Thousands gathered on Sproul Plaza last night after a day of campus teach-ins and protests to re-ignite the “Occupy UC” movement. The evening “General Assembly” of protesters was preceded by marches through Berkeley that originated on, and returned to, the campus and the arrival of a contingent that had marched from the dispersed Occupy Oakland encampment.
After work I watched the beginnings of the General Assembly, which convened at 5:00 pm. I returned to see the conclusion hours later when there was a mass vote to reinstall a UC-prohibited tent city on Sproul Plaza. The vote to start the encampment again, with tents, was endorsed by 1,267 individuals, which organizers said represented 88.5% of those voting.
I estimated that more than a thousand people were sitting in Sproul Plaza at the time, with probably another thousand or more others standing on the periphery. The crowd grew as the night went on.
“Seeds of resistance have been planted, and we will not be moved” one of the Assembly facilitators told the crowd, to cheers. “Power to the people, y’all. We’re here to stay,” concluded another as the tents were set up. Immediately after the vote tents appeared in the middle of the crowd and Plaza.
The Assembly was followed by the annual Mario Savio Young Activist awards program, which decamped from its scheduled venue in Pauley Ballroom to the steps of Sproul. Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario’s widow, spoke, as did all three of this year’s winners.
They were followed by Professor Robert Reich who spoke about the growing imbalance of economic power in the United States, concentration of wealth, and the consequent dangers to representative democracy. He told the Occupy protesters he was proud of them, of Berkeley, and their movement.
As Reich finished his remarks and three UC Police officers videotaped the crowd from the Pauley Ballroom balcony of the Student Union, several tents were shifted through the crowd from the center of the Plaza to the Mario Savio Steps immediately in front of Sproul Hall.
The crowd was in an upbeat, even festive, mood. When “I Will Survive” was played over the sound system, many broke into dancing on the steps. Although there were Occupy Oakland protesters in the crowd, and a fair number of older adults, it was manifestly a UC student occasion; it was readily apparent that the vast majority of those present were current students, both among the participants, and the curious spectators.
Many raised their hands when asked by the facilitators if they were willing to spend the night.
I’ll write in more detail about the evening and what the speakers said at a later date, when I have the chance. In the meantime, here’s a sequence of photos from the evening.