A UC San Diego student admitted Friday to hanging a rope noose from a campus library bookcase in an act that triggered more protests at a school already roiled by other recent racially charged incidents.
Angry students responded to the incident by storming and occupying the office of UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. The sit-in continued for about six hours Friday and ended without arrests, and a sympathy protest at UCLA lasted about an hour, officials said.
UC San Diego police confirmed that the student contacted them Friday morning and acknowledged responsibility for placing the noose the night before on a lamp fixture atop a seventh-floor bookcase in the campus' main library. Police did not release the woman's name or race or provide any information about a motive.
The incident was the latest in a series of events sparking racial tensions and concern at the San Diego campus. On Feb. 15, an off-campus party, described as a "Compton Cookout," mocked Black History Month, leading to large student protests. A few days later, a campus satirical group defended the party and used a derogatory term about blacks on a campus television show.
Fox said she suspended the student who hung the noose pending further investigation.
Under state law, hanging a noose, a symbol of racism and lynchings for many African Americans, if done with "intent to terrorize," is considered a misdemeanor that can bring up to a year in county jail and a $5,000 fine.
Although the motive was not known, the incident elicited strong concern across the University of California system.
"Whatever the intent of the authors of this act, it was a despicable expression of racial hatred, and we are outraged. It has no place in civilized society and it will not be tolerated -- not on this particular campus, not on any University of California campus," UC President Mark G. Yudof and Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould said in a statement that also promised punishment.
On the San Diego campus, about 300 students gathered for a protest rally at which Fox condemned the noose incident. But some students then occupied her office, complaining that recent events prove that UC San Diego's climate is hostile to blacks. They noted that African Americans make up just 1.6% of the school's undergraduates, a proportion administrators say they will try to raise.
Later, in evident solidarity, a group of black UCLA students organized a brief sit-in outside UCLA Chancellor Gene Block's office. It ended after Block met with them and read a message from all 10 UC chancellors decrying the noose and other "acts of racism, intolerance and incivility." A UC spokesman said the incidents at issue included the recent carving of a swastika on the dorm room door of a Jewish student at UC Davis.
Meanwhile, at UC Berkeley, protests against recent student fee increases turned violent early Friday, as a crowd fought with police and set trash cans ablaze.
About midnight, the Berkeley protesters broke into a former library facility under renovation and shattered some windows and sprayed graffiti inside, police said.
Then a crowd that grew to about 200 moved to the Telegraph Avenue shopping district just off campus and threw bottles and rocks at police, according to Berkeley city police spokesman Andrew Frankel. They set a large dumpster and several trash cans ablaze and shattered a shop's glass door, he said.
One current UC Berkeley student and a former one face charges that include inciting a riot. Authorities said many non-students were involved as well.