UC students turn up the heat on Regents
November 29, 2011
ARTICLE SOURCE: SOCIALIST WORKER
STUDENTS AT the University of California Davis, the scene of the vicious pepper-spray assault by police last week, forced members of the UC Board of Regents to abandon the board's teleconference November 28 as similar protests took place at UCLA and UC San Francisco.
Later, students at Davis and UC Santa Cruz took over campus buildings in solidarity actions focused on both the repression of campus activists and the spiraling cost of a UC education.
USA Today reported that after the public comment period of the meeting was over, Davis students took matters into their own hands:
Calling it "the people's regents meeting," they began holding their discussion over the sound from the speakers carrying the regents meeting live from the four UC campuses. While the meeting went on, a crowd of 60 or so students and protesters stood with placards, speaking to the news media and each other.
Similar actions in San Francisco and Los Angeles effectively shut down the Regents meeting.
Later, hundreds of Davis students, chanting "No cuts, no fees" surged into the campus' Dutton Hall, which houses the university's cashier's office, where students pay tuition. A similar protest unfolded at Santa Cruz, where an activist blockade prevented the opening of Hahn Student Services, where the cashier's office is located on that campus. A few hours later, students climbed through an open window and launched an occupation that lasted into the night.
"The workers at Hahn were sympathetic" to the blockade, said Melissa Cornelius, a senior at Santa Cruz and a campus activist. "There was a lot of debate on whether to go inside" and launch an occupation, she said. "But then we got the word that there was an occupation at UC Davis, and we voted to adopt their demands."
The demands by Occupied Dutton are: immediate resignation of Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi; removal of police from campus and their replacement by an alternative safety force; and an immediate freeze on tuition.
The Santa Cruz action was full of lively political debate, said Ian Steinman, a UCSC senior, speaking by phone from the occupied Hahn building. "People very clearly tie what's been happening at the UCs to the Occupy movement around the country, and to a lesser extent, around the world," he said.
Cornelius agreed. "People are realizing, especially college students, that they have been put in an impossible situation," she said. "People are starting to feel desperate. Inside the occupied building, someone had written on a dry erase board the end of the Communist Manifesto: 'We have nothing to lose but our chains.' And in different handwriting, written above was, "We have a world to win."
THE NOVEMBER 28 actions are the latest in a series of student protests that have only gotten bigger since being attacked by campus police with clubs at Berkeley on November 10 and drenched in pepper spray at Davis eight days later.
The action at UC-Berkeley was part of the ReFund California coalition's November 9-16 week of action to Make Banks Pay for Public Education. Thousands of students, faculty and staff participated in demonstrations throughout California's higher education system that week.
UC Davis, a campus 65 miles northeast of Berkeley, is not well known for protests. But when 5,000 people struck in Berkeley November 15 to protest campus police brutality, students and faculty in Davis took action in solidarity, occupying the Mrak Hall administration building on their campus.
Nathan Brown, an assistant English professor at UC Davis, proved prescient when he said in a speech during the occupation of Mrak Hall:
"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."