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Protests under way on UC Berkeley campus

By Terence Chea

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 15 2011 2:51 p.m. MST

BERKELEY, Calif. — Anti-Wall Street activists converged Tuesday on the University of California, Berkeley for a day of protests and another attempt to establish an Occupy Cal camp after a failed effort last week led to dozens of arrests.

ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and university employee unions, called for a campus strike, and protesters planned a rally and march to protest banks and budget cuts to higher education.

Dozens of students and faculty members took part in morning teach-ins at an outdoor plaza covered with banners that read "stop the cuts" and "educate the state."

"If the only people who can come here in the future are those who have money, it's going to hurt everyone's educational experience," said Daniel Rodriguez, 28, a graduate student who was conducting an introductory Spanish language class outside.

Bands played on the steps of the plaza, as hundreds of students gathered for a noon-time rally billed as a kickoff for a day of activities that included a speech by UC Berkeley professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

The Berkeley protesters will be joined by Occupy Oakland activists who said they would march to the campus in the afternoon. Police cleared a tent city Monday outside Oakland City Hall and arrested more than 50 people amid complaints about safety, sanitation and drug use.

Occupy Cal activists said they will try again to establish an encampment Tuesday night, when Reich is scheduled to deliver his speech on class warfare on the steps of Sproul Hall.

On Nov. 9, baton-wielding police clashed with protesters who tried to set up tents and arrested 40 people as the university sought to uphold a campus ban on camping.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau launched an investigation into allegations that campus police used excessive force. He said videos of the protests were disturbing, and he plans to grant amnesty to all students who were arrested and cited for attempting to block police from removing the tents.

"The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community," Birgeneau wrote in a letter Monday to the campus.

UC Berkeley officials were determined Tuesday to avoid a repeat of last week's violence, said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.

"We will learn from what happened and do everything that's necessary to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

Police staged a previous raid on the Oakland encampment on Oct. 25, but Mayor Jean Quan allowed protesters to re-establish their tent city. On Monday, however, Quan said officials could no longer ignore the violence and other problems posed by the camp.

Demands increased for Oakland protesters to pack up after a man was shot and killed Thursday near the encampment at the City Hall plaza.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said a strong police presence would remain at the plaza around the clock to make sure protesters didn't roll out tents and sleeping bags again.

Several hundred people regrouped Monday night at the city's library and marched to the cleared plaza. The police chief said they would be allowed to assemble as long as they remained peaceful and did not try to re-establish the encampment.

Associated Press writer Garance Burke in Berkeley contributed to this report.

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