Tag Archives: University of California protests

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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The Militarization of US Campus Police: Three Responses

[…]

Last week, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a statement justifying the brutal use of police batons on student protesters like this:

It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience… the police were forced to use their batons.

Perhaps the Chancellors of Davis and Berkeley have never seen this photo of people with linked arms. It is an iconic image of non-violent civil disobedience in this country.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau thus joins the likes of Bull Connor, the notorious segregationist and architect of the violent repression of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, as some of the very few people who view the non-violent tactics of Martin Luther King as violent.

Most people disagree, which is why King was given the Nobel Peace Prize.

Throughout my life I have seen, and sometimes participated in, peaceful civil disobedience in which sitting and linking arms was understood by citizens as a posture that indicates, in the clearest possible way available, protestors’ intent to be non-violent. If example, if you look through training materials from groups like the Quakers, the various pacifist organization and centers, and Christian organizations, it is universally taught that sitting and linking arms is the best way to de-escalate any confrontation between police and people exercising their first amendment right to public speech.

Likewise, for over 30 years I have seen police universally understand this gesture. Many many times I have seen police treat protestors who sat and linked arms when told they must disperse or face arrest as a very routine matter: the police then approach the protestors individually and ask them if, upon arrest, they are going to walk of their own accord or not the police will have to carry them. In fact, this has become so routine that I have often wondered if this form of protest had become so scripted as to have lost most of its meaning.

No more.

What we have seen in the last two weeks around the country, and now at Davis, is a radical departure from the way police have handled protest in this country for half a century. Two days ago an 84-year-old woman was sprayed with a chemical assault agent in Seattle in the same manner our students at Davis were maced. A Hispanic New York City Councilman was brutally thrown to the ground, arrested, and held cuffed in a police van for two hours for no reason at all, and was never even told why he was arrested. And I am sure you all know about former Marine Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull after police hit him with a tear gas canister, then rolled a flash bomb into the group of citizens trying to give him emergency medical care.

Last week, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper published an essay arguing that the current epidemic of police brutality is a reflection of the militarization (his word, not mine) of our urban police forces, the result of years of the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror. Stamper was chief of police during the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, and is not a voice that can be easily dismissed.

Yesterday, the militarization of policing in the U.S. arrived on my own campus.

These issues go to the core of what democracy means. We have a major economic crisis in this country that was brought on by the greedy and irresponsible behavior of big banks. No banker has been arrested, and certainly none have been pepper sprayed. Arrests and chemical assault is for those trying to defend their homes, their jobs, and their schools.

These are not trivial matters. This is a moment to stand up and be counted. I am proud to teach at a university where students have done so.

Bob Ostertag, “Militarization of Campus Police”

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[…]

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.

Nathan Brown, “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda B.P. Katehi”

_____

Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.

[…]

My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.

NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.

My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark. I wasn’t so badly off. One of my colleagues, also a poet, Geoffrey O’Brien, had a broken rib. Another colleague, Celeste Langan, a Wordsworth scholar, got dragged across the grass by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.

I won’t recite the statistics, but the entire university system in California is under great stress and the State Legislature is paralyzed by a minority of legislators whose only idea is that they don’t want to pay one more cent in taxes. Meanwhile, students at Berkeley are graduating with an average indebtedness of something like $16,000. It is no wonder that the real estate industry started inventing loans for people who couldn’t pay them back.

“Whose university?” the students had chanted. Well, it is theirs, and it ought to be everyone else’s in California. It also belongs to the future, and to the dead who paid taxes to build one of the greatest systems of public education in the world.

Robert Hass, “Poet-Bashing Police”

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Pepper Spray as a Means of Advancing the Human Condition (UC Davis)

http://vision.ucdavis.edu/

A Message from Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

As we begin our second century, UC Davis is poised to become one of the world’s great universities as it stays true to its mission to advance the human condition through improving the quality of life for all. We are already regarded as an institution with an extraordinary foundation of academic excellence and global impact. And in the coming years, we have enormous potential to build on these strengths and rise to even greater heights of distinction, scholarship and service.

[…]

As we begin this journey, we must acknowledge the difficult economic circumstances of the present, even as we aspire to embrace the extraordinary opportunities of the future. I realize that achieving and maintaining this balance will be a challenge. But we cannot and must not neglect our responsibilities for today as a land-grant institution, or compromise our dreams for tomorrow — our dreams for our students, who deserve nothing less than access to a world-class education, and our dreams for a thriving California populace, whose well-being is so intricately woven with our own.

