BERKELEY — Hundreds of demonstrators who sought to block the exit of University of California regents from their meeting here Friday were out-maneuvered and--in the words of one protest leader--"outfoxed" by a small army of police who kept open the main road leading to the hall.
About 1,000 demonstrators picketed, chanted and sang outside the Lawrence Hall of Science throughout the six-hour meeting, but police barricades corralled them away from the main entrance and its circular driveway.
Stopped by Blockade
Two-hundred protesters who attempted to march up to the building were stopped at the bottom of the hill by a police blockade there, said university spokesman Ray Colvig.
Thirteen arrests were reported. Eight protesters were arrested when they scrambled along a steep hillside, outflanking the police and briefly sitting down on the road leading away from the remote hall. Four others were arrested when they tried to scale the fence of the makeshift holding area where the other eight were moved. Circumstances of the 13th arrest were not immediately explained by authorities.
The demonstrations had been planned for weeks, and participants were bused in from UC campuses across the state. The protesters were countered by 250 police officers from at least six agencies positioned around the remote octagonal concrete building where the regents met.
"We were outfoxed. We weren't as well-prepared as we could have been," said Eric Nakano, 27, a political science student at Berkeley and a rally organizer for a group called United People of Color.
"But I would not say that we're disappointed. The demonstration did not hinge on the blockade."
Hinged on Decision
The demonstration did hinge on whether the regents would accede to the protesters' demand to immediately agree to divest all of the university's $2.2 billion worth of financial interests in companies doing business in South Africa.
To almost no one's surprise, the regents did not vote on the issue after listening to seven speakers address different aspects of the controversy.
Although they could not be heard inside the small auditorium where the meeting was held, the protesters were able to make their point with the regents.
About 300 protesters slept outside the hall Thursday night to greet the regents when they arrived early Friday, and the full contingent booed and yelled at them as they scurried out of the building and drove away in four heavily escorted vans.
One regent, Gov. George Deukmejian, left by helicopter for a meeting in San Francisco a few minutes before the rest of the board members.
Throughout the meeting, protesters chanted almost continuously:
"Embargo South Africa, not Nicaragua!"
"UC regents, have you heard? Berkeley ain't Johannesburg!"
Protesters challenged police twice, first when they surged against one barricade--a large fiberglass whale borrowed from one of the hall's science exhibits--and tried to pin some officers against a wall near the front door.
The whale was draped by university authorities with a banner that quoted one of the demonstrators' heroes, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu: "Carry out the protest with the dignity that is consistent with the cause which you have espoused."
Police reinforcements were called in and used their night sticks to push back the crowd, and a few small fights broke out. No one was arrested then.
Shortly after, a small group chanting "Violence! Disruption!" snatched a wood barricade but was pushed back by police. Again, no one was arrested.
When order was restored, 40 Alameda County sheriffs deputies in bright blue jump suits were positioned shoulder-to-shoulder to protect the door.
Elsewhere along the barricades, protesters and police got along quite well.
At one barricade, a young black protester pleaded with a black police officer to abandon "the wrong side" of the picket line.
"Your brothers are dying and children are starving" in South Africa, the protester yelled, tears streaming down his face. After calming down, the young man apologized to the officer and shook his hand, causing other protesters to applaud.
Another protester offered Oakland Police Sgt. Ray Chenault a red ribbon, the demonstrator's badge of solidarity, and he pinned it on his uniform. The crowd cheered and jokingly chanted, "Police against apartheid!"
After it was over and the regents had left amid furious shouts, some of the demonstrators turned to police, smiled and said, "Bye!"
An Alameda city police sergeant smiled back and said, "Bye. Thank you. And thanks for the overtime."