UC Berkeley Hunger Strike Ends with Meeting

By Bay City News
Thursday May 13, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM

Protesters ended a 10-day hunger strike yesterday on the University of California at Berkeley campus during a meeting with the university chancellor and top administrators that both sides called productive. 

The protest was in part a response to Arizona's new immigration law, which allows police to question people they believe to be in the country illegally. On Friday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau publicly denounced the law. 

That denouncement was one of a number of demands protesters made since beginning the hunger strike last week outside of California Hall. 

The group's other demands included making the UC Berkeley campus into a "sanctuary campus" for students and workers, dropping the charges against the students involved in a protest late last year at Wheeler Hall, revising student code of conduct rules, and bringing back laid-off workers. 

Protesters held a rally Tuesday urging Birgeneau to meet with them to address their demands, and the chancellor met the group's negotiators at 4 p.m. today inside California Hall, said Marco Amaral, a spokesman for the hunger strikers. 

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes tonight called the meeting "very productive'' and said the university and protesters came to several agreements that will be officially worked out over the next week in a "common statement of understanding.'' 

Among the agreements, Holmes said the university will expand a task force that looks at issues surrounding undocumented students and workers, will continue to examine the student code of conduct, and will continue to work with labor management to address concerns regarding layoffs. 

Holmes said the university would also continue to consider community service as a substitute disciplinary measure for those involved in the protests at Wheeler Hall.  

Following the meeting, Amaral said the protesters and the university had found a "middle ground'' and he was happy with the outcome, but added, "Our biggest accomplishment was within our community, raising awareness.'' 

He said fasters broke their strike by eating corn. 

On Tuesday, eight of the 15 students and workers who had been participating in the hunger strike since the beginning started a "dry strike," meaning they did not eat or drink until it ended today, Amaral said. At least 20 people partook in the strike. Amaral said four were hospitalized, but returned for today's gathering.