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Violent Brawl Injures 29 at UC Berkeley

April 04, 1986|LONN JOHNSTON | Special to The Times

BERKELEY — In what University of California officials said was the most violent confrontation on the UC Berkeley campus since the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s, anti-apartheid demonstrators Thursday hurled bottles, rocks and eggs at police, who countered with a baton-swinging charge.

Twenty-nine people were injured and there were 91 arrests, including two for possession of incendiary devices.

An estimated 120 campus police officers and lawmen from surrounding communities broke through a group of protesters who had barricaded themselves behind overturned garbage cans and debris near California Hall, clearing the way for buses carrying demonstrators arrested earlier.

The arrests began peacefully shortly before 5 a.m., but escalated into violence at about 7:30 a.m. when the demonstrators, protesting the university's estimated $2.4 billion in investments in firms that do business in South Africa, attempted to block the buses from leaving the campus for the Alameda County Jail at Santa Rita.

Police Disperse Crowd

UC Berkeley campus police and officers from the cities of Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley dispersed the crowd. Reporters saw one demonstrator clubbed unconscious and several others suffering from head injuries. At least one policeman was hit in the head with a thrown bottle.

A check of three hospitals in the area indicated that 11 civilians, eight of them students, were treated for injuries and later released. University spokesman Ray Colvig said 18 police officers reported injuries, three requiring treatment.

A spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department said 89 people were booked into jail. Bond was set at $7,250 for each protester, each charged with one felony count of resisting a police officer and six misdemeanors: illegal lodging, trespassing, resisting a university official, violating a court order, rioting and failing to disperse, a spokesman said. Arraignment was scheduled today. It was not immediately clear how many of those arrested were students.

In addition, two men were arrested for possession of incendiary devices after officers spotted them carrying the makings of Molotov cocktails near California Hall, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman said. They were identified as William David Cooper, 24, of Oakland and Jeffrey DeGennero, 18, of Emeryville. Neither is a UC Berkeley student.

Police said they had received a threat that California Hall would be burned, and charred paper was found stuffed in gas tanks of three university cars.

After the arrests, campus police razed the cardboard and plywood shantytown erected by protesters on the campus as a symbol of living conditions of blacks in South Africa.

As Bad as in '60s

"This is about as bad as anything I can recall in the '60s," UC Berkeley Chancellor Ira Heyman told a press conference late Thursday.

Thursday's action marked the second time this week that police have broken up a demonstration at California Hall, which houses Heyman's office. Officers arrested 61 people Tuesday morning.

The university, claiming that the shantytown was a fire hazard and interfered with pedestrian traffic, obtained a temporary restraining order in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday limiting the shantytown demonstration.

Police began to move in on demonstrators near California Hall at 4:45 a.m. Thursday, after they refused to obey an order to leave.

Set Up Flood Lights

Police set up huge flood lights to illuminate the scene and officers handed protesters copies of the restraining order, and videotaped the demonstrators, apparently for identification purposes.

The protesters, chanting, "We will never rest until UC divests," surrendered peacefully.

About 50 people were arrested and loaded on one sheriff's bus; about 35 others were photographed and cited at the scene. University Assistant Chancellor John Cummins said they would be arrested later.

That left a crowd of several hundred demonstrators, made up mostly of people in their 20s.

Some of them formed a human barricade in an attempt to block the bus. A second sheriff's bus pulled up at 5:30 a.m.

Rocks, Bottles Thrown

The barrier of demonstrators was reinforced with overturned trash cans and uprooted benches. Rocks and bottles were thrown. Demonstrators in the bus pounded on the bars of the windows and rocked the vehicle.

More young people were arrested and placed in a second bus, and police attempted to drive the vehicles away. More rocks, bricks and bottles were tossed, and the police, with Oakland officers in the lead, charged the crowd.

For about 10 minutes, club-swinging officers battled demonstrators, clearing the street for the buses, which moved through Sproul Plaza and Sather Gate, scene of numerous Free Speech Movement demonstrations and Vietnam protests in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Those who had not been arrested retreated and scattered. By 8 a.m. and the start of classes, the campus was calm.

Protest leaders called for a student strike beginning Monday and pledged to rebuild the shantytown on campus next week.

Regents Adopt Plan

The University of California Board of Regents has adopted a plan for a case-by-case review of UC's holdings in companies doing business in South Africa and has agreed that UC will invest only in companies that treat South African blacks equally and try to improve life for black employees.

Protesters have contended that the board's policy is inadequate because it fails to call for full divestiture of current holdings.

Times staff writer Michael Seiler in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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