Monday, May 10, 2010

UC Berkeley hunger strikers resisting pressure from police to leave

BERKELEY — A 22-year-old UC Berkeley student was hospitalized Sunday after going six days without food as part of a hunger strike against university policies on student conduct, immigrants rights and worker layoffs.

The 19 students and workers on a hunger strike have been protesting on the front lawn of California Hall, where school administrators work, since last Monday. Police this morning tried to remove the protesters, but they're refusing to leave. Police have taken away their belongings, including sleeping bags, tarps and tables.

A rally has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today to increase the pressure on the administration. In addition, regularly scheduled demonstrations have been held daily at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Marilyn Monroy, a senior protester who is drinking only water, said she woke up Sunday morning with nonstop vomiting and went to Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley.

She was treated with intravenous fluids and released and is back on strike on campus.

The students want the school to denounce a new Arizona law that allows police to question the citizenship status of people they suspect of crimes, make the school a sanctuary for undocumented residents, drop charges against students who occupied Wheeler Hall last fall, change the student code of conduct and reinstate laid off custodial workers.

The school has denounced the Arizona law and has committed to revising the student code of conduct but will not drop


charges against the students or create a sanctuary on campus, said university spokeswoman Claire Holmes.

"We are concerned we could make things worse by declaring the campus a sanctuary because it would draw more attention to the campus," Holmes said. "It's not our priority to address immigration violations on campus." Holmes said the school will remove the protesters if they try to set up another encampment.

Monroy, whose parents came to the United States from Mexico, said she is committed to getting the university to more strongly denounce the new Arizona law, which some say will lead to racial profiling by police.

She also is being disciplined for occupying Wheeler Hall last fall and wants the school to drop the charges against her and others.

"My parents came from Mexico and I have family in Arizona, so as a student of color it is my responsibility to create the awareness of what is going on there," Monroy said.

Monroy said although the school is withholding her diploma for occupying Wheeler Hall last fall, she will still be able to graduate. Her professors have given her extensions on final exams, which are this week.

Maricruz Manzanarez, a senior custodian, joined the hunger strike and as of today has not eaten for six days.

"I was hoping the administration would work with us and give us what we want because it's doable," said Manzanarez. "We want them to bring back 26 laid off custodial workers and drop the charges against the students for occupying Wheeler Hall." Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer said in a statement that the school has stopped talking to the students about their demands as long as they are on hunger strike.

Students met with administrators, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau by telephone, for about two hours Saturday, but did not come to any new agreements.

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