By Lisa Leff and Terence Chea
A day of demonstrations by students and anti-Wall Street activists was disrupted Tuesday when a campus police officer shot a man with a gun about a half-mile from the main protest site at the University of California, Berkeley.
The shooting occurred inside the Haas School of Business as thousands of demonstrators gathered on campus for a general strike and protests against big banks and education cuts.
Officials did not know if the suspect was part of the Occupy Cal movement, said Ute Frey, a spokeswoman for the university.
“I just hope it wasn’t from the protest or the movement, because that’s not what the movement is about,” said Sadia Saif, a 19-year-old sophomore at UC Berkeley.
Earlier in the day, university officials said a female staff member reported seeing a man with a gun, who was shot by a university police officer within minutes. The condition of the 33-year-old suspect was not immediately known. His name was not released.
Dong Hwan Kim, 27, a senior, said he was terrified when he learned of the shooting.
“The shooting, in addition to what’s happening here with the protests, makes the campus feel really tense,” Kim said. “This is a historical moment, but it is also really scary at the same time.”
Protesters descended on the university after ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and university employee unions, called for a campus strike and teach-ins.
“If the only people who can come here in the future are those who have money, it’s going to hurt everyone’s educational experience,” said Daniel Rodriguez, 28, a graduate student who was conducting an introductory Spanish language class outside.
Occupy Cal activists said they would try again to establish an encampment Tuesday night after the Reich speech.
On Nov. 9, baton-wielding police clashed with protesters who tried to set up tents and arrested 40 people as the university sought to uphold a campus ban on camping.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau launched an investigation into allegations that campus police used excessive force. He said videos of the protests were disturbing, and he plans to grant amnesty to all students who were arrested and cited for attempting to block police from removing the tents.
Oscar Varela, 21, a fifth-year economics major who helped organize Tuesday’s demonstrations, was among the students who tried to block campus police from tearing down the campus encampment.
“We want to stay here to prove to the regents and state that we are part of this movement and that we want our tuition to go back to what it used to be, which essentially should be free,” Varela said.