Protesters in the burgeoning "Occupy Cal" movement at the University of California at Berkeley are continuing to congregate outside Sproul Hall on campus today after demonstrations on Wednesday drew thousands and resulted in dozens of arrests.
As of 3:30 p.m. today, demonstrators remained on Sproul Plaza continuing to occupy the space and waiting for today's General Assembly meeting at 6 p.m., though no tents were pitched on the lawn outside of the administration building.
Two UC Berkeley police officers were standing guard in the area where protesters tried to set up tents Wednesday, said Ramon Quintero, who was arrested during Wednesday's demonstrations.
Quintero was one of 39 protesters arrested throughout the day Wednesday, in demonstrations that lasted well into the night. Quintero was arrested during initial confrontations between police and protesters during the afternoon, when police used clubs to break through lines of protesters who linked arms to protect several tents pitched on the lawn.
Quintero said he moved to stand in front of the police because he saw a young girl he knew and was worried she would be hurt as police in riot gear moved in.
He said he was worried she would not be prepared for the police response. "I've been here for three years and I know the UCPD are more violent than any police department I've seen in action," Quintero said.
Quintero said he is currently a research fellow at the university, and received a degree from UC Berkeley in geography and ethnic studies in 2010. He said that the confrontation with police left him bruised and sore today, and that when police attempted to arrest him they tore his clothes off and ripped his hair. He said that he spent hours in a small holding jail used by the UC Berkeley police, and was released at about 2:30 a.m. today.
He views the confrontations as an attempt to stifle free speech on campus. "Of course that has to be challenged, because we can't let people in power define what free speech is," Quintero said.
Quintero said a total of six were arrested in his group, identified by UC Berkeley police as students Sonja Diaz, Zahinde Atli, Timothy Fisken, Zakary Habash, and one faculty member, English professor Celeste Langan.
Throughout the night, 33 more were arrested as protesters continued pitching tents in the plaza, and police moved in to tear them down. Of the 39 arrested, 32 were students at the university, and six had no affiliation with the campus.
Officials said that all of those arrested were charged with willfully obstructing, interfering, or delaying of police action, and all but one were cited with failure to leave an unlawful assembly. Two of those arrested were charged with battery on a police officer.
Demonstrations started with picketing and "teach-outs" in the morning, followed by a rally and brief march at noon, and a general assembly meeting at 1:30 p.m., when protesters voted overwhelmingly to establish an encampment. Protesters were warned by an email from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Monday that camping on campus property and occupying buildings would not be tolerated.
At one point during the confrontations, Harry le Grande, vice chancellor of student affairs, addressed the crowd and told protesters they could gather in Sproul Plaza 24 hours a day for the week, but no tents, sleeping bags, or sleeping would be permitted.
After a vote, protesters rejected the proposal, and continued attempting to establish a camp that police would later move in to tear down.
A handful of protesters were still in the plaza early this morning, guarding a lone tent that still remained on the steps of Sproul Hall. Protesters have vowed to gather throughout the day, and to hold a general assembly meeting tonight at 6 p.m.
Protesters have also called for a student strike on the UC Berkeley campus for Tuesday, and are planning protests to coincide with the UC Regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay on Nov. 16 and 17 to protest proposed tuition and fee hikes, and to more generally protest cuts to public education throughout California.