A daylong drama that unfolded when eight protesters chained themselves together on a fourth-floor ledge of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley ended peacefully when they came down late Thursday.
The protesters emerged from the building about 9:25 p.m. and were not arrested. Originally, a group of nine climbed onto the ledge about 2 p.m., campus spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said, and crowds of approximately 200 to 300 onlookers gathered outside Wheeler Hall to watch, many chanting slogans.
The protests were over budget cuts to education, and several onlookers who documented the event through postings on Twitter indicated the students were going to meet with university Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to discuss their demands.
About 100 people who were still outside the hall when the eight remaining protesters agreed to leave the ledge offered loud cheers of approval. Some of the protesters then addressed the crowd and thanked their supporters.
All eight were cited for trespassing, police said.
The protests occurred a day after university police arrested 17 people who refused to leave the same building.
UC Berkeley police spokesman Lt. Alex Yao confirmed to media members that nine students originally took to the ledge but that one of them, identified by the Daily Californian website as junior Alex Poska, was arrested after he tried to come off the ledge and return to the building through a window, Yao said.
The protesters began to leave the ledge about 8:45 p.m., Yao said, and then emerged from Wheeler Hall at 9:25 p.m.
Early during the drama, police in riot gear cleared a crowd that had gathered near the front door of the building, and some protesters and police shoved each other as the line of officers moved in. Crowds outside the building sat and chanted, "Shame on you."
While on the 5-foot-wide ledge, protesters unfurled a large banner reading: "Our university. Stop the cuts. Fight back."
They also released a list of demands, which included cutting university fees, ending cost-cutting efforts at the university, "democratizing" UC's governing Board of Regents and stopping police oppression.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and other administrators had been inside Wheeler Hall trying to negotiate with the protesters, but Le Grande emerged later and read a statement from Birgeneau urging the group to come down peacefully.
Wheeler Hall was evacuated, and Birgeneau closed the classroom building and canceled all classes there. The incident interrupted midterms on the campus.
On Wednesday night, UC Berkeley police arrested 17 people who refused to leave Wheeler Hall after a day of protests against education budget cuts.
All 17 were taken to the Berkeley city jail and cited for misdemeanor trespassing, Yao said. Fourteen were released after being cited, but three, who had extra charges of obstructing police officers, were held overnight to appear in court Thursday, Yao said.
Protesters at UC Berkeley are commonly issued citations and released on site and not taken to jail Yao said, but in this case "we were trying to make sure the operation was conducted safely, efficiently and timely, and we believed taking them to jail was the safest way to do so." Yao said no injuries were reported during the arrests.
He said the protests began around noon with about 200 protesters at Sproul Plaza on campus. The protesters then left Sproul and were joined by about 75 high school students from Oakland and marched through Doe Library and Wheeler Hall, Yao said.
About 55 demonstrators stayed in the lobby of Wheeler Hall throughout the day. At the 10 p.m. closing time for the building, 17 of the protesters refused to leave, Yao said, and were arrested.