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Berkeley Students, ‘Occupy Oakland’ Protesters Join Forces

November 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Protesters and University of California, Berkeley students are shifting strategies as city officials put more pressure on the ranks of Occupy Oakland. Correspondent Spence Michels reports.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Next, an update on the ‘Occupy’ movement, as it faces pushback around the country.

NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports from California on the shifting strategies of protesters and students.

SPENCER MICHELS: There was no word today on what the University of California would do about tents erected last night in front of Sproul Hall on the Berkeley campus. Student demonstrators pitched them, despite police warnings to leave the area.

The new occupation followed a massive evening rally in the plaza that organizers said attracted 10,000 people, about double what the police estimated.

Former Labor Secretary and U.C. economics professor Robert Reich delivered the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, honoring a leader of the 1960s free speech movement.

ROBERT REICH, former U.S. labor secretary: Over the last three decades, this economy has doubled in size, but most Americans have not seen much gain. If you adjust for inflation, what you see is the median wage has barely risen. Where did all the money and resources go?

SPENCER MICHELS: The gathering marked a melding of student protests with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement.

In Oakland yesterday, the plaza in front of city hall was all but deserted, after police rousted demonstrators on Monday and tried to clean up the area. On Tuesday, a contingent of about 500 marched from Oakland toward the Berkeley campus to join forces and causes. The march was peaceful, and police, criticized by some for earlier actions against the protesters, kept the street traffic-free.

Although the students at Berkeley were originally demonstrating over tuition increases and cuts to the university system, the demonstration evolved into something much broader. It was hard to tell the difference between the campus concerns and the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement.

The rally was called a general strike by organizers. One of the leaders was Yvette Felarca, who had been injured in a battle with police earlier in the week which was posted on YouTube. She is a teacher in the Berkeley schools and a member of BAMN, By Any Means Necessary.

She says the two movements are essentially one.

YVETTE FELARCA, By Any Means Necessary: They were never separate. They were always part of the same struggle. I mean, to me, the movement we’re seeing across the country is a movement against the privatization that is happening and the impact of — and the really sick and deforming impact that this — that the capitalist system has created for the entire nation and the world.

SPENCER MICHELS: But for the campus and the protesters, the issue now is what happens next: Will the demonstrations continue, and will they remain peaceful?

YVETTE FELARCA: We have got to win by building a new civil rights movement that is prepared to fight by any means necessary in order to take a stand for democracy, for integration, against racism, and for the right to things like public education and public services.

SPENCER MICHELS: The same questions about the fate of the Berkeley protests also loomed in other cities. In Seattle last night, a similar march turned briefly chaotic as police used pepper spray on the crowd. And, in New York, a few demonstrators returned to Zuccotti Park without tents, after police shut down the encampment early yesterday.

Protesters said they plan a rally tomorrow to disrupt the financial district.