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Hunger Strike on UC Berkeley Campus Enters Second Week

By Bay City News, Riya Bhattacharjee and Online Sources
Tuesday May 11, 2010 - 11:14:00 AM
via Alejandro Garcia: Students march to Chancellor's house.
via Alejandro Garcia: Students march to Chancellor's house.

Hunger strikers at the University of California at Berkeley were still on campus as of Monday night. They marched with their supporters to the Chancellor's residence about 7 p.m. after campus police dislodged them from their previous locations. Strikers posted this video of the march on their Facebook page on Monday night. 

A twitter message at about 5 pm said "Admin has contacted us: there will be a meeting only if we end up the hunger strike." “ 

They say they’re doing this for our health and for the good of the students” Marco Amaral, a freshman who is helping to organize the strike said in a statement. “But if Chancellor Birgeneau really cared about the health of the students he wouldn’t be forcing those on the strike to leave in this manner. If the chancellor truly cared about the students and workers of this campus he would meet our demands and end the strike.”  

Claire Holmes, the university's assistant vice chancellor of public affairs, said yesterday that about 40 people tried to block the doorway of California Hall Monday morning but campus police made sure the building is still accessible. 

However, Holmes said the situation at the front entrance to California Hall was "awkward" so people are entering and exiting the building at other entrances. 

The attempt to block California Hall came several hours after campus police moved students who have been on a hunger strike for the past week to leave the spot in front of the building where they have been camped out.  

About 17 people have been refusing to eat until the school agrees to publicly oppose Arizona's new immigration law that empowers local law enforcement to question people they believe may be in the U.S. illegally.  

Police woke the demonstrators at 5:45 a.m. Monday and told them to disperse within 20 minutes or they would be arrested, according to Rufino Romero, who is one of the students on strike.  

The students moved their things, but then returned to their spot, Romero said. Holmes said police helped the demonstrators move their things this morning and the university had a physician on hand to make sure the demonstrators were healthy. 

She said the move was peaceful and there was no arrests, but confirmed that the demonstrators returned to the lawn in front of the building soon after they were moved.  

Holmes said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau strongly denounced Arizona's immigration law Friday, which is one of the protesters' demands. 

Holmes said Birgeneau, who is out of the country on university business, talked to the hunger strikers by phone on both Saturday and Sunday and has agreed to some of their other demands but not all of them.  

She said, "We're trying to work with them" and "there's been quite a bit of back and forth."