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After Rally, Protesters Set Up Tents in U.C. Berkeley's Sproul Plaza

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday November 16, 2011 - 12:43:00 AM

Occupy Cal protesters began setting up tents at Sproul Plaza at the University of California at Berkeley campus again tonight after 88.5 percent of the group's general assembly voted to support the action. 

A small group of tents had been set up by 9 p.m. but UC Berkeley police, who thwarted an attempt to set up an encampment last Wednesday, stood by and didn't take any immediate action to remove them. 

Occupy Cal members have accused police officers of using excessive force last week, when 39 people were arrested. 

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes said tonight that, "We don't want a repeat performance of last week and we want to focus on maintaining safety on campus after the shooting at the Haas School of Business." 

She was referring to an incident shortly after 2:15 p.m. today in which campus police shot a man who allegedly was brandishing a gun. The man was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland but there has been no word on his condition. 

Holmes said university officials and police will assess the situation on Sproul Plaza as the evening progresses before deciding how to respond to the new encampment. 

About 3,000 people gathered in Sproul Plaza for the general assembly and to hear a speech by professor of public policy Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. 

Reich was to deliver the 15th annual Mario Savio lecture in honor of the former student who started the free speech movement on the UC Berkeley campus in 1964. 

"It's a wonderful gathering," Holmes said. 

As of 9 p.m. the atmosphere was calm and there weren't any arrests. 

Before the vote on setting up an encampment was taken there were speakers who took both sides of the issue. 

A man who said his name is Alex and who's a graduate student in sociology said he was beaten up by UC Berkeley police last week and he supports trying to set up tents again because they seem to be an important symbol to university officials. 

A woman who identified herself as Amanda said, "We should continue to stay to assure that we have a truly free university." 

She said, "Without tents we can't stay if it rains." 

Amanda also said protesters need food tents and "with tents we can take care of each other and ourselves." 

But a man who said his name is William said setting up tents again and risking arrest might take away from what he said is the group's greatest resource, which he said is its intelligence. 

He said that if the protesters only set up symbolic tents the size of grocery bags they might have more success in getting their overall message across than if they insisted on setting up real tents. 

A woman who announced the results of the vote in favor of setting up the tents said, "The seeds of resistance have been planted and we will not be moved." 

The woman said Occupy Oakland members will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday and every following day even if there are arrests tonight.