Daily Archives: November 24, 2011

The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body

occupyeverything.org
The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body
Written by Eric Lee
November 22nd, 2011

When I watched Lt. John Pike and the University of California Davis Police Department violently attack our peaceful demonstration against social inequality and austerity on Friday, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.

There is no dearth of personal recollections of this weekend’s events circulating the internet as the “pepper spray incident” and Chancellor Linda Katehi’s “walk of shame” have made UC Davis the center of international attention and outcry. In light of this, it is more important to consider the implications of these events and what they mean for the growing global movement against social inequality. Particularly, it is important to recognize the historical importance of the past week’s profound radicalization of students in the UC system and across the nation. The entrance of an organized student movement into the current social situation has deep implications, and they should be considered as the movement goes forward.

The video that has now gone viral speaks volumes and there is no need to romanticize the moments in great detail. My friends and I were approached by a small army of thugs, who violently attacked some of the kindest, most intelligent, most caring people I have ever met. I was not as brave as my friends who made history by refusing to yield to the police goons, and I have to admit that after watching their bodies react, I do not regret falling back. I saw hard working, compassionate students and teachers violently vomiting, weeping, and holding each other as that disgusting orange goo ran down their teary faces. I saw hundreds of students pour out of classrooms and the library to come to our defense. I saw the police turn tail and flee after seeing the looks of fury in our eyes. I saw the looks in their eyes, too—looks of genuine fear. I’d never seen that before in a police officer’s eyes.

So, what role will California college students play in the Occupy movement? As the worldwide revolt against social inequality continues despite the deeply disturbing intentions of the wealthiest among us to suffocate the movement, the students now have an incredibly important role to play. With the original occupiers on the East Coast forced by the cold weather and brutal police raids to reclaim less visible, unused property, the West Coast is responsible for sustaining and building the movement until spring.

And UC and CSU students are ready to rise to the occasion. 10,000 of us gathered in Berkeley last Tuesday, 2,000 here in Davis on the same day, and an Occupy camp has been set up at UCLA. Hundreds of UC students converged in downtown San Francisco last week and succeeded in shutting down a Bank of America. CSU students forced the CSU Board of Trustees to secretly flee their original meeting spot before passing another round of fee increases. UC leadership cancelled the UC Regents’ meeting last week out of fear that it would be shut down by student protestors.

The participation of thousands of students across the state in the anti-Wall Street movement represents the rapid radicalization of California students, which in itself is indicative of the quick move to the left by millions of movement sympathizers. The radicalization of the students manifests itself on the busses, in the restaurants, and in the coffee shops on and around my campus, where discussion of political strategy dominates. Of course, these anecdotes mean relatively little—but the politicization of the student body is significant nevertheless. Though the process of politicization is experiencing its birth pangs, it is emotionally moving that the process has finally begun.

This radicalization must continue to be channeled into a starkly anti-capitalist political tendency. Objective material conditions are ensuring that liberal elements of the student body will be drowned out. This is a huge break from the Free Speech Movement of the mid-60s, and even from the anti-Vietnam War movement that followed. Youth unemployment in the United States is above 20% – higher than in some “Arab Spring” countries. We’ve seen the statistics about wealth inequality: the top 1% controls the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%. Only 40% of college students graduate, and for those that do, they enter the workforce with an average debt-load just under $30,000.

And then what? A minimum wage Starbucks job at $8.50 an hour? Perhaps most importantly, though, is the current rollback of nearly every major social gain won by the working class since the 1930s. Even in the midst of the Vietnam War, after all, President Johnson’s “Great Society” at least recognized that social inequality existed and that the most impoverished Americans were worthy of minuscule levels of government support.

At least our parents got “Guns and Butter”. Now we’re stuck with just the guns.

Today, the contrasts couldn’t be starker. President Obama has escalated the war on the working class by continuing the decades-long trend of drastically slashing social services. In fact, Obama has promised to out-do the GOP in the race to see who can slash more services to deal with the massive debt our country has accumulated from years of war and tax breaks for the wealthy. He has proposed gutting services that tens of millions of Americans rely on for survival: Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, WIC, etc. The cynical Manipulator-in-Chief has invaded new countries, illegally murdered American citizens abroad, and expanded the War on Terror into Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

I spent a year working as a volunteer on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. I was drawn to his candidacy by his promises to serve “Main Street, not Wall Street”, to close Guantanamo Bay, to end the wars, to stop the mass deportation of undocumented families, and to roll-back the PATRIOT Act and the rest of the unconstitutional post-9/11 national security apparatus. I, like many in my generation, naively thought that a candidate that was backed by Wall Street could still make “change”.

