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Protesters attack Berkeley chancellor’s home

| 12 December 2009

Editor's note (Jan. 22, 2010): For the time being, the Alameda County district attorney is declining to press charges against any of the individuals arrested to date in connection with the Dec. 11 attack on the chancellor’s residence. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office has cited a lack of sufficient evidence, while noting that the UC Police Department investigation continues. According to UCPD Captain Margo Bennett, the inquiry remains a “high priority” as officers work to develop additional information regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the various criminal actions.

At approximately 11 p.m. Friday (Dec. 11), a group of about 40 to 70 protesters stormed Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau's home on the north side of the UC Berkeley campus, smashing planters, windows and lights while shouting, "No justice, no peace." According to the UC Police Department, they also threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire.

Eight people, including two identified as UC Berkeley students, were arrested and charged with rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

The attack at the chancellor's home followed a four-day occupation of the campus's Wheeler Hall building claiming to focus efforts on "opening the university." UC Berkeley police arrested 66 students and other protesters early Friday morning, the same day the group was set to hold an unauthorized concert inside the classroom building, which threatened to compromise the ability to conduct final exams. At the university's request, the UC Berkeley students without outstanding warrants were cited and released later Friday.

Denouncing the violent actions, Chancellor Birgeneau said, "These are criminals, not activists. The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives. The people involved in this action will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I want to emphasize that they represent an extreme minority of our students.

"I urge the community and protesters to find more productive ways to express their points of view. The resort to life-endangering violence is never acceptable on our campus. I call upon the majority of the group who have been expressing their point of view in nonviolent ways to condemn the actions of these few individuals."

UC President Mark Yudof branded the attack "appalling. The behavior as described went far beyond the boundaries of public dissent, and such lawlessness cannot be tolerated. I have spoken with the chancellor to express my support. The matter is now appropriately in the hands of law enforcement authorities."

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the chancellor and his wife Saturday to express concern and condemn Friday night's violence.

"The attack on Chancellor Birgeneau's home is a criminal act and those who participated will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Debate is the foundation of democracy and I encourage protesters to find peaceful and productive ways to express their opinions."