Although attention has presently turned to UC Davis—where a police officer drenched seated demonstrators with pepper spray last Friday—the Occupy Cal movement at UC Berkeley headed into its third week with a new tactic and the participation of about 200 people Monday night on Sproul Plaza.
The rain cleared Sunday night, although storm clouds threatened much of the day Monday. On Sproul there were no tents, but protestors rebuilt an elaborate Mandala around the Free Speech Monument memorial, which has become something of an Occupy shrine.
When I went by after dusk and work on Monday the FSM monument was being ringed with softly flickering tea-lights and there were small groups talking, chatting, and watching on the Plaza. A wide banner—Welcome to the Open University—had been hung at balcony level across the columns of Sproul Hall. By the time of the “General Assembly” at 6:00 PM about 40 or 50 participants had gathered to talk. The numbers slowly grew as the meeting went on.
Their discussion process seems cumbersome when described, but actually moves fairly smoothly. Some individuals speak through an amplification system, if one has been set up—others use the “mic-check” repeating system, where they speak a sentence or phrase, and wait while the crowd repeats it. Announcements come first, then proposals.
Each proposal is outlined by its originator. If many people want to speak, there’s a “stack”—a line up of those who want to talk to the crowd, each given the same short period of time. The crowd then breaks into small groups—about 10 people per group—to discuss what they’ve heard and, if needed, take votes.
Monday night they heard a report on the Davis demonstration and encampment, talked about logistics, and agreed to encourage Berkeley people to go to Davis next Monday to support a mass demonstration there, “some sort of solidarity with Davis” as the motion maker put it.
They then segued into what was planned as an all night sleep-in on the Mario Savio Steps. I returned briefly at about 9:45 after going to an off campus meeting. By that time the crowd had grown to somewhere between 160 to 200 participants (I counted twice).
Most were seated on the upper steps of Sproul bundled up with sleeping bags, blankets, or just heavy clothing, listening to a succession of speakers. There was a table where food was available, a few people with musical instruments, and a portable movie screen. Some participants had brought dogs. Laptop computers were ubiquitous.
A volunteer at the “information table” told me that the General Assembly had voted to not put up tents that night, and if anyone tried to, “We would inform them not to put up tents.” But the “Occupy Cal Mass-Sleep Out” advertised widely earlier in the day on flyers through campus was on. I didn’t see any campus police in the vicinity.
Nevertheless, three small pup tents on Sproul steps were occupied on Monday night, with no apparent consequences to the campers.
It was also announced that there’s a new website for the Berkeley movement, “OccupyCal.net”