Occupy crowd takes to Berkeley for day of protests

By Terence Chea

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 16 2011 1:40 a.m. MST

Emilie Bratt Jakhelln, and exchange student from Norway, holds a sign in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, Calif. Protesters have descended upon the campus after ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and university employee unions, called for a campus strike to protest banks and budget cuts to higher education.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. — Anti-Wall Street activists began rebuilding their tent encampment on the steps of the University of California, Berkeley student plaza and cheered wildly when former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich implored them to take a moral stand against the very rich owning so much of America's wealth.

A daylong strike and peaceful demonstrations against big banks and education cuts culminated in some 4,000 people rallying at the Reich speech on the steps of the same student plaza that first launched the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in the 1960s.

"The days of apathy are over folks," Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, said to a roaring crowd at Sproul Hall on Tuesday. "We are losing the moral foundation stone on which this country and our democracy were built. There are some people out there who say we cannot afford education any longer, we cannot provide social services for the poor ... but how can that be true if we are now richer than we have ever been before?"

The protests were disrupted earlier in the day by a campus shooting in inside the Haas School of Business. Officials did not know if the suspect was part of the Occupy Cal movement, said Ute Frey, a spokeswoman for the university.

"I just hope it wasn't from the protest or the movement, because that's not what the movement is about," said Sadia Saif, a 19-year-old UC Berkeley sophomore.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, police arrested at least seven people and confiscated nearly a dozen tents at one of several encampments of protesters supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. Police in riot gear surrounded the area as protesters stood nearby pondering their next move.

KGO-TV reported that police moved in on the small encampment along Market Street around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. The camp was set up in front of a Bank of America building and was blocking the sidewalk. The other larger encampments in San Francisco were not raided.

The shooting Tuesday in Berkeley didn't prevent thousands of students and demonstrators from gathering at the university to vote on a list of demands and await Reich's Mario Savio Lecture, named for the political activist and leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. Savio's impassioned speeches on the same steps of Sproul Hall against the Vietnam War and racial inequality prompted thousands of students to join the movement.

"Every social movement in the last half century or more — it started with moral outrage," Reich said, likening Wall Street to the bullies who battered him when he was an especially short kid. "You understand how important it is to fight the bullies, to protect the powerless."

Protesters also cheered as at least 10 tents were constructed on the steps, less than a week after baton-wielding police clashed with people who tried to defy a campus ban on camping.

Elizabeth de Martelly, a 29-year-old UC Berkeley graduate student, said she was inspired by Reich's comments about social movements born from moral outrage and planned to spend the night in the new encampment.

"That said, I want to see the movement to expand beyond encampments," she said amid the music, light shows and dancing. "But this is a powerful thing for the time being."

The Occupy Cal students were joined by hundreds of Occupy Oakland demonstrators who marched the five miles from Oakland to Berkeley along Telegraph Avenue, chanting, "Here comes Oakland!" Police cleared their tent city outside Oakland City Hall on Monday amid complaints about safety and sanitation, and arrested more than 50 people.

Occupy Cal's general assembly voted in favor of inviting the university's chancellor and board of regents to a debate in early December and sending the educational officials a list of demands, including a tuition rollback to 2009 levels.

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