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Protesters attack Berkeley chancellor's home

Eight people were under arrest Saturday after protesters broke windows, lights and planters outside the home of the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
University Cuts Protests
Debris was still strewn around the campus home of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Saturday after Friday night's attack.Noah Berger / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Eight people were under arrest Saturday after protesters broke windows, lights and planters outside the home of the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

University spokesman Dan Mogulof said 40 to 70 protesters also threw incendiary devices at police cars and the home of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau about 11 p.m. Friday. There were no fires or injuries.

The protest at the chancellor's home came late the same day that police arrested 66 protesters at a campus classroom building that was partially taken over for four days.

The protesters are demonstrating against state funding cuts that have led to course cutbacks, faculty furloughs and sharp fee increases.

"The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives," Birgeneau said in a statement issued through the university.

The eight were arrested on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

They include two Berkeley students and one from the University of California, Davis, Mogulof said. Of the remaining five, four had San Francisco Bay-area addresses, while one is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Their ages ranged from 20-41. At least three are women.

Protests 'hijacked,' UC spokesman says
"This is what it looks like when a student group gets hijacked by an extreme and violent element in its ranks," Mogulof said.

An Associated Press freelance photographer saw at least four broken decorative light globes, overturned vases and plants, and shattered terra cotta planters. At least two windows were broken, one boarded over, the other shattered in a spider web pattern. Birgeneau was in his living room, but did not speak to reporters.

The protesters shouted "no justice, no peace" as they attacked the home, Mogulof said.

The two incidents are the latest in a series of demonstrations in which students have taken over buildings at California State University and University of California campuses to protest campus cuts and rising fees.

"I'm shocked that it happened," said Chengwin Saephanh, a sophomore bioengineering major who earlier participated in two peaceful classroom walkouts. "I'm pretty upset about the fees, but I don't know what the goals are of those who were at the house. I wouldn't go into anything violent, I just participate in the peaceful ones."

Agnes Balla, a junior public health major, walked out of classes weeks ago, joining peaceful protests that she said united the campus community and brought attention to a serious problem.

"With this turn of events, that's not what's going on anymore. It's people retaliating against what's going on, and that's not going to bring change," Balla said. "I'm in support of bringing attention to this, but it's gone too far."

UC system President Mark Yudof, in a statement, called the latest attack "appalling" and "far beyond the boundaries of public dissent."

The violence may force the universities to increase security statewide, said Yudof spokesman Peter King.

"Certainly an event like this doesn't go unnoticed," King said. "We endeavor to keep our people secure, not only for their sake but for the sake of everybody in the community."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature cut spending for California's two public university systems by 20 percent to help balance the state's budget. Community colleges were cut about 8 percent.

30 percent fee increase
The UC system, with about 220,000 students, raised student fees 15 percent since January and plans another 15 percent increase. The CSU system, the nation's largest with 450,000 students, and the community college system also raised fees.

"Obviously, the faculty don't advocate for violence," said Alice Sunshine, spokeswoman for the California Faculty Association that represents most CSU professors. "We try to steer them into protests that express how to make things better, but I think some of the students are really angry."

Neither Mogulof nor Sunshine could say why so many non-students were among those arrested.

"It's a big public issue for the entire state," Sunshine said. "There's wider interest than just the students themselves. The future of higher education in California is at stake."

Eight to 10 campus police officers were the only law enforcement to respond to the chancellor's home.

Police ended the occupation of the campus's Wheeler Hall earlier Friday. They arrested 65 people inside on misdemeanor trespassing charges, including about 24 who were not students, Mogulof said. One person was arrested outside the hall on suspicion of inciting.

He said the university decided to clear the building after protesters began breaking into locked classrooms and publicizing an all-night hip-hop party Friday.

The Wheeler Hall protesters were cited and released at the university's request, but those at the chancellor's home "will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Birgeneau said.

Mogulof urged students to return to nonviolent protests.

"There's no place in our community for such extremism," he said.