Berkeley: Police Arrest 17 Protestors Occupying Wheeler Hall

By Kristen Peters (BCN)
Thursday March 03, 2011 - 09:12:00 AM

Officers arrested 17 protestors that refused orders to leave a University of California at Berkeley campus building on Wednesday night, according to a campus police officer. 

At about 4:30 p.m., hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the steps outside of Wheeler Hall, a building near the center of the campus, UC Berkeley police Officer Alex Yao said. 

Yao said that the group congregated as part of a statewide day of action, rallying against budget cuts to public education. 

Callie Maidhof, a second-year Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, said that the demonstrators gave speeches and chanted on the south side of the hall before moving inside the lobby of the building about an hour later. 

Once inside the hall, Maidhof said that student bands began performing and, while the chanting persisted, the demonstrators remained nonviolent. 

"There were Aztec dancers and bands that serenaded the crowd," Maidhof said. "People were eating dinner provided by a campus organization. Everything was very civil." 

At about 9:30 p.m., officers from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and campus police alerted protestors that the hall would be closing in 30 minutes, urging those inside to leave voluntarily or risk arrest, Yao said. 

When the hall closed, Maidhof said that she saw nearly 30 police officers dressed in riot gear headed toward the building. 

"They went inside, geared up for a rowdy crowd, with handfuls of zip ties," Maidhof said. 

Officers arrived inside the hall's lobby and found 17 protestors sitting in a circle with their arms linked, Yao said. 

"People were pressed up against the doors and some even tried to pry them open," Maidhof said. "All you could hear was the students screaming 'no cuts, no fees, education should be free.'" 

Police arrested all of the demonstrators for trespassing, some of which resisted officers' orders, Yao said. No injuries were reported, he added. 

"Even though they have the right to demonstrate, they also need to abide by university conduct and state law," Yao said. 

The demonstrators were transported to Alameda County Jail, according to Lt. Adan Tejada of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. 

While 14 of the protestors were cited and later released, Tejada said that three would remain in jail, awaiting a court hearing scheduled for this morning.