cannot be viewed outside the context of the
physical violence inflicted by police on student activists and the
broader assault on public education."
The demonstration Saturday night began as a concert to denounce the
arrests of the students the previous morning. Police monitored the
concert closely, and followed the students as they marched in
demonstration to Bergenau's house.
The arrests Friday came at the end of an "Open University" occupation
at Wheeler Hall, a major classroom building on campus. The students
were protesting budget cuts, a 32 percent fee increase, and the
reduction to student space and services.
Students had been occupying the building for a week, and were
planning on leaving Saturday morning, before final exams began. The
administration claimed they decided to make the arrests after they
heard of plans for a free music concert on Friday evening. However,
the arrests have the air of a deliberate provocation.
Bail was originally set at $25,000 for some of those arrested,
according to a blog on the Facebook page of Transform Public
Education, the group organizing the occupation. That bail requirement
has since been dropped, and everyone without outstanding warrants or
"other criminal issues" was cited and released. Some were not
eligible for release due to previous arrests, including one
individual who was on federal probation.
"People were not given a final warningpolice 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.
Roey Kruvi, a third year geography student at UC Berkeley, reported
that he was sleeping in the hall when he was arrested. He told the
San Francisco Bay Guardian that he was put in zip-tie handcuffs and
taken down to the basement of the hall where he and the other
protestors were kept for two hours without any of their possessions.
"We were not allowed to speak to lawyers, we had all our stuff taken
from us, and we were kept unaware of what was going to happen to us,"
he said. "It was a freezing cold room where we were kept and some
students had no shoes on. One boy did not even have pants onhe was
left in boxers and a T-shirt in the cold all day."
The arrests at UC Berkeley followed by one day the arrest of 25
students at San Francisco State University, after a group barricaded
themselves into the business administration building. The occupation
began on Wednesday morning, and at one point involved as many as 300 students.
The students' demands included an end to the wars in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gaza; free education at every level; the
return of Wall Street bailout money; and debt forgiveness for student loans.
Campus police, in full riot gear, with the support of the San
Francisco police, broke into the barricaded building, smashing
windows in the process, to forcibly remove the students inside around
3:15 a.m. on Thursday.
Police arrested 12 students who were inside and charged them with
trespassing, and 11 more were arrested outside the building for
unlawful assembly and resisting arrest. Two other students who were
blocking traffic in protest were also arrested.
The police crackdown on students this past week follows a similar
wave of arrests and police intimidation during protests staged last
month. At least two students at UC Los Angeles were tasered, and
dozens were arrested at UCLA and UC Davis.
The protests by students reflect the growing popular opposition to
the budget cutting in California, which is being carried out with the
full support of the Obama administration and both political parties
in the state. Crippling cuts in education will force many working
class students out of school, while budget cuts at the K-12 level
will lead to the elimination of programs, layoffs and cuts in teacher pay.
As opposition grows, the response of the state will be ever more open
forms of repression. With a new round of budget cuts planned for this
coming year, the statements by Schwarzenegger and university
administrators should be seen as a direct threat against all those
who oppose the demands of the corporate and financial elite.
The World Socialist Web Site condemns the arrests of these students
and demands their immediate release.