Anti-apartheid demonstrators formed a human barricade and closed the University of California, Berkeley, administrative headquarters for 6 1/2 hours Tuesday before campus officials called in police who forced a wedge through the blockade.
As chants of “Police off campus!” and “Divestment now!” rose from a crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators and onlookers at mid-afternoon, about 70 police officers cleared a path to the south entrance of California Hall by ordering people to move and nudging them with their night sticks.
Other officers then escorted, and sometimes carried off, 12 protesters who chose to be arrested rather than comply with orders to clear the doorway.
Administrative staff members then walked a gauntlet of jeering demonstrators and into the building. Some of their colleagues refused to go with them.
Promise to Resume Siege
Organizers of the demonstration, who are calling for the university to sell the $2.4 billion in stock holdings it has in companies that do business in South Africa, proclaimed victory and promised to resume their siege early today.
“I’m surprised they waited this long,” said Sara Kelley of the United People of Color, the largest campus organization spearheading the demonstration. “We knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but when,” she said of the police intervention. “It’s peaceful and that really proved our point. We worked a long time for this. This is great.”
In a pre-dawn confrontation near California Hall last Thursday, 29 people were injured and 91 arrested in what Chancellor I. Michael Heyman called the most violent confrontation on the Berkeley campus since the Vietnam War era.
UC officials and protest leaders said they worked to avoid a similar melee on Tuesday.
After about 400 demonstrators formed human blockades at the four entrances to California Hall at around 7 a.m., Heyman met with leaders but failed to reach an agreement to open the building, which houses 200 employees and Heyman’s own office. After talks broke off, he issued a statement declaring that the closure of California Hall threatened the academic and administrative functions of the university.
“When that occurs, I want to be patient and thoughtful and try to avoid force and violence,” he said. “I fervently hope that this view is shared by those who are protesting and if arrests become necessary, (that) those arrested, in the true spirit of nonviolent disobedience, do not resist.”
The 12 people arrested were cited for blocking entrance to a public building and released. Ten identified themselves as students and two were non-students, according to Ray Colvig, administration spokesman.
Colvig said that UC police may be called in early today if protesters attempt another blockade. “We might already have police there to make sure we can keep one entrance open,” he said. “It’s serious to have a building like that shut down.”
The protesters started their siege an hour before workers were due to arrive. UC police, backed by officers from the City of Berkeley and Alameda County, kept a low profile throughout the morning as the rally took on a festive mood.
Jugglers and musicians entertained the demonstrators. Protesters sunbathed, and dogs played among marching pickets. Some of the dogs wore stickers identifying them as “Outside Agitators.”
The violent confrontation last week was touched off by a dispute over a shantytown erected by demonstrators as a symbol of the living conditions of blacks in South Africa. University officials called the shantytown a fire hazard and ordered it torn down.