Barack Obama has delivered on exactly none of these promises. In fact, the ruling class could hardly ask for a better leader. Corporate profits have soared during his presidency, as unemployment remains stiflingly high with no signs that the economy will add jobs at a rate quick enough to keep up with population gain. It makes me furious that the candidate to whom I dedicated a year of my life has turned on me. I take it very personally. I am not the only 21-year-old who feels this way. I also served the President’s political party for a year following his election. I was an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party, and was a staffer for a statewide Democratic campaign. But the Democratic Party is leading the attack on working people across America.

Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, for example, seems like he’s trying to out-do Scott Walker in imposing austerity on the indigent and the young. Democratic mayors across the country are ordering riot police on their own peaceful protesters. In the bay area, “progressive” Democrats like Jean Quan and Ed Lee have ordered riot police to evict occupiers on multiple occasions. These liberal champions ordered police to beat Iraq War Veterans Scott Olson and Kayvan Sabehgi.

Today, no solution to the social crisis can be found through either of the two big-business parties. This is why the burgeoning student movement in California represents a great hope for the anti-capitalist position. In light of this, demands for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation should be considered only as a show of our power. In reality, even if we are to succeed in ousting Katehi, her replacement would be no different.

We students can re-shape the future of public education in California only by abolishing the UC Regents, CSU Board of Trustees, and their respective police forces. Democratic student, worker, and faculty control of the entire decision-making process is needed to reverse the trends towards privatization, debt, and austerity.

And we should also remember that the crisis in higher education is a symptom of the crisis of capitalism. The American student movement of the late 60s, for example, failed to prevent the attack on the working class that has been carried out by Democrats and Republicans throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s because it failed to self-consciously establish itself as a movement against capitalism.

This belies the issue of “no politics” that is such a popular refrain for liberals taking part in the Occupy movement today. “No politics” has been our strategy for 40 years, and look what it has gotten us! Back to UC Davis — I have read multiple accounts on the events of the past days that emphasize how UC Davis is a turning point for the Occupy movement. Images of the blatant police brutality and the powerful silence that met the Chancellor when she left her botched press conference have terrified and inspired millions. But this isn’t an unprecedented show of violence, and police brutality isn’t a new phenomenon. The events of the past days are a glimpse of reality, not a break from the past. Though it has taken a viral video to make this clear to many, it is an important fact to remember.

The images from Davis, Berkeley, Chapel Hill, New York, Oakland, Denver, and countless other cities and towns across the country have galvanized support for the movement and have even further embedded Occupy Wall Street as a facet of American political life. The images have also revealed democracy in America for just what it is: a façade.

In light of this, students at UC and across the country must prepare ourselves for the coming struggle. The police attacks will not abate—they will only grow in intensity. Our debt load will grow, unless we reject the concept of debt as required by capitalism. Fee hikes will continue until we reject the very idea of paying for school. We should fight for something radically different—a society where production is managed based on social need and human rights to housing, food, education, transportation, and physical security. One where our friends, brothers, sisters, and parents aren’t sent off to die in unnecessary wars. One where speculators and bankers are treated like the criminals they are.

The lines in the sand are being drawn on my campus and across the country. Students, ask yourselves: Which side are you on?

[Point of clarification: I write this as an individual and in no way as a spokesperson for any group.]

Eric Lee is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.

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Filed under activism, critical thought, leftist movements, political repression, protests, student movements

Vitaly Milonov, Petersburg Lawmaker

Vitaly Milonov

Kommersant Saint Petersburg
November 24, 2011

[…]

According to Vitaly Milonov, [consideration of the bill he introduced into the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, which would make “promotion of homosexuality” an administrative offense punishable by fines] was postponed “due to legal ambiguity.” “There are certain slippery aspects in the wording of the bill that might hinder its implementation. Basically, these are terminological ambiguities. For example, the concept of ‘lesbianism.’ It could happen that residents of the Greek island of Lesbos who promote their own lifestyle would be subject to fines,” Mr. Milonov explained to Kommersant. In addition, there is no clarity in how the concept of ‘promotion’ [literally, “propaganda” of homosexuality] would be applied, which the legislative assembly’s legal office also pointed out. Vitaly Milonov admitted that his committee is now considering a legal analysis of the text of the bill prepared by the NGO Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms, which “the homosexualists sent” to Mr. Milonov. The multi-page text of the opinion (which Kommersant has obtained a copy of) concludes that the proposed bill is unconstitutional, contradicts a number of international conventions, and “also contains significant shortcomings [from the standpoint] of legal procedure.” Deputy Milonov had to agree with the legal experts and the sexual minorities, saying that now all amendments [to the bill] are being “put in order.”

