Eight Protesters Arrested After Attack On UC Berkeley Chancellor's House

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday December 12, 2009 - 12:19:00 PM

Eight people were arrested after protesters stormed UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s house on the north side of campus around 11 p.m. Friday, smashing windows, lights and planters. 

A statement released by UC Berkeley Saturday morning said the group, which was made up of about 40 to 70 people, shouted “No justice, no peace,” and “threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire."  

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the group also threw garbage on the porch. He said the chancellor, who had been sleeping, was awakened by his wife, that they called UC police and when officers showed up, the crowd dispersed.  

Police arrested eight people and took them to Santa Rita Jail.  

They were 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.  

University officials said they thought that at least two of the eight arrested were UC Berkeley students.  

The attack at the chancellor’s residence, known as University House, came after a four-day “open occupation” of UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall, which protesters said had been aimed at “opening the university."  

UC Berkeley police arrested 66 students and other protesters early Friday morning. UC Berkeley officials said they believed that an unauthorized concert was going to take place in the building which “threatened to compromise the ability to conduct final exams." 

At the university’s request, students who did not have outstanding warrants against them were cited and released Friday.  

Denouncing the violent actions at his house, Chancellor Birgeneau said in a statement that, "These are criminals, not activists. The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives. The people involved in this action will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I want to emphasize that they represent an extreme minority of our students. I urge the community and protesters to find more productive ways to express their points of view. The resort to life-endangering violence is never acceptable on our campus. I call upon the majority of the group who have been expressing their point of view in nonviolent ways to condemn the actions of these few individuals."  

Mogulof said nobody was injured in the incident. 

“Although the protesters tried to break through the windows, they were only able to shatter them,” he said. 

The university released an approximate timeline of the Dec. 11 event which showed that the protesters had gathered at 7 p.m. on the south side of Wheeler Hall. In the beginning there were only 10 people, but the number grew to about 50 by 8:22 p.m., with another 30 walking north through Sather Gate. 

About eight minutes later, the group grew to about 100 and marched along the west side of Wheeler. At 8:42 p.m. university officials called the chancellor to let him know that the group might head to his residence.  

The group marched north toward Hearst and at 8:53 p.m. arrived at Casa Zimbabwe. At this point the Berkeley Police Department met with UCPD and assumed responsibility for the event. 

UCPD then returned to the UC Berkeley campus and patrolled buildings to determine whether students were planning another takeover. 

At 11:05 p.m. UCPD and BPD received calls of “a large loud group in the Ridge-Euclid area knocking over garbage cans and newspaper machines.” Callers described them as “rioters,” but didn’t mention any torches. At 11:13 p.m., UCPD received a call from the chancellor who said that a large group had gathered outside University House and was “attempting to force entry.” 

When UCPD arrived at the scene they reported “things on fire being thrown at their cars.” 

The UC Berkeley students arrested at the scene were Zachary Bowin, 21, of Berkeley and Angela Miller, 20, of Oakland. 

Also arrested were Julia Litmancleper, 20, of San Francisco, who identified himself as a UC Davis student; John Friesen, 25, of Fullerton, who was also arrested at Wheeler Hall Friday morning; Donnell Allen, 41, San Francisco; David Morse, 41, of Oakland; Laura Thatcher, 21, of Rolling Hills Estates; and James Carwil, 34, of Brooklyn, New York. 

When asked whether the protesters had made any demands, Mogulof said the group "didn't come to talk, they came to attack the house."  

Although protests outside the chancellor's house are not uncommon, Mogulof said this particular incident "didn't just cross a red line, it leapt across it."  

"This is what it looks like when a student group gets hijacked by extremist and violent elements," he said. "They need to make a choice, because we are going to identify them and remove them from the community."  

Mogulof strongly condemned the incident, saying that student activism had taken a "quantum leap," by endangering the lives of university officials. "We are very lucky that nobody was hurt," he said.