To all members of the extended UC Davis community, I ask you join me in this spirit of optimism. Embrace this ambitious vision for our university. Working together, we are certain to achieve a truly extraordinary, second century of excellence.

Linda P.B. Katehi,
Chancellor

_____

Published on Saturday, November 19, 2011 by MSNBC

Video Spreads of UC Davis Cops Pepper Spraying Occupy Students

Demonstrators were protesting dismantling of encampment

DAVIS, California — A video of police in riot gear pepper spraying demonstrators is spreading after 10 Occupy protesters were arrested on the University of California, Davis campus Friday, Sacramento NBC station KCRA reported.

The demonstrators were protesting the dismantling of the “Occupy UC Davis” encampment that was set up in the school’s quad area.

“Police came and brutalized them and tore their tents down and all that stuff. It was really scary. It felt like there was anarchy everywhere,” said student Hisham Alihbob.

Police told Sacramento’s KTXL TV station that the students were given until 3 p.m. Friday to remove their tents from the campus. When students refused, police arrived at the given time. Students sat down cross-legged and locked arms when cops showed up and the pepper spraying began.

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said it would not be safe or sustainable for demonstrators to camp in the quad.

“It’s not safe for multiple reasons,” Spicuzza said.

At least one woman left by ambulance for treatment of chemical burns.

“We just successfully booted the police off campus in a non-violent way,” Chris Wong, a student protester who said he was speaking for himself, not the Occupy group, told the Sacramento Bee.

Wong said he was one of the students sprayed, but he looked down and didn’t get a full dose. He said students then circled the police and tried to hold their ground. The police eventually left.

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Filed under activism, film and video, political repression, protests, student movements

Watch and Learn…

…writes Richard Seymour by way of introducing this video of a speech at UC Santa Cruz by Todd Chretien, an activist in the International Socialist Organization and a member of United Auto Workers Local 2865 in Oakland:

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http://distributioninsensible.tumblr.com/post/12867650744/five-theses-on-privatization-and-the-uc-struggle

Five Theses on Privatization and the UC Struggle

Nathan Brown, November 15, 2011, UC system-wide strike
———————————————————————————-

Hello Everyone!

It’s beautiful to see so many of you here today. On four day’s notice, this is an incredible turnout. Let’s remember how much we can do in so little time.

I’m an English professor, and as some of you know, English professors spend a lot of our time talking about how to construct a “thesis” and how to defend it through argument. So today I’m going to model this way of thinking and writing by using it to discuss the university struggle. My remarks will consist of five theses, and I will defend these by presenting arguments.

THESES

1. Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.

2. Police brutality is an administrative tool to enforce tuition increases.

3. What we are struggling against is not the California legislature, but the upper         administration of the UC system.

4. The university is the real world.

5. We are winning.

THESIS ONE
  Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.

 In 2005 tuition was $6,312. Tuition is currently $13,218. What the Regents were supposed to be considering this week—before their meeting was cancelled due to student protest—was UC President Yudof’s plan to increase tuition by a further 81% over the next four years. On that plan, tuition would be over $23,000 by 2015-2016. If that plan goes forward, in ten years tuition would have risen from around $6000 to $23,000.

What happened?

The administration tells us that tuition increases are necessary because of cuts to state funding. According to this argument, cuts to state funding are the problem, and tuition increases are the solution. We have heard this argument from the administration and from others many times.

To argue against this administrative logic, I’m going to rely on the work of my colleague Bob Meister, a professor at UC Santa Cruz and the President of the UC Council of Faculty Associations. Professor Meister has written a series of important open letters to UC students, explaining why tuition increases are in fact the problem, not the solution to the budget crisis. What Meister explains is that the privatization of the university—the increasing reliance on tuition payments (your money) rather than state funding—is not a defensive measure on the part of the UC administration to make up for state cuts. Rather, it is an aggressive strategy of revenue growth: a way for the university to increase its revenue more than it would be able to through state funding.

This is the basic argument: privatization, through increased enrollments and constantly increasing tuition, is first and foremost an administrative strategy to bring in more revenue. It is not just a way to keep the university going during a time of state defunding. What is crucial to this argument is the way that different sources of funding can be used.

State funds are restricted funds. This means that a certain portion of those funds has to be used to fund the instructional budget of the university. The more money there is in the instructional budget, the more money is invested in student instruction: money that is actually spent on your education. But private funds, tuition payments, are unrestricted funds. This means there are no restrictions on whether those funds are spent on student instruction, or administrative pay, or anything else.

