The pungent scent of tear gas once again wafts through the Berkeley campus.
Last night, after hours of chasing protesters through Berkeley, militarized police blockaded entrances to campus and prepared to assault a swelling crowd of protesters. They eagerly fingered their “less than lethal” ordinances (tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, bean-bag rounds, flash bang and smoke grenades), enthusiastic to try out their toys – supplied by the Department of Homeland Security – on the youth of America.
In light of this most recent development it is time for us to restate the connectedness of our struggles. The people of Ferguson, New York, Chicago, Oakland and Berkeley, Ayotzinapa, Mexico City, Athens, and many others have risen up and declared that enough is enough. They announce that there will be no more killings of black and brown people by the police and other forces of the neoliberal state. It is time that the students and people of Santa Cruz join these movements, rise up and cast police off of our campus and out of our communities.
There is a long history UCPD malfeasance and violence. In 2005, in response to the erection of a tent university at the base of campus protesting fee hikes and cuts to services, UCPD violently beat dozens of student protesters and arrested 19 people. In 2011, there was a rash of police violence against students: UCPD violently attacked and arrested dozens of protesters at UC Berkeley, a UC police officer drew a pistol on student protesters at a UC Regents meeting, and in a famous incident, Lt. John Pike callously pepper-sprayed seated protesters at UC Davis. Last spring the UCPD deployed over 50 riot police to break up a peaceful strike at UCSC, forcibly arresting over 20 students. In the rare case that a police officer follows their conscience and does not attack students, they are disciplined. Recently, a Cal State Monterey Bay Police officer who failed to assault a student of color with a taser when ordered to is facing dismissal; fellow officers followed through on that order and hospitalized the student.
What is the connection between the anti-austerity movement and the anti-police movement?
Most directly, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) siphons millions of dollars away from our education. High-paying police jobs have proliferated while class sizes and tuition rise, and essential services and scholarships are cut. Graduate students and adjunct professors barely survive on their salaries while high ranking UC police officers grow fat off of our tuitions. These same police are often deployed against protestors all across the state of California, and they have been very active in the attempted suppression of the current movements against police brutality. Recently, UCPD riot police were spotted in Oakland at protests against the non-indictment of Michael Brown’s killer Darren Wilson. The police clearly see the connection. Do we?
Moreover, the University of California has long been at the forefront of the development of military technologies, specifically, aerospace chemical and biological weapons. Some of these same weapons, developed in UC labs and funded by our tuition, are now being deployed against protesters on UC campuses.
Many expressed wonder when the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was appointed president of the UC System. Given that the other two candidates for the position were Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, and former Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell, it is evident that Napolitano was appointed to be the president of the largest University System in the U.S. at least in part because of her capacity to guarantee lucrative government military contracts for the University of California.
Visitors from other universities and countries are regularly horrified to see the cops on our campuses. The presence of police turns every youthful infraction into a potential legal matter. Every time we bike through a badly placed stop sign, when we bring our dogs to school with us, when we skate through campus, we face legal charges that could follow us our whole lives. Because of the presence of cops on campus, at every demonstration we face the potential of assault by a heavily armed phalanx of riot police. Simply put, the police create an environment in which it is unsafe to produce knowledge and express political opinions – the liberal university is a sham.
We want to emphasize in the strongest terms that police misconduct on our campus is nothing compared to the brutal and consistent repression faced in working-class black and brown neighborhoods, where the police amount to an invading army. Every day residents of neighborhoods living under the invasion are at risk of outright murder by the cops just for stepping onto the sidewalk. We know this firsthand because many students now involved in the anti-tuition hike struggle come from these neighborhoods.
We oppose this violent and racist institution on principle, in every one of its manifestations – we call for opening this struggle on every front by throwing cops off campus and opposing racist violence everywhere. When we say we want a truly free university, we are saying we will no longer financially support racist police murderers and their cohorts in the UCPD. We are prepared to follow the inspiring lead of the people of Ferguson, New York, Chicago, Oakland and Berkeley, Ayotzinapa, Mexico City, and Athens – and to back up our words with action.
We’ve said again and again over the last two weeks that Humanities 2 was only the beginning. Now we can ask: The beginning of what? Where is this movement going? What’s the end game?
It may be too soon to talk about the end. That horizon still eludes us. But the next concrete step has already been planned, and if we begin with that, we can identify an important line of flight. At 12:45 this Monday, students will walk out of their classes and meet at Quarry Plaza. From there we will march on the administration (which of its tentacles will we prod this time?) and loudly deliver to them a pledge: We will do whatever is necessary to prevent these hikes.
Implicit in this pledge, and in the action itself, we see the outlines of a strategy (not just a tactic) of disruption. We are switching things up; making a ruckus; getting loud and getting unruly. But we’re doing it with a purpose. We’re doing it because only a pattern of insubordination will force the hand of those who hope to placate us. We won’t permit the “normal” operation of this institution until the Regents and administrators back off this voracious swipe at our livelihoods. In this strategy, we follow the heroic disruptive efforts of those comrades who are