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Calif. Occupy protests focus on cuts to education

D.J. App, of Berkeley, sweeps the Occupy Cal campsite in Sproul Plaza on the campus of University of California at Berkeley, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, in Berkeley, Calif. Students held the campsite despite threats from the university's police that the lodging was illegal. D.J. App, of Berkeley, sweeps the Occupy Cal campsite in Sproul Plaza on the campus of University of California at Berkeley, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, in Berkeley, Calif. Students held the campsite despite threats from the university's police that the lodging was illegal. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
By Beth Duff-Brown and Terry Collins
Associated Press / November 16, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO—Police arrested a number of Occupy protesters and students Wednesday who stormed into a downtown San Francisco bank and shouted slogans as they tried to set up camp in the lobby.

The arrests came after more than 100 demonstrators rushed into a Bank of America branch, chanting "money for schools and education, not for banks and corporations."

Police officers in riot gear cuffed the activists one-by-one as hundreds more demonstrators surrounded the building, blocking entrances and exits.

Deputy Police Chief Kevin Cashman said 80 arrests were expected for trespassing. Suspects were taken to jail, cited and released.

Elsewhere, students and anti-Wall Street activists settled into a new encampment at the University of California, Berkeley, and visited the state Capitol to demand the restoration of funding for higher education.

At Berkeley, police watched over about two dozen tents that were pitched Tuesday night on a student plaza despite a campus policy that forbids camping. Police warned that protesters could be arrested if they didn't leave.

Seth Weinberg, a 20-year-old cognitive science major, said he slept in a tent on Sproul Plaza to press the university to lobby for more public education funding.

"There should be a way for anyone who wants to go to college if they choose to," Weinberg said. "What the university doesn't understand is that we are not camping out. This is a constant protest."

In Sacramento, about 75 student leaders and a few administrators from UC Berkeley and the University of California, Davis lobbied lawmakers and the governor to allocate more money to education.

Adam Thongsavat, student body president at UC Davis, called on lawmakers to be "more courageous, more aggressive and more thoughtful."

"Come to our campuses and see how your actions affect us," he said. "I want you all to tell us why prisons deserve more spending than universities."

University of California President Mark Yudof issued a statement of support for the students' "passion and conviction" in support of public higher education.

"We also suffer together the strains caused by what has been a long pattern of state disinvestment in the University of California," he said.

Protesters in San Francisco marched through downtown in a demonstration partly organized by ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and university employee unions.

The group bused in protesters from UC Berkeley, the University of California, Merced and other schools to join Occupy San Francisco activists as they marched to the bank and the state building.

The marches in support of higher education came as police in San Francisco and San Diego cleared encampments in those cities, citing public health and safety concerns.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee met with Occupy SF activists to let them know an expansion of their camp would not be tolerated.

"I did give the order to our police chief this morning that there cannot be an expansion of what we're perceiving to be a health hazard in the city," Lee said after the meeting.

Gene Doherty, a media contact for Occupy San Francisco, said the group was surprised by the early morning raid on the encampment.

"Because of this morning's meeting, we thought that the city would be acting in good faith," Doherty said.

Police once again broke up the Occupy encampment in San Diego that officials said posed a growing problem with violence and mounting trash.

Nine people were arrested and one other was cited and released during the 2 a.m. raid.

As some encampments came down, the tent city at UC Berkeley remained after a day of activism against big banks and education cuts culminated with about 4,000 people rallying Tuesday night at a speech by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Occupy Cal's general assembly voted to invite the university's chancellor and Board of Regents to a debate in early December and to send the educational officials a list of demands, including a tuition rollback to 2009 levels.

They also voted in favor of rebuilding their encampment despite earlier violence on Nov. 9, when police jabbed students with batons and arrested 40 people as the university sought to uphold the campus ban on camping.

Alyssa Kies, a 20-year-old geography major, said there was a dance party and lots of discussion throughout the night on the UC Berkeley plaza.

She said she wasn't worried about police action because the political climate was too precarious for any sort of violence to be accepted.


Duff-Brown reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Garance Burke in San Francisco, Julie Watson in San Diego and Juliet Williams in Sacramento also contributed to this report.