What Meister uncovered through his research into the operations of university funding is that student tuition (your money) is being pledged as collateral to guarantee the university’s credit rating. What this allows the university to do is borrow money for lucrative investments, like building contracts or “capital projects” as they are called. These have no relation to the instructional quality of your university education. And the strong credit rating of the university is based on its pledge to continue raising tuition indefinitely, since that tuition can be used as collateral.

Restricted state funds cannot be used for such purposes. Their use is restricted in such a way as to guarantee funding for the instructional budget. This restriction is a problem for any university administration whose main priority is not to sustain its instructional budget, but rather to increase its revenues and secure its credit rating for investment projects with private contractors.

 So for an administration that wants to increase UC revenues and to invest in capital projects (rather than maintaining quality of instruction) it is not cuts to public funding that are the problem; it is public funding itself that is the problem, because public funding is restricted.

What is happening as tuition increases is that money is being shifted out of instructional budgets and into private credit markets, as collateral for university investments. Because of this, and because of increased enrollment, as university revenue increases the amount of money spent on instruction, per student, decreases. Meanwhile, students go deeper and deeper into debt to pay for their education. Using tuition payments, the university secures credit for capital projects. In order to pay their tuition, students borrow money in the form of student loans. The UC system thus makes a crucial wager: that students will be willing to borrow more and more money to paying higher and higher tuition.

Why would students do so? Because, the argument goes, a university education is an investment in your future—because it will “pay off” down the line. This logic entails an implicit social threat: if you do not take on massive debt to pay for a university degree, you will “fall behind”—you will be at a disadvantage on the job market, and you will ultimately make less money. The fear of “falling behind,” in the future, results in a willingness to pay more in the present, which is essentially a willingness to borrow more, to go further into debt in order to make more money later.

But is it actually true that a university degree continues to give students a substantial advantage on the job market? It is now the case that 50% of university students, after graduating, take jobs that do not require a university degree. It used to be the case that there was a substantial income gap between the top twenty percent of earners, who had university degrees, and the bottom 80 percent of earners, who did not. But since 1998, nearly all income growth has occurred in the top 1% of the population, while income has been stagnant for the bottom 99%. This is what it means to be “part of the 99%”: the wealth of a very small segment of the population increases, and you’re not in it.

What this means is that the advantage of a university degree is far less substantial than it used to be, though you pay far more for that degree. The harsh reality is that whether or not you have a university degree, you will probably still “fall behind.” We are all falling behind together. The consequence is that students have recently become less willing to take out more and more debt to pay tuition. It is no longer at all clear that the logic of privatization will work, that it is sustainable. And what this means is that the very logic upon which the growth of the university is now based, the logic of privatization, is in crisis, or it will be. Student loan debt is a financial “bubble,” like the mortgage bubble, and it cannot continue to grow indefinitely.

To return to my thesis: what this means for our university—not just for students, but especially for students—is that increasing tuition is the problem, not the solution.

What we have to fight, then, is the logic of privatization. And that means fighting the upper administration of the UC system, which has enthusiastically taken up this logic, not as a defensive measure, but as an aggressive program for increasing revenue while decreasing spending on instruction.

THESIS TWO  Police brutality is an administrative tool to enforce tuition increases.

What happened at UC Berkeley on November 9? Students, workers, and faculty showed up en masse to protest tuition increases. In solidarity with the national occupation movement, they set up tents on the grass beside Sproul Hall, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. The administration would not tolerate the establishment of an encampment on the Berkeley campus. So the Berkeley administration, as it has done so many times over the past two years, sent in UC police, in this case to clear these tents. Faculty, workers, and students linked arms between the police and the tents, and they held their ground. They did so in the tradition of the most disciplined civil disobedience.

What happened?

Without provocation, UC police bludgeoned faculty, workers, and students. They drove their batons into stomachs and ribcages, they beat people with overhand blows, they grabbed students and faculty by their hair, threw them on the ground, and arrested them. Numerous people were injured. A graduate student was rushed to the hospital and put into urgent care.

Why did this happen? Because tuition increases have to be enforced. It is now registered in the internal papers of the Regents that student protests are an obstacle to further tuition increases, to the program of privatization. This obstacle has to be removed by force. Students are starting to realize that they can no longer afford to pay for an “educational premium” by taking on more and more debt to pay ever-higher tuition. So when they say: we refuse to pay more, we refuse to fall further into debt, they have to be disciplined. The form this discipline takes is police brutality, continually invited and sanctioned by UC Chancellors and senior administrators over the past two years.