However, a source in the Legislative Assembly has told Kommersant that deputies are unlikely to consider the bill on fines for gay agitators even at their final session [before the December 4 elections]. “We didn’t expect such a violent reaction in the press. The bill, which is Vitaly Milonov’s pet project, ended up on the agenda through a strange turn of events: United Russia thought that it might generate [positive] ‘campaign buzz’, winning over the conservative part of society. But now we see the opposite effect: the entire country has learned the names of the ‘main homophobes in Russia’ — Milonov and Babich. (LDPR deputy Elena Babich is an active supporter of punishments for gay propagandists.)  This might have a negative impact during the upcoming elections. The next  Legislative Assembly can decide what to do with this foul-smelling story,” the source in the Legislative Assembly told Kommersant.

The gay community notes with satisfaction the contrary effect [generated by] the United Russia initiative. Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT organization Coming Out, told Kommersant that if the bill becomes law he will “be the first to have it applied.” “As soon as the law takes effect, I’ll go right to the city prosecutor’s office and demand that Milonov and Babich be prosecuted for promotion of homosexuality,” Mr. Kochetkov promised. “You can’t imagine how people’s attention to our problems has grown after their public statements. We’ve literally been flooded with letters and calls of support. In Russia alone, we’ve collected over ten thousand signatures on a petition against passage of the law.”

Natalia Yevdokimova, secretary of the Petersburg Civil Rights Council and former three-time Legislative Assembly deputy, notes the “extreme illiteracy” of the amendments drafted by Mr. Milonov. “It’s bad enough that he uses non-legal terms, but ‘apples and oranges’ are also mixed up in this document. They want to cram a criminally punishable offense — promotion of pedophilia — into the law on administrative offenses, but pedophilia is purely a matter for the Criminal Code. And I’m confident that any court would immediately toss out these amendments for their flagrant illiteracy,” said Ms. Yevdokimova. It was unclear to her why this bill has appeared on the eve of the elections: “The pre-election stress is bad enough as it is in the entire city, in the country. It is unclear why United Russia wants to add fuel to the fire. It’s just stupid.”

_____

www.zaks.ru/new/archive/view/67190
March 8, 2010

[…]

Moreover, Milonov noted that former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice “behaves like a monkey.” “Everyone in United Russia knows that Condoleeza Rice has monkey brains,” Milonov said.

_____

The following was posted on November 21, 2011, on the LiveJournal blog of Sergei Shestakov, a deputy in Petersburg’s Avtovo municipal district council and a candidate in the upcoming elections to the Petersburg Legislative Assembly. A member of the A Just Russia party, he is running in the same electoral precinct as Vitaly Milonov.

Today I was informed that Vitaly Milonov was again buying off voters — this time not at his constituent outreach office, but at the Orbita movie theater. I decided to find out how much money from the budget Vitaly Milonov had blown on buying food packages.

A very long queue of dozens of people who had braved the cold after hearing about United Russia’s incredible generosity had formed outside the building.

In the Orbita theater itself, people who came were handed food parcels to the tune of six hundred rubles each. The plastic bags, emblazoned with the inscription “All-Russia Popular Front” and [the organization’s] emblem, each contained a tin of caviar, a box of candies, a cake, canned peas and corn, coffee, and other products. United Russian and Milonov campaign brochures had been carefully planted in each parcel. The people in [United Russia] scarves [who handed out the parcels] did not specify how to eat [the brochures].

When my campaign agent asked the staff (the women handing out the presents, who walked around in United Russia scarves) whether they thought this was bribery of voters, they confidently replied that it was the social security department that was handing everything out. The Milonov Social Security Department was generous: all the rooms were filled with boxes, and it was hard to elbow one’s way past them.

People stood outside in the light frost, waiting for rations, as if this were still the time of the Siege [of Leningrad, during WWII]. The fact that the products purchased were the cheapest, and not very fresh, hardly bothered them at all.

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Filed under feminism, gay rights, film and video, political repression, protests, racism, nationalism, fascism, Russian society