BERKELEY — UC Berkeley protesters ended a 10-day hunger strike Wednesday with a ceremonial meal of corn on the cob.
The mostly Latino group of 18 students and workers went on strike in front of the administration building May 3, demanding school Chancellor Robert Birgeneau denounce Arizona's new law that allows police to question the immigration status of anyone they stop for other crimes. They also had a host of other demands.
Birgeneau denounced the new law, but stopped short of the other demands until the strikers met with him Wednesday. During the strike, four students had to be hospitalized after days without food. Strikers also wanted administrators to drop charges against students disciplined in last fall's campuswide demonstrations, declare the Berkeley campus a sanctuary for undocumented people, stop cuts to low-wage workers on campus, suspend the student code of conduct and commit to nonviolence during student protests.
During a two-hour meeting with students Wednesday that the chancellor agreed to only if the hunger strike ended, Birgeneau committed to forming a task force to explore concerns of undocumented students and workers, said university spokeswoman Claire Holmes.
He also agreed to "look at the student code of conduct and the disciplinary process and would consider community service as an option to suspension," Holmes said.
Earlier in the week, Birgeneau talked to the strikers by telephone, but said any more meetings would have to take place after the students started eating.
"Next semester we have to take this to a UC-wide level," Horacio Corona told a crowd of about 200 outside the meeting Wednesday. "This guy kept us out here 10 days."
The strike, however, was not as peaceful as Wednesday's ending.
On Monday police tried to remove protesters, but they resisted and stayed. Police instead took away their belongings including sleeping bags, tarps and tables. Later that day, the crowd swelled and protesters surrounded the administration building, blocking entrances. A smaller group of 50 to 70 protesters marched to the chancellor's home on campus, with police from several surrounding jurisdictions standing by in riot gear.
No arrests were made.