Police brutality against students, workers, and faculty is not an accident—just like it has not been an accident for decades in black and brown communities. Like privatization, and as an essential part of privatization, police brutality is a program, an implicit policy. It is a method used by UC administrators to discipline students into paying more, to beat them into taking on more debt, to crush dissent and to suppress free speech. Police brutality is the essence of the administrative logic of privatization.

THESIS THREE  What we are struggling against is not the California legislature, but the upper administration of the UC system.

It is not the legislature, but the Office of the President, which increases tuition in excess of what would be necessary to offset state cuts. Again, tuition increases are an aggressive strategy of privatization, not a defensive compensation for state cuts. When we protest those tuition increases, it is the Chancellors of our campuses, not the state legislature, who authorize the police to crush our dissent through physical force. This is why our struggle, immediately, is against the upper administration of the UC system, not against “Sacramento.”

This struggle against the administration is not about attacking individuals—or not primarily. It is about the administrative logic of privatization, and the manner in which that logic is enforced. We need to hold administrators accountable for this logic—and especially for sending police to brutalize students, workers, and faculty. But more importantly we need to understand and intervene against the logic of privatization itself: a logic which requires tuition increases, which requires police brutality, in order to function.

This is why the point is not to talk to administrators. When we occupy university buildings, when we disrupt university business as usual, the administration attempts to defer and displace our direct action by inviting us into “dialogue”—usually the next day, or just…some other time. What these invitations mean, and all they mean, is that the administration wants to get us out of the place where we are now and put us in a situation where we have to speak on their terms, rather than ours. It is the job of the upper administration to push through tuition increases by deferring, displacing, and, if necessary, brutally repressing dissent. The program of privatization depends upon this.

The capacity of administrators to privatize the university depends on its capacity to keep the university running smoothly while doing so: its capacity to suppress any dissent that disrupts its operations. The task, then, of students, faculty, and workers, is to challenge this logic directly. The task is to make it clear that the university will not run smoothly if privatization does not stop. In many different ways, since the fall of 2009, we have been making this clear.

THESIS FOUR  The university is the real world. 

The university is not a place “cut off” from the rest of the world or from other political situations. The university is one situation among many in which we struggle against debt, exploitation, and austerity. The university struggle is part of this larger struggle. And as part of this larger struggle, the university struggle is also an anti-capitalist struggle.

Within the university struggle, this has been a controversial position. Rather than linking the university struggle to other, larger struggles, many have argued that we need to focus only on university reform without addressing the larger economic and social structures in which the university is included—in which the logic of privatization and austerity is included, and in which the student struggle is included. But to say that the university struggle is an anti-capitalist struggle should now be much less controversial, and it should now be much easier to insist on linking the struggle against the privatization of the university to other anti-capitalist struggles.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has become a national occupation movement, makes this clear. All across the country, from New York to Oakland to Davis, in hundreds of cities and towns, people who have been crushed by debt are rising up against austerity measures that impoverish them further. The national occupation movement and the UC student struggle are parts of the same struggle, which is global. It is articulated across political movements in Greece, in Spain, in Chilé, in the UK, in Tunisia, in Egypt, etc. This is a struggle against the destruction of our future, in the present, by an economic system that can only survive by creating financial bubbles (the housing bubble, the student loan bubble) that eventually have to pop.

Two years ago, positioning the university as an anti-capitalist struggle was seen as divisive. The argument was that such a position was alienating and that it would inhibit mass participation. But now we see that there is a mass, national movement which is explicitly anti-capitalist, which positions itself explicitly as a class struggle, and, in doing so, struggles against debt and austerity as the interlinking financial logics of a collapsing American economy. Given this context: the only way the university struggle can isolate itself is by failing or refusing to acknowledge that it is also an anti-capitalist struggle, that it is also a class struggle.

This struggle concerns all of us, faculty as well as students, because the economic logic of privatization, the logic of capitalism, destroys the very texture of social life in our country and around the world, just as it destroys our public universities.

“We are all debtors,” said a student at Berkeley as she called for this strike. That is a powerful basis of solidarity

THESIS FIVE  We are winning.

