Updated: Berkeley Demonstrators Retreat from Ledge, Cited for Trespassing

By Patricia Decker
Thursday March 03, 2011 - 08:31:00 AM

Eight protesters have retreated from the ledge of the University of California at Berkeley building where they have been perched for several hours, according to campus police. 

The protesters were chained to an antenna on the fourth floor of Wheeler Hall to protest budget cuts to public education in front of a crowd of about 300 people, second-year UC Berkeley doctoral student Callie Maidhof said. 

This afternoon, protesters hung four large paper banners in front of Wheeler Hall listing their demands, including an end to the budget cuts and an end to police brutality. 

UC Berkeley police Lt. Alex Yao said that police were alerted to the safety hazard created by the demonstrators at 1:46 p.m., when there were nine people on the ledge. 

"All through the process, the safety for the demonstrators was a paramount concern and the main concern" for the campus police, Yao said. 

According to Yao, at about 2:50 p.m., one of the protesters climbed back into the building through an open window. Police subsequently detained the demonstrator, Yao said. 

Shortly before 9 p.m., the remaining demonstrators, six of whom were chained together, freed themselves and came down from the ledge after reaching an agreement with campus officials, Maidhof said. 

"It's been declared a victory," Maidhof said. 

The protesters had been calling for a response to the cuts by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Maidhof said it appears that they have succeeded on that front, although the time of the meeting with the chancellor had not been announced. 

A campus representative was not readily reachable for comment on this evening's developments, although Yao said that communication among campus police, campus administrators and the demonstrators resulted in an end to the standoff. 

When the eight remaining demonstrators exited the building, they were arrested, cited for trespassing and released, Yao said. The ninth protestor who has been detained earlier was also cited for trespassing and released, he said. 

"We're very pleased that this situation resolved safely and promptly," Yao said tonight. 

Wednesday night, 17 students were arrested. Since then, 14 of those have been released and were scheduled to appear in court this afternoon. 

One of the students arrested, who was reached for comment by phone this afternoon but requested that her name be withheld, said she joined the protests inside the building at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

According to the student, police first ordered protesters to vacate the building at about 10 p.m., when the building officially closed. 

"We linked arms until police physically separated us," the student said. At about 10:30 p.m., Berkeley police arrested her for trespassing, she said. 

She was released from jail at about 8 a.m., she said, and returned at 2 p.m. for her court appearance, where she was not formally charged. 

The student said she was protesting because she thought the budget cuts would limit an educational system that is already broken. 

"I want people to realize we do have access to education and access to public space because we're all human beings," she said. "We'll put chains on our bodies it they put chains on our minds." 

According to Maidhof, students involved in campus protests in late 2009 have yet to resolve related charges and some are still awaiting hearings. Now, Maidhof said, those students will be offered to be put on probation for the remaining five weeks of the semester. 

Several agencies assisted the campus police with the response, including the Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville police departments, Yao said.