Police evict protesters at University of California, Berkeley

OAKLAND Thu Nov 17, 2011 12:28pm EST

Student Michal Young sits on the steps of Sproul Hall at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California November 16, 2011, following a general strike the previous day. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Student Michal Young sits on the steps of Sproul Hall at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California November 16, 2011, following a general strike the previous day.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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OAKLAND (Reuters) Moving in before dawn on Thursday, police cleared away a protest camp from a plaza at the University of California, Berkeley where 5,000 people gathered Tuesday night in an economic protest.

At 3:30 a.m. local time, officers began ordering occupants to remove the tents, sculptures, pianos, sofas and other belongings at the site where the Free Speech movement began in the 1960s.

Demonstrators offered no resistance and two people were arrested, in contrast to November 9, when police used batons to fight through a human chain to clear a similar camp from the plaza, said police Lt. Alex Yao.

"The majority of the demonstrators left voluntarily," he said. "Two demonstrators expressed interest in being arrested. They were arrested peacefully and without resistance."

One of those arrested was a University of California student, the other was not affiliated with the campus, he said.

Demonstrators sent out frantic tweets and text messages as police arrived in the plaza, asking students from dorms and co-op residences to come to their assistance. Protesters said they would meet later on Thursday to plan their next move.

The protests are part of the anti-Wall Street movement concerned about economic inequality that has sprung up across the country and around the world over the last two months. The Berkeley demonstrators were also protesting university tuition increases.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Jerry Norton)

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