The Day of Action lasted from noon on Wednesday, March 2nd, culminating in a rally on the front steps of Wheeler Hall at 1700 in defense of education. Dozens of student, labor and political groups and hundreds of people showed up for the rally where there were speakers. Shortly after that food was served and a music event started inside the foyer of Wheeler hall that lasted until about 2200.
A few moments after 2200, campus police with the support of Alameda County deputies and Berkeley PD allegedly gave a dispersal order for us to leave Wheeler Hall. About 14 of us remained linking arms on the ground as the police closed in. Other students were filed out of the building by police who were securing the doors.
Protesters outside tried to re-enter the building and the doors were all closed, locking 17 students inside (along with police and a reporter from the Daily Californian who filmed what happened in the front hall). Thirteens students sat in a circle with arms tightly locked, chanting pro-education slogans; 3 protesters waited by the inside of one of the doors, trying to exit as it was locked by police. These 3 were immediately put into riot cuffs and escorted away, despite their expressed non-participation in an occupation.
The 14 students who remained sitting the floor of Wheeler demonstrating for free education, an end to the costly war, and democratic participation in the administration of our education were taken away one by one by the police, placed into plastic riot cuffs and carried or led into a side hall. At least one student received injuries during their arrest. Here we were told that we were under arrest, although we were not read our Miranda rights.
We were all taken one by one into a classroom that was set up to process the arrestees. It was an absurd experience to be sitting with bound hands in wooden desks, facing police officers who sat at the teacher’s desk with the black board behind them. Of the people arrested, most were current students at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, San Jose State, Diablo Valley College, and Laney College in Oakland. Some were former students and none where unaffiliated with the struggle for affordable, quality education for all.
We were lined up next to at least 36 officers (there were 2-3 officers per arrestee) in full riot gear who ran us out to two vans waiting to take us to Berkeley PD. Ten of us were put into one van, 7 in the other and as we pulled away from campus, student supporters ran after the vans while being chased by guarding police.
We remained in the vans for over two hours with the doors closed while they processed us and despite the extreme discomfort and lack of air flow spirits remained high. The last of us (me, to be specific) was processed at 0530 at the Berkeley PD and assigned a bunk. In addition to trespassing, Elizabeth Bamaca, Jason Ozolins and I were suspected of resisting arrest; Elizabeth’s bail was set at $1,000 while Jason and I had our bail set at $10,000.
At 0630 we were awoken for breakfast–although I had expressed that I would refuse to eat animal products, I was given a cheese-filled dish and two bologna sandwiches throughout the day. Fourteen of the protesters, including the 4 who did not participate in the occupation, were released with a citation and for some students a 7 day stay-away from Uc Berkeley at 0930. Elizabeth, Jason, and I were transported to the Alameda “North County” Courthouse in downtown Oakland at 0800 and given a meal.
We remained in holding cells the entire day and had the opportunity to meet with attorney’s who told us that our case would not be heard that day due to the amount of traffic at the courthouse. Many of our fellow inmates (all held on misdemeanor counts) had heard about the protest and were emphatically supportive of the struggle for access to education.
(We began to talk about social issues and the discussion got heated at points. We began to get down to brass tacks, those in power are going to do anything they can to stay in power and the people with do anything they can to stay free. But then the deputy came to the door and called for one of the inmates to come with him. We all got quiet and realized where we were, where we are… a jail. And even though I knew I would eventually go free or with minimal charges [95% chance according to my attorney], I felt the cold concrete walls enter my life as if they had always been there but invisible.)
Jason and I receiving no additional nourishment until 2130. I was eventually released on bail at 2230.
I found out that during this time, 8 protesters has occupied a ledge at the same Wheeler Hall, dropping a banner and employing lock boxes. After negotiations, they descended the 4th story after the school officials agreed to drop charges against students arrested in the 2009 budget cut protests and to allow students and faculty onto the advisory board of Operational Excellence, the department responsible for implementing the budget cuts. The 8 protesters were cited, but not arrested. They are currently being charged.
Jason and Elizabeth were processed at Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin where they remained in a holding cell without bunks for the duration of the night. They were brought back to the courthouse at 0800 and eventually were seen by a judge who ordered them released on their own recognition. They were finally relased from custody after midnight on Saturday, having not stood in the free air for over 48 hours.
They are both safely at home as of the writing of this narrative. Jason is in high spirits though appalled at the reaction of the university’s administration and the police to a peaceful, and Constitutionally protected, protest; I have not been in contact with Elizabeth. All three of us were held for charges that were political in nature, for challenging the status quo in the interest if true democracy. Do not be afraid to follow in our shackled footsteps, the support we received was immense.
Of the 17 arrestees, 14 of us including Jason, Elizabeth and I will be arraigned on Thursday, March 24th. Three students are no longer facing charges.