The first helicopter flew over my Jesuit residence in Berkeley this morning at 7am; by noon their drone will be a reminder to everyone for miles of today’s planned “Day of Action” and 2 pm rally by the “Occupy Cal” movement on UC Berkeley’s campus.
A general strike and a Day of Action are set to take place Tuesday on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, beginning at 8 a.m. and to be followed by various activities including public readings, teach-outs and mass gatherings.
Demonstrations will take place throughout the day — including a rally at 2 p.m. and a general assembly at 5 p.m., when protesters will vote on whether to build an encampment. The day’s events lead up to a speech by UC Berkeley professor of public policy and former U.S. secretary of labor Robert Reich, who will deliver his annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture on Sproul Plaza at 8 p.m.
The movement, which began in part as a protest against tuition increases, was galvanized by last week’s allegations of police brutality against students on Cal’s campus during rallies at Sproul Hall; the video footage, seen here, directly contradicts the AP report that officers “nudged” protestors with batons (as Stephen Colbert said, “like when Bull Connor set up that slip-n-slide in Birmingham”).
Adding fuel to the fire, police moved in yesterday in Oakland to clear that city’s Occupy encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza; many of the “Occupy Oakland” protestors have vowed to march to Berkeley today in support of "Occupy Cal."
The campus seems quiet now, but there is a sense of the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins, particularly leading up to the 2pm rally. I went to last week’s late-night Sproul Hall rally on Wednesday with a number of fellow GTU students, and at 1 in the morning there were still several thousand students and perhaps a hundred police officers in riot gear still sharing the tight space in front of Sproul. By this afternoon's rally, those numbers will be multiplied many times over. And, of course, the helicopters will remind protestors and police alike that the whole wide world is watchin’.
UPDATE (4:58pm PST): The afternoon could not have been more peaceful; after a rally with three speakers (including a student who was beaten last Wednesday), the group of several thousand protestors marched through campus and throughout the neighborhoods around the university. Returning to Sproul Plaza at 4:30, they were greeting by several hundred "Occupy Oakland" protestors, and the joined group is beginning its general assembly. Robert Reich is scheduled to speak at 8pm tonight on the steps of Sproul Hall. Because tents are forbidden on Sproul Plaza, the students have assembled various other accoutrements that say home, including, improbably, two gigantic pianos...
SECOND UPDATE (12:20am PST): As of midnight, the tents are back--probably twenty of them, tightly clustered on the steps of Sproul Hall. There are perhaps a thousand students and supporters on and around the steps, but a minimal police presence--only five to ten officers visible, and those in standard police gear.
Jim Keane, S.J.