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Students protest repression at Berkeley campus

Published Apr 18, 2010 9:18 PM

University of California-Berkeley students, faculty members and community supporters turned out April 5 in the pouring rain on Sproul Plaza, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in 1964, to support nearly 100 students facing suspension for their participation in student protests last fall. They held a spirited rally despite the poor weather.

WW photo: Judy Greenspan

“When they threaten us with suspension, they threaten our right to protest on this campus,” stated Marika Iyer, one of the Wheeler 33, students who were arrested after taking over Wheeler Hall Nov. 20, to protest dramatic tuition hikes and campus worker layoffs and furloughs. According to Iyer, the protest was a direct response to plans to privatize the university. Iyer called for the “reinstatement of the public on our campus.”

Many more students were arrested throughout the fall for other protests. According to Amanda Armstrong, a graduate student and member of the Wheeler 33, some students were arrested for “posting literature on walls and windows near the Free Speech Movement Café.” Armstrong pointed out the latest fee hikes and wage cuts amount to a direct assault on working people. “And that is why we refuse to suspend our protest.”

Also at the rally were university clerical and maintenance workers who have been hard hit by the furloughs and layoffs. Several professors and lecturers also addressed the demonstrators. Professor Joi Barrios (shown here speaking), a lecturer in Filipino studies, compared the “courage and tenacity” of students in the Philippines with the protestors at UCB.

The UCB Office of Student Conduct is recommending seven-month suspensions for the student protestors. A growing coalition of organizations is demanding that all charges be dropped and that the “student code” be suspended — not the students.