Fifty-two students and community members were arrested Thursday night after they attempted to occupy Mrak Hall.
The demonstrators were mostly students and all have been released from custody, according to Yolo County Jail officials. A district attorney will review the case and determine whether or not to press charges against those who were arrested. They said their goal was to send a message to the people who work in Mrak Hall and the UC Regents that budget cuts and fee increases were unacceptable.
“The Regents don’t tell us what to do,” said Sergio Blanco, a junior political science major and one of the main leaders of the day’s protests. “This is our building. This is our university.”
City of Davis police Sgt. Frank Tenedora said those arrested would most likely be charged with trespassing.
The building was locked as it is every day at 5 p.m. Police began gathering at the building before 5 to prepare for a confrontation. Many students were prepared for their arrests, writing the number of legal assistant Chuck Parker on their arms. Inside Mrak, students danced around bongo drums and continued to chant and clap in protest.
“It’s really important that we do not leave this space,” said student Laura Mitchell to the protestors in Mrak.
Around 7 p.m. a squad of officers in riot gear arrived with a paddy wagon and began arresting those who refused to vacate the building. At 7:16 the first arrest was made and students chanted the student’s name, Jose, followed by the chant “Bullshit.” The arrests happened slowly thereafter – one every few minutes. Several protestors left before the arrests began.
The UC Davis Police Department was assisted by police departments from the cities of Davis and West Sacramento, as well as the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office.
Police said the demonstration was peaceful. Despite rumors to the contrary, police said no tasers were used.
“Our only intention is to keep the peace,” said Lieutenant Matthew Carmichael before police made the arrests. “It is not our intent to arrest these students. Our goal is to have a safe conclusion.”
A crowd of 150 to 200 people chanted slogans outside the building, saying “Students united will never be divided!” and “Whose university? Our university!” The group cheered as each demonstrator was brought out of the building in plastic zip tie handcuffs.
Mid-way through the protest, the ASUCD senate arrived to continue their weekly meeting in front of Mrak. Though police officers forbade access to Mrak, senators were brought to the front of the crowd, sandwiched between hundreds of students and the glass doors of Mrak. ASUCD President Joe Chatham briefly addressed the protestors, announcing ASUCD’s stance of solidarity with students. Chatham also encouraged students to bring their message to Sacramento and write to legislators requesting that they restore funding to UC.
The senate then held their meeting, pausing every few minutes for the crowd to cheer for those arrested. They unanimously passed an urgent senate resolution declaring “no confidence” in Mark Yudof and the UC Regents.
“That was a beautiful thing to see happen,” said Senator Mo Torres after the protest.
A small mob formed briefly when a woman was arrested after a minor scuffle with police.
Todd Kolze, a Union of Professional and Technical Employees staffer at UC Davis, was standing nearby and saw the incident. He said police were asking her to move back.
“The cops just jumped on her, they were trying to twist her arm,” Kolze said. “She was kind of caught up in her purse, and they were trying to put the cuffs on her, and she was like ‘just let me get my hands out of my purse,’ and they were like pulling at her and being a little aggressive.”
At the UCLA demonstration on Thursday, one UC Davis student – Danielle Sales – was arrested for resistance. Sales said in an e-mail to KDVS deejays that she was tased and pepper sprayed for chasing the UC Regents and other UC officials to their cars. She was the only protestor to get past the police line to the Regents’ van and when police attempted to restrain her, she kicked one in the face, she said. A message left with the UCLA Police Department to confirm the arrest was not immediately returned.
Janet Gong, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, stayed in her Mrak Hall office until about 8:30 p.m, though she was not part of the demonstration. She said she could hear what was going on downstairs from the fourth floor of the building. Gong had come down earlier and offered to meet with students, but protestors were not receptive. She announced that several administrators will be answering questions for students angered by the fee increases today from 12 to 2 p.m. in the ARC ballroom.
Students continued their protest at 11 a.m. this morning, starting on the quad. Despite the rain, approximately 150 students, staff and faculty attended and marched through campus. The protestors marched to the conference in the ARC ballroom, where they asked questions of administrators Gong and Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs. Though the atmosphere was tense at times, many recognized the need to prevent further increases.
“We need to be thinking about the future, and not who is making money,” said one student protestor.
Protestors hope to attend Chancellor Linda Katehi’s fall dialogue on Monday Nov. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the ARC ballroom.
For video coverage of the demonstrations and arrests, visit AGTV’s facebook page. The California Aggie has more coverage on the regents’ decision and student reaction.
JANELLE BITKER contributed to reporting. JEREMY OGUL and LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.