West Gate Closed at Cal Game

By Judith Scherr
Friday September 07, 2007

When the UC Berkeley vs. Tennessee football game concluded Saturday and 72,500 fans poured out of Memorial Stadium, John Brandt of Davis found himself in what he called a “dangerous situation,” with gates on the west side of Memorial Stadium off-limits. 

“At the conclusion of last Saturday’s Cal football game, an enormous throng of people … attempted to leave Memorial Stadium, only to find out that numerous exit gates on the west side of the stadium had been locked ... An extraordinarily dangerous situation existed that should NEVER have happened … Once I was amid the crowd, there was virtually no way I could get out. Like everyone else, I simply had to wait until I was at the first open gate. This gate was about 10 feet wide, and EVERYONE was trying to get through it,” Brandt wrote to the city’s fire marshal, who sent the email on to the university Fire Marshal Anthony W. Yuen. 

Speaking to the Daily Planet Wednesday, Yuen said he apologized for the conditions people experienced. He emphasized that the gates were at no time locked, but “they were closed and staffed by police officers and staff in case of emergencies.” 

The university did not want people leaving by the west gates because of the fence the university had erected around the oak grove, occupied by protesters. If fans had exited the west gates, they would have walked straight toward the fenced-off area. The other exits led fans away from the protest area. 

Protesters have occupied trees in the grove since December, in opposition to university plans to cut down the trees and build an athletic training facility.  

Last week, the university erected a fence to protect the protesters from fans who may have verbally abused them, Yuen said. 

“I think we could have done a better job of letting people know” the west gates would be closed, Yuen said. “It’s kind of a unique situation.”