Yes, it is true that tuition continues to rise. I am not saying that we have won. But it is also the case that last year state funding was partially restored. This was due to student resistance on our campuses, not in Sacramento. It was due to our struggle against the administrative logic of privatization. Meanwhile, privatization is becoming more and more unsustainable, less and less viable. In the fall of 2009, student resistance became a powerful obstacle to perpetually increasing tuition. It is because of that obstacle that the Regents meeting was cancelled this week.

But even more important than these immediate gains is the fact that we have built the largest and most significant student movement in this country since the 1960s. UC Davis has played an important role in building that movement. The 2009 student/faculty walkout was initiated by people on this campus. The occupations of Mrak Hall in November 2009 and the courageous march on the freeway on March 4 2010 have been tremendously inspirational to students struggling on other campuses. Actions like these are the very material of which the student movement consists. Without them it would not exist.

So we have built a historically important student movement, and now that movement is linked to the largest anti-capitalist movement in the United States since the 1930s. Students now have the support of a struggle that can be waged on two fronts, on and off campus. To put it mildly, we have many more allies than we did two years ago.

At the same time, the UC student movement has made a global impact. The tactic of occupation that was crucial to the movement in the fall of 2009, which spread from campus to campus that November, has now also spread across the country. The occupation of university buildings is a time-honored tactic in student struggles. But by many it was also viewed as a “divisive” or “vanguardist” tactic two years ago. Now, thanks largely to the example of the Egyptian revolution, the occupation of public space has become the primary tactic in a national protest movement supported by some 60% of the American people. The mass adoption of this tactic, the manner in which it has grown beyond the university struggle, is a huge victory for our movement.

Here is a passage from an influential student pamphlet written in 2009, Communiqué from an Absent Future: On the Terminus of Student Life, which was read by people around the US and translated into six different languages:

“Occupation will be a critical tactic in our struggle…and we intend to use this tactic until it becomes generalized. In 2001 the Argentine piqueteros suggested the form the people’s struggle there should take: road blockades which brought to a halt the circulation of goods from place to place. Within months this tactic spread across the country without any formal coordination between groups. In the same way repetition can establish occupation as an instinctive and immediate method of revolt taken up both inside and outside the university.”

People at Adbusters, the Canadian magazine which initially organized the Occupy Wall Street protests, read that student pamphlet and wrote about it in 2009. The tactic that pamphlet called for was put into practice across the UC system, under the slogan “Occupy Everything,” and the goal of spreading that tactic has been unequivocally achieved. Its achievement has had huge political implications for the whole country. So this is also a way in which we are winning.

Occupation has been and continues to be such an important tactic because it is not limited to the university, but linked to occupations of squares and plazas in cities, and linked to struggles to begin occupying foreclosed properties on a mass scale. The resonance of university occupations with the national occupation movement means that our struggle is growing and expanding. That means we are winning. And the fact that the university struggle can no longer plausibly be considered in isolation from from anti-capitalist struggle broadly conceived is itself a huge victory.

We cannot simply change “the university” while leaving “the world” the same, because the university is the real world. By changing the university, we change the world. And we have to change the world in order to change the university.

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Eight Protest Bystanders Charged with Multiple Felonies after UC Demo

Eight protest bystanders charged with multiple felonies after UC demo

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

Contact:
UC Berkeley student, Marika Iyer — marikaiyer@gmail.com
Other student Organizers of Live Week:
Laura Zelko, student organizer with Live Week: laura_z@berkeley.edu
Callie Maidhof, student organizer with Live Week: callie.maidhof@gmail.com

UC Police arrested 8 more people – many whom eyewitnesses say had not been engaging in any illegal activity – on the final night of a 5-day, 24-hour-a day “Live Week” open university, held by Cal students and faculty to protest and provide an alternative to the “dead week” at the end of the semester resulting from recent furloughs and budget cuts. The final event of the week, a free performance featuring Boots Riley, a hip hop artist from The Coup, had to be moved at the last minute after a morning police raid on Wheeler Hall, the primary site for “Live Week” activities.

Some 200 students gathered for the concert at the UC Berkeley campus from UC Davis, SF State, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA as well as Berkeley. Following the concert, which had been interrupted by police cars constantly circling the area, some of the attendees joined a night march that left campus for the residence of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Some of the protesters carried torches to light up the path, they said. Some dragged newspaper boxes into the street.

“Regardless of what one thinks about the events of last night, the minor vandalism that occurred cannot be viewed outside the context of the physical violence inflicted by police on student activists and the broader assault on public education,” said Callie Maidhof, a student organizer with Live Week.

