At least six nine protesters at UC Berkeley have climbed to the top of Wheeler Hall and chained themselves to an antenna and others are walking freely on a high ledge. University officials have canceled classes in the building, according to various Twitter messages.

“This is a serious safely issue,” university spokesman Dan Mogulof told KTVU.com.

The protesters demand, according to a Daily Cal tweet: retract 32% fee increases, more democratic UC leadership, drop student conduct charges, end Operational Excellence.

UPDATE: 7:25 pm. At least two television news helicopters are still hovering over the UC Berkeley campus trying to capture footage of the protesters on top of Wheeler. One protester was taken into custody when he tried to crawl back through a window. Police have set up barricades in front of Wheeler Hall, where a few hundred others have gathered to cheer on those on the ledge.

UPDATE: 6:30 am. The drama ended around 9:25 pm Thursday night when all the protesters came down from the ledge. They were cited for trespassing and released. They agreed to come down after university officials said they would drop some charges against some students involved in earlier protests, according to the Chronicle.

Twitter photo by Natalie Santiago

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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29 Comments

  1. Seth:

    But those 8 people are members of YOUR community, not mine. Like it or not, communities are accountable for the actions of their members, whether few or many. Without such accountability, there is no community in the true sense but rather a mere aggregation of individuals.

    Feel free to point out where I stated that the entire campus community is directly responsible for the actions of these few, but I think you’ll have a hard time doing so. Someone has to make a move toward CORRECTING the situation, and it’s the university’s students who are “protesting,” so it would only be appropriate that the university administration make the first move. Here’s a thought: maybe a committee of students/faculty/staff could approach the media and ask them to show more respect to the community SURROUNDING the university?

    (I’m only talking about the HELICOPTERS here, by the way. Feel free to keep protesting.)

  2. DGH: I don’t think it makes much sense to hold “the university community” collectively responsible for the helicopters. There are two reasons for this.

    First, the university has no special ability to influence the news coverage of events merely because the events are on campus. This is actually especially true when the news coverage is done from well outside campus and there’s really no jurisdiction at all! It’s up to private citizens to complain, or the city to sue or pass laws. I’ll leave the details of how effective those actions would be to those who have done their research above, but the university doesn’t have some privileged role in dealing with the news media in this case. It’s helicopters bothering Berkeley citizens over (non-campus areas of) Berkeley.

    Second, the university is not in control of the tiny minority of students who pull stunts like this, nor the small minority that encourages them. University resources seem to have had their hands full convincing the students to end their protest in a safe way. If you have a suggestion for ending this aspect of Berkeley’s protest culture, please let me — or better yet, the campus administration — know what it is. Until then, please don’t include me, my colleagues, the administration, or any of the other folks going about their business in a “campus community” that’s somehow responsible for the actions of, as you say, “EIGHT PEOPLE.” It’s a university, not an asylum; student protesters are adults, not inmates, and nobody’s responsible for their actions but themselves.

  3. It’s well past time for the City of Berkeley to enact laws controlling how, where and when News Media are allowed to operate.

  4. “It seems likely to me the fire department ordered news copters away from the protest site to protect the safety of the people on the ledge.”

    When there are covering protests at Berkeley, the news copters are always at locations over the city, near the edges of campus. It clearly is not because of safety concerns specific to this protest.

    It has been a nuisance during many protests over many years.

  5. Interesting: I had a post deleted a few months ago when similarly decried “whining” . . .

    Bronwen, I’m not sure whether or not you’re a Cal student, resident of Berkeley, or both. I’m a resident of Berkeley (not a Cal student) and it may surprise you to learn that my priorities are not the same as those of Cal students.

    But the last time I checked, I was free to go out about my business without involvement or interference in the university community. I expect the same consideration from them.

  6. Jesus, the whining! Examine your priorities.

    I know the protestors expressed gratitude to the fire department. It seems likely to me the fire department ordered news copters away from the protest site to protect the safety of the people on the ledge.

    So sorry you were inconvenienced.

  7. The sad thing is this is all just fodder for the media, and nothing concrete will come from it in terms of what the students are asking for. It’s all drama. A story for the 11 o’clock news.

    If I were the students I would march on Sacramento where all of these decisions are made and make noise there. Organize a march from all UC campuses to Sacramento. Make a statement.

    And this would make a great exercise for any economics students – OK, with limited resources and a demanding, diverse public just how do we solve the budget crisis? Do we spend less, do we tax more, do we invest more here and less there, or more there and less here, just what do we do?

  8. One more note and then I’ll heed my own advice and “cease & desist” on this topic.

    Echoing something Tizzielish wrote above: I am completely mystified as to the advantage of covering these protests from the sky versus doing so from the ground. If someone could help me understand this, maybe I’ll be more charitable to the helicopters and their operators/sponsors.

    But I doubt it! It is really such a persistent annoyance.

