Police resorted to violence and arrested 39 Occupy movement protesters on the University of California at Berkeley campus on Wednesday as they attempted to dismantle “Occupy Cal” encampments. Videos of the protest shows police in riot gear jabbing and hitting apparently peaceful protesters with batons and tearing down tents and camping equipment.
According to reports, about 3,000 people attended a midday rally on the UC Berkeley campus at noon yesterday. A general assembly formed soon after voted to establish an encampment, and soon skirmishes with officers from UC Berkeley and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office erupted as protesters attempted to block them from tearing down tents.
University officials reported six students and one faculty member were arrested for failure to disperse and/or interfering and resisting police activity, and one student was additionally charged with assaulting an officer.
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Police set up a skirmish line and confronted about 300 protesters later in the evening as the school administration decided to allow protesters to maintain a 24-hour presence as long as they did not set up tents and camping equipment. The protesters voted not to comply and set up a camp dubbed Occupy Cal.
Thirty-two more protesters were arrested in a second round of clashes as a line of about 50 riot police attempted to clear tents set up by protesters, according to student newspaper The Daily Californian.
Rallies, teach-ins and attempts to establish encampments were organized throughout the day on Wednesday as students and allies from Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland acted in solidarity with the broader Occupy movement and protested financial policies that they say have caused deep cuts in state education spending.
Berkeley activists are currently challenging a proposed 81 percent fee hike at their school.
“[Police] were pulling people to the floor and hitting them with their nightsticks, their batons as they were on the floor,” student Erick Uribe told Russia Today. “… They hit me repeatedly on the arms, on the torso, in the stomach and they arrested more students and they beat the students.”
Uribe said protesters told police that they were nonviolent but the police continued to use “brutal” tactics.
In one video on YouTube, protesters chanted, “stop beating students,” as police pushed them back with nightsticks and dismantled a tent.
Lt. H. Jacobson, a spokesperson for the Alameda Sheriff’s Office, said his department was assisting UC Berkeley police and directed questions about police violence to the campus police. A spokesperson for the UC Berkeley police department has not responded to an inquiry from Truthout.
Citing violations of free speech rights and the use of excessive force, the Berkeley City Council refused to renew mutual aid agreements that allow the campus police and other police stations to assist each other during demonstrations, natural disasters, and other large events, according to the Mercury News.