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UC Berkeley protesters leave building ledge

    Angered by proposed education budget cuts, approximately eight protesters occupy a ledge atop University of California, Berkeley's Wheeler Hall on Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Berkeley, Calif. Using PVC tubing, the demonstrators chained themselves together. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

BERKELEY, Calif. >> An hours-long protest over state education budget cuts that drew riot police to Berkley ended late Thursday when demonstrators occupying part of a building voluntarily withdrew, the university said.

Eight protesters, who had refused to budge from a fourth-floor ledge of Wheeler Hall at the University of California, Berkley, came down after talks with campus leaders. They were cited for trespassing and released, according to university police.

The peaceful ending came after riot police faced off earlier in the day with a growing number of demonstrators angry over state cuts to the University of California.

Shortly after the start of the protest, police said officers arrested one protester.

Before the protest subsided, television live shots showed hundreds of protesters on the ground yelling and chanting, while a line of police in riot gear and carrying batons surrounded the building. UC Berkeley police Lt. Alex Yao estimated there were about 200 demonstrators.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau ordered the building closed at 4 p.m., and police began moving students, faculty and staff from the area, according to the university.

University officials said 26 classes were canceled, impacting more than 1,000 students.

Thursday’s protest followed demonstrations against state education cuts on Wednesday that led to the arrests of 17 people for trespassing who university police said refused to leave a campus building.

The protest Wednesday was part of a day of action by students around the country opposed to education cuts.

A similar protest was held in Berkeley last year, also in early March. Those demonstrations turned rowdy, and included the rush-hour shutdown of a major freeway in neighboring Oakland.

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