  9. I live a block from Berkeley PD / Civic Center Park and while the helicopter noise this evening hasn’t been quite as bad as during previous incidents, it’s been bad enough. Especially as I left the office early today, suffering from a bad cold, and simply wanted to recover quietly at home. Not possible.

    Every time someone farts on Cal’s campus, these obnoxious media helicopters show up. I call upon the university, out of a basic respect for the residents of Berkeley, to work with those television stations, who apparently feel compelled to harrass all of us for HOURS on end, to persuade them to cease and desist. We’re talking EIGHT PEOPLE OUT ON A LEDGE, folks.

    EIGHT PEOPLE.

  10. Governor’s Proposed Budget for 2011-2012

    K thru 12 Education $37,674,817
    Higher Education 10,536,822
    TOTALS $127,370,952
    http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/agencies.html

    Higher education is about 8% of the total state budget, but it is 8% that has a disproportionate effect on the state’s economic future and on the future of individuals who are now coming of age.

  11. “unless you want to get into taking civil action against a news station”

    So why doesn’t the city threaten to take civil action against the news station – or to organize a class action for its citizens?

    If the city simply embarrassed the news organizations by complaining, I suspect they would back off. All the legalities would be irrelevant. They would want to avoid the bad publicity.

    At least, I hope they would want avoid the bad publicity. It is worth trying – first by having the city ask then nicely and, if they don’t respond to that, by threatening a civil suit.

  12. Tizzielish, I didn’t say it was a minor issue I said it was the least of what’s up… these protests are the leading edge of what’s to come, I think. Alls I know about the legal stuff regarding helicopters goes back about 4 years or so to when one was hovering over my place for many, many hours. It’s horrible! Maybe I missed something but unless you want to get into taking civil action against a news station, and while they are at the altitude they are… they are mostly there “by right” although the feds are supposed to help mediate and resolve reasonable noise complaints. NYC is the breeding ground for a lot of the precedent in this area. For a special event like tonight, as opposed to a prolonged pattern .. I don’t think you’re going to get that far through legal channels. Calling the news stations and asking for some human consideration, on the other hand, might help (next time… they seem done for tonight).

    City noise ordinances do have some relevance here, but nowhere near what you might think.

  13. some quick research: federal laws do control most airspace but local air traffic control authorities control air space locally and, typically, helicopter pilots have a lot of flexibility in where they fly. The pilots, obviously, are trusted to avoid hitting other airborne craft, to remain at the authorized level for helicopters, to fly safely. Federal law does not mandate, for example, that helicopter pilots have to hover over certain areas. And noise control laws apply to hovering aircraft. Local police power has power over helicopter noise, enough power to fine them for violating noise ordnances or, which is more likely, to ask the news stations to show more consideration for the local citizenry. A news source getting a scoop does not give helicopter pilots or the news sources that employ them the right to disregard the quiet enjoyment of life over other citizens. Just because federal law regulates helicopter licensing and regulates what heights they can fly at does not eliminate Berkeley’s right to control noise pollution.

    This is not something John Q. Ordinary citizen can fix: city leaders, esp. the police department, has to want to serve the citizens. I have a sickening hunch that some city leaders think publicity is good, that having the helicopters is exciting and promotes Berkeley and they don’t think a lot about how the noise impacts real life. It’s not just private residences: I bet the noise impacts economics, and that might get the leaders attention. There are lots of restaurants in Berkeley and our economy must rely on those restaurants for sales tax and money spent on meals that is then paid in wages and income taxes. . . .etc. etc. With all that noise, I bet some restaurant patrons decide to dine elsewhere when the helicopters are hovering.

    We citizens matter at least as much as a news station focussed on making profit by beating the competition.

  14. Bruce Love, I don’t agree that the helicopter noise is a minor issue. I think public demonstrations are going to keep happening, esp. at UC Berkeley, home of the free speech movement. This is a quality of life issue, an ongoing disruption. How many times did helicopters hover last year? I took a class last spring and two out of the six classes were disrupted with the helicopter noise, and we kept the windows closed. Do free people have to put up with unnecessary noise? I don’t think so. And what about the, um, noise ordnances in Berkeley? We have them. Surely the Berkeley police can enforce the law, not just arrest demonstrators but ticket noise violators like the helicopters?

    There is a solution to the helicopter noise, I guarantee it. You won’t see them hovering over very wealthy areas. They can go somewhere and land until a story breaks. Here’s an idea: stay at the news station until a story breaks. Do they, seriously, have to be able to swoop in on a moment’s notice? No they don’t.

  15. I haven’t researched the helicopter hovering today but in the past, I did some research and it is not governed by federal law. Many people wrongly believe flying machines are all governed by federal aviation law or something but helicopter hovering is not. They have to sit at a certain height but nothing mandates that they sit over residential areas. They could just as easily park themselves over the campus, above office buildings or Lawrence Lab or even Tilden Park — although I imagine the noise would raise the ire of folks patronizing Tilden. It’s just not fair to dump this on the folks who live nearest the campus. Go hover over Piedmont! Hover over Kensington! How much you wanna bet those municipalities would stop it?!

