UC police arrest 66 at Wheeler Hall
| 11 December 2009
BERKELEY — University of California, Berkeley, police arrested 65 trespassing students and other protesters this morning (Friday, Dec. 11), the same day the group was set to hold an unauthorized concert inside a classroom building.
The protesters were arrested without incident at 4:40 a.m. for misdemeanor trespassing inside Wheeler Hall and transported to Santa Rita jail. [Update]
The group included approximately 41 individuals believed to be UC Berkeley students and 24 individuals not affiliated with the campus. One additional individual seeking to cause a disruption outside of Wheeler Hall was also arrested, bringing the total number of arrests to 66.
The protesters, who have maintained an illegal, though largely non-disruptive, 24-hour presence inside Wheeler Hall since Monday, claimed to be doing so in the name of "opening the university."
However, later in the week, the group began publicizing plans for an unauthorized all-night concert featuring guest artists and a DJ — an event that threatened to disrupt final examinations that are scheduled to take place in that same building tomorrow.
Campus staff spoke with protest organizers about the issue, but the protesters vowed to go forward. The group's publicity materials stated that the concert would begin Friday night and end at 8 a.m. Saturday and until "the cops kick in the doors." Final examinations are set to begin inside Wheeler Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday.
"Once the group refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized all-night concert in an academic building, we had to take steps to ensure that finals could go forward," said Dan Mogulof, campus spokesman. "Our primary responsibility is to the campus's core academic mission and the 35,000 students who are not participating in the protest."
Campus police and security personnel are currently monitoring access to Wheeler Hall to ensure that only authorized faculty and staff are allowed in. Classroom review sessions that were scheduled to take place inside Wheeler today will instead take place in a nearby building as indicated on fliers posted outside.
Wheeler Hall is one of the campus's largest classroom buildings and is open for campus business daily until 10 p.m. The trespassing group, which ranged from a dozen to several dozen at any given time this week, was not authorized to hold events or to sleep overnight in the building. Police cautioned the group every night this week — including last night — that they were subject to arrest and student conduct code sanctions for their actions.
The protesters entered Wheeler Hall on Monday and since then had set up information tables inside the building, stockpiled food and refreshments, posted banners, strummed guitars, watched movies, played late-night music and declared the building an "open university." Early in the week, they appeared to be taking steps to ensure that their activities would not conflict with classroom review sessions underway inside the building.
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau expressed his appreciation to the UC Police Department, working in collaboration with Campus Life and Leadership staff, "for the very patient and professional way in which they handled this week's events at Wheeler Hall. They managed several days and nights of occupation with foremost concern for the safety of our campus community and early this morning helped bring about a peaceful end to the takeover of Wheeler Hall in a timely way so that final exams can proceed as scheduled tomorrow."