Even those battle-hardened UC Berkeley students who gallantly put their bodies at risk, occupying Wheeler Commons day and night for a whole week to protest tuition hikes, decided Thanksgiving weekend was too tempting to pass up: they abandoned their protest last Tuesday night.
Yet according to the Daily Californian, over the break, some students and other activists still occupied Wheeler Hall, primarily to protest the tuition hikes but also to join those protesting the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. They also joined a call for the remains of indigenous people in Kroeber Hall to be repatriated. The protest on behalf of Native Americans featured the decoration of a tree outside of Wheeler Hall with tarps and signs; one sign blared: “Thanksgiving: thanks for killing my people.”
The ostensible reason the “Open UC” movement gave for breaking off its courageous effort was to join the California Progressive Coalition to organize and plan a giant rally for Tuesday, December 2, the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement (FSM), and the day that 800 students were arrested at Sproul Hall by police at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown’s father, former Governor Pat Brown. FSM leader Mario Savio told the students inside the hall and the 6ooo students outside that day that they could bring the University to a “grinding halt.” While Joan Baez sang “We Shall Overcome,” the students at the sit-in inside Sproul Hall established the “Free University of California.”
At last Tuesday’s meeting, roughly 50 members of the Open UC issued a statement saying, “We, the Open UC at Berkeley, no longer feel the need to inhabit the Wheeler Commons at all times in order to assert our right to this space, this campus and this public institution. See you Monday!”
The group’s protest began Nov. 19 after the UC Board of Regents voted for a tuition increase of up to 5 percent annually for five years, unless the state throws more funds their way.