Flash: Some Wheeler Hall Protesters Released After Arrest

Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow
Friday December 11, 2009 - 01:36:00 PM
UC Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof answers questions from protesters during Friday's noon rally outside California Hall.
Raymond Barglow
UC Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof answers questions from protesters during Friday's noon rally outside California Hall.

Sixty-one of the 66 protesters who were arrested at Wheeler Hall Friday morning are expected to be cited and released from Santa Rita jail by the end of the day, UC Berkeley officials said around 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11.  

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that of the 66, only eight had bail requirements because “they had previously been cited for similar actions on campus.” Mogulof said university officials had requested that bail requirements be dropped for those among the eight who were eligible and didn’t have outstanding warrants and other criminal issues.  

Three were cited and released, but four could not be released without bail because they are out of state, Mogulof said. Bail has been set at $1,500.  

The fifth was on felony probation and could not be released either. Mogulof said it’s possible that there is a “no bail” condition on his probation record. None of them are UC Berkeley students.  

Students rallied outside UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office at California Hall around noon to protest the arrests.  

Mogulof told the Daily Planet that Friday morning’s arrests “went down very quietly because most of the protesters had been sleeping.”  

The ACLU of Northern California sent a letter today to the Chief of UC Berkeley police Mitch Celaya, as well as to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau inquiring why some protesters had been taken to Santa Rita jail to be held in custody, rather than being issued citations.  

The letter, from ACLU staff attorney Michael Risher, urges them to make sure that campus police “are deciding whether to make custodial arrests based on proper facts, and not based on any intent to chill or prevent constitutionally protected expressive activities or to retaliate against demonstrators for their speech.”  

Risher said that ACLU was concerned that the actions taken by UC police might violate the protesters’ constitutional rights.  

“We do not know the details surrounding today’s arrests, but it is troubling that so many demonstrators who seem likely to have committed nothing more than misdemeanors are nonetheless being jailed,” Risher’s letter said.  

About a 100 people showed up for the half-hour rally today afternoon, following which about 50 surrounded Mogulof to talk about the arrests for 45 minutes.  

The students asked Mogulof why the university had allowed the students to stay at Wheeler until now and whether the university plans to work with them to set up talks.  

Mogulof asked the students to set up a date and time for discussions with university officials.  

When asked about the reason behind the arrests, Mogulof said the administration had been alarmed by the activists’ announcement of a hip-hop party that had been advertised as lasting “until the cops kicked the doors in.”   

Mogulof said that when a representative from campus administration went to talk to the protesters at Wheeler to ask them whether they would reconsider their decision, their designated intermediary said they "didn't see any way they would come down from it."  

However, Jeremy Bernes, a graduate student in English, took exception to Mogulof’s account.  

“We did want to hold the party, but I’m sure that [our designated intermediary] conveyed the sentiment that all of us [in Wheeler] had expressed: We would guarantee that Wheeler would be clean and functional by 6 a.m., well before final exams on Saturday morning.”  

Mogulof told the Planet that had there been such a guarantee, things might have had a different outcome.  

Mogulof told the Planet that although there had been no damage to Wheeler Hall, the protesters had left parts of it in a mess.  

“We are working on cleaning up the place and setting up the tables,” he said. “We believe we can hold finals there tomorrow as scheduled.”  

Finals are scheduled to go on until Dec. 19, after which the campus will go on winter break.  

When asked why the police had picked the wee hours of the morning to make the arrests, Mogulof told the crowd he didn’t have an explanation for that.  

Mogulof agreed that better communication was necessary between the university administration and the protesters. In response to calls for transparency in UC’s budget, Mogulof said the university is planning to release detailed figures soon.  

Students said the musical performance scheduled for this evening would be held at another location, but that participants would meet at Wheeler at 7 p.m. before going to the event.  

Boots Riley of the Coup is among the scheduled performers.