  16. As you investigate the helicopter issue, to give you a head start, it’s federal law that mostly governs here. You can work the noise complaint issue very slowly and tediously, mainly through FTA but at the altitudes that they stick with, there is very little or nothing the City itself can do. I would guess that Berkeleyside folks might have a friend of a friend licensed pilot with helicopter skills that might help direct your research better than I can but the last time I looked into it… there’s nothing easy to “do” about it for legal reasons that, examined carefully, made sense to em.

    On a social level — calling the news stations might help, depending on the particular event.

  17. Well, the UC police department doesn’t HAVE any helicopters – those could only be media or US Government.

    It’s so simple: completely reform the prison system and take the money and spend it on education and health care. Oh, yeah. And stop giving tax breaks to large corporation and the 2% of the richest individuals…..

    I agree, the helicopters are very annoying. It’s not like there’s a manhunt for someone dangerous —

  18. It’s impossible to work or study in this noise. It drives me crazy. Berkeley must stop these helicopters!

  19. Andrew, less than 40% of CA’s budget is allocated to education (K-12 and higher ed combined), and the proposed budget cuts it further. Last budget: http://2010-11.archives.ebudget.ca.gov/Enacted/agencies.html ; Proposed budget: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/agencies.html

    CA’s status as 8th largest economy in the world is not particularly relevant here. Look at per capita spending on students, and CA has been steadily falling.

    Our state built one of the best University systems, partially by being willing to spend public money on education. As that public money is slashed, the University is running on fumes (and soon might as well be regarded as a private institution.)

    I would also suggest that much of CA’s (and Berkeley’s for that matter) economic success has been fueled by past investment in education.

  20. Good question, Tizzlielish. We’ll see if we can get an answer tomorrow.

    I live in the Elmwood, not downtown, and the drone of the helicopters this afternoon and evening (still going on) is very annoying here as well.

  21. I live downtown, on Oxford, directly across from the baseball stadium. The helicopters seem to deliberately hover just away from the campus. I reiterate a question asked already: it seems like UC ban the copters from hovering over the campus, where not many humans live. But quite a lot of humans live downtown. Berkeley politicians have worked to grow residential buildings downtown. Now, I ask our city leaders, esp. my council rep Jesse Arrequin, to see if the helicopters have to hover over downtown all the time. Why not hover over the campus or a park with less residents? My building is affordable housing intentionally designed to attract families with children. It sounds and feels like a war zone with the hovering helicopters and it seems clear to me that the copters very deliberately choose their positions to be not directly above the campus.

    It’s been going on for many hours. I have never been tortured but listening to this sound, even with my windows closed, is very draining and as it goes on and on, it becomes debilitating.

    So . . . why can’t the city of Berkeley ask them to hover somewhere else?

  22. The live coverage on the teevee suggests that the protest has gotten rather large. This one will no doubt blow over but the helicopter noise is the least of the issue.

    I think Berkeleyans ought to get used to this right quick insofar as all indications are that we are in for a long, hot summer due to fuel inflation and supply disruptions, food inflation and supply disruptions, destructive political gridlock over the failing state budget, abruptly curtailed entitlement programs, real unemployment closer to 20%, and so forth. Were a governor Reagan to send in the National Guard this time, I think there would be serious questions as to whether or not they broke ranks — not that I think it will come to that.

  23. For some reason, the helicopters seem not to hover right over campus. If UC has some way of keeping them out of their airspace, I think the city should see whether it can do the same.

    When I passed through, about an hour ago,
    –there was one around Telegraph and Dwight, hovering so low and making so much noise that it felt like you were in a war zone. Someone told me that, at least, they were not spraying tear gas.
    –there was one over downtown, low and making so much noise that one of the panhandlers said he thought we were going to be bombed soon.
    –the third one seemed to be around Durant and Piedmont. I didn’t pass right under there, so I don’t know how noisy it seemed locally.

    They were hovering for about 5 hours this afternoon.

    If they are media helicopters covering a demonstration on campus, why are they not hovering over campus? Anyone know?

  24. Are those media helicopters? I thought they were UC police helicopters.
    They are really obnoxious. Someone should organize a letter-writing campaign against their noise.

  25. As a member of the UC community, I admire their commitment to civil disobedience even if I don’t think it’s directed very productively or safely. I also hope that the university gives them opportunity to experience the usual consequences of civil disobedience by pursuing trespassing charges vigorously.

    (Oh, and now that I think about it, I realize that I am listening to a helicopter circling and can see it out the window.)

  26. I get really tired of the media helicopters coming out and hovering above for hours at a time when these things happen.

  27. Why don’t you chain yourself to a politician until they balance the budget. And while you’re at it help them figure out how to do that because they can’t seem to. As my folks would say, if you are going to complain then also bring a solution to the problem.

    And while I believe that education, and access to education, is critically important, doesn’t at least half of California’s budget already go to education, at least K-12? That’s 50% of the eighth largest economy in the world.