Many of the marchers were upset about the arrests that had been made earlier that day, when police stormed into a building where students had been holding Live Week events since Monday. Sixty-five people who had been sleeping or studying were loaded onto Alameda County Sheriff’s buses during the cold pre-dawn hours, some of them barefoot and wearing only their underwear. Most of the students were given misdemeanor trespassing charges and released by the afternoon, but some say they’re fearful of additional charges that either the District Attorney or the UC administration could add on in the coming year.

Police swooped down on the activists in front of University House around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, resulting in pandemonium as the students and other activists dispersed in all directions.

“When everyone is running, you don’t think that clearly. My friends and I were trying to leave because things were getting out of hand,” said Jobert Poblete, a Cal alumni who participated in the march.

Poblete was split up from his friends, who ran into the woods near Strawberry Creek. Police then swept up Carwil James, 34, a visiting Ph.D student from City University in New York.

“Carwil hadn’t been doing anything at the time. Now he’s in jail on his birthday, and they just raised his bail from $50,000 to $132,000. There’s no way we can raise that much money. This is a travesty,” said Poblete.

David Morse, 41, an independent journalist, was filming the demonstration and police response when he was arrested, said witnesses.

“They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a student who observed the chaos when police arrived at the chancellor’s house and declined to give their name. “Not all of the protesters were students at Cal – but the issue here is larger than tuition hikes anyway. It’s about the state of public education and neoliberalism in the US and abroad.”

Eleven people arrested at student demonstrations during the past week remain in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

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Occupy California

http://occupyca.wordpress.com/

A short film on the occupation of Wheeler Hall,  at University of California, Berkeley:

Why occupation? Why barricades? Why would an emancipatory movement, one which seeks to unchain people from debt and compulsory labor, chain the doors of a building? Why would a group of people who deplore a university increasingly barricaded against would-be entrants itself erect barricades? This is the paradox: the space of UC Berkeley, open at multiple points, traversed by flows of students and teachers and workers, is open in appearance only. At root, as a social form, it is closed: closed to the majority of young people in this country by merit of the logic of class and race and citizenship; closed to the underpaid workers who enter only to clean the floors or serve meals in the dining commons; closed, as politics, to those who question its exclusions or answer with more than idle protest. (Text continued here.)

UC Irvine sociology graduate student John Bruning recounts his arrest by UC police during a November 24 demonstration:

The tactics of UCPD have quickly escalated in the past week.  The last political arrest at UCI was a few years ago, during the struggle to insource workers.  In my time at UCI, there has not been an incident where police pepper sprayed students, especially not at a peaceful protest.  The use of tasers is troublesome given their lethality, and I would not at all be surprised if sometime this year police shot a student dead or killed them another way.  Looking into the eyes of the police yesterday, in all but a few cases, there was the appearance of outright contempt for students and their safety.  A few looked as if orders were the only thing keeping them from clubbing skulls.  My arresting officer carried a look of hatred on [his] face, as if students’ needs were the only thing keeping him from happiness.  One has to wonder, with all of the rage these men contain where their souls should be, how they take care of their aggression when there aren’t protests.  At home, on their families?  I hope not, for their sake.  Maybe they have a nice hobby, like playing baseball. 

http://californiaprof.blogspot.com/2009/11/statement-in-support-of-uc-mobilisation.html
Statement in support of the UC Mobilisation

Here is a statement in support of mobilization at UC, started by Peter Hallward (Middlesex University, London), which is currently gathering signatures:

We the undersigned declare our solidarity with University of California students, workers and staff as they defend, in the face of powerful and aggressive intimidation, the fundamental principles upon which a truly inclusive and egalitarian public-sector education system depends. We affirm their determination to confront university administrators who seem willing to exploit the current financial crisis to introduce disastrous and reactionary ‘reforms’ (fee-increases, lay-offs, salary cuts) to the UC system. We support their readiness to take direct action in order to block these changes. We recognise that in times of crisis, only assertive collective action – walkouts, boycotts, strikes, occupations… – offers any meaningful prospect of democratic participation. We deplore the recent militarization of the UC campuses, and call on the UC administration to acknowledge rather than discourage the resolution of their students to struggle, against the imperatives of privatization, to protect the future of their university. (See a list of signatories at the link above.)

To endorse the statement and add your name to the list, email Nathan Brown (UCD) at ntbrown@ucdavis.edu.

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