Fearing violence, UC cancels Regents meeting; Chancellor pardons arrested UC protesters

UC Berkeley students will decide at tonight's 6 pm General Assembly how to respond to the latest UC actions.

Citing public safety concerns, University of California has canceled a UC Board of Regents meeting set for Wednesday morning at UCSF Mission Bay, a meeting that has been the target of months worth of student organizing to protest tuition hikes and service cuts and which dovetailed with the roiling Occupy movements in the Bay Area.

After police crackdowns on Occupy encampments in Oakland and in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza over the last week, the long-planned showdown with the UC Regents – whom protest groups such a ReFund California say are among the powerful 1 percent that Occupy has targeted and which they blame for deep cuts in California's public university system – was highly anticipated.

OccupyCal protesters have called for a strike on that and other UC campuses tomorrow to protest the violent police expulsion of student protesters at UC Berkeley last week. At a General Assembly at 6 pm today (Mon/14) in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza, attendees will decide how to respond to the cancellation of the meeting.

Other groups that include labor representatives, such as ReFund California, will also independently decide how to proceed. “We're figuring out what to do,” said Jennifer Tucker with ReFund, noting that they will post that information on its website: www.makebankspaycalifornia.com.

A statement issued today by the UC President's Office cited information gathered by UC Police: “From various sources they had received information indicating that rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting.

“They believe that, as a result, there is a real danger of significant violence and vandalism. They have advised us further that this violence could place at risk members of the public, students lawfully gathered to voice concerns over tuition levels and any other issues, the UCSF community, including patients, and public safety officers, UC staff and neighbors of UCSF Mission Bay. They recommended to us, in the strongest of terms, that we cancel or postpone the meeting as scheduled.”

Tucker criticized the move: “We were floored this morning by the announcement that the Regents were canceling their meeting. There had been a statewide organizing campaign for months on this with thousands of students coming in on buses from throughout the state,” she said, adding that, “There will still be protests on Wednesday, but we're not sure what form they will take.”

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, who was out of the country during the violent police crackdown last week, today issued a statement ordering a third-party investigation of the clash and granting amnesty under the Student Code of Conduct to all students who were arrested for blocking police from removing the encampment.

“It was only yesterday that I was able to look at a number of the videos that were made of the protests on November 9.  These videos are very disturbing.  The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community.  Sadly, they point to the dilemma that we face in trying to prevent encampments and thereby mitigate long-term risks to the health and safety of our entire community,” he wrote. “Most certainly, we cannot condone any excessive use of force against any members of our community.”