Berkeley’s Protest Lifestyle

by Steed Dropout
May 16, 2016

Mario Savio, a founder of Free Speech Movement, back at Sproul; his spirit trickle’s down to a new generation of Berkeley protesters. Photo by Ted Friedman.


We’re sick of all your flak.
Push us, we push back
Yakety yak we talk back

While Berkeley’s hotel industry-sponsored visitor’s bureau touts: “come for the culture, stay for the food,” it might more realistically suggest, ‘come for the food, stay for the demo!’

Or, ‘Come for the political action, and bite it.’

Recent Berkeley demos have denounced employers who rip-off wages, attempts to sell Berkeley’s historic post-office, a blocked-view from UC’s campanile, Berkeley’s inadequate homeless policies, greedy developers, and oh yes, racial profiling around the USA.

Protestors were just “doin a what comes naturally” in Berkeley, where protest has occupied our psyches. Berkeley protests go back at least to WW1.

Recent student protests targeted the university’s sluggish handling of sexual harassment charges, staff lay-offs, fiscal mis-management, and Fossil Fuels (“leave the oil in the soil).”

Janet Napolitano attracted a hornet’s nest of Cal protesters. Her appointment as CEO of the state’s university system, after her stint as Homeland Security chief, was seen as a government conspiracy to treat Cal students as terrorists.

Not all Berkeley protests are demonstrations. Berkeley is awash in political signs (some in chalk), petitions, pickets, soap-boxing, occupations, lockdowns, and boycotts.

An advertising boycott crippled Berkeley’s progressive hometown paper, the Berkeley Daily Planet [I wrote there from 2009-2013], after the boycott’s organizer took offense at a Planet reader’s commentary.

The city of Berkeley has thirty-six commissions yakety-yaking to the city manager, city council, police, and mayor. These commissions represent such issues as peace and freedom, medical cannabis, homelessness, housing, and mental health.


Occupy Berkeley could have been more than a tent-town. It had a name too good to fail, but failed. Occupy Berkeley General Assemblies became campfire talks.

In fifteen reports, photos, and analyses of Occupy Berkeley I wrote for the Berkeley Daily Planet, demonstrators talked themselves to death (soap-boxing).

When Cal students launched their own Occupation on campus, a few blocks from the downtown encampment, Occupy Berkeley became irrelevant, its General Assemblies like AA meetings.

Occupy was a pie-in-the-sky protest, like many Berkeley protests.

But Berkeley protest is not always about results when it yakety-yaks.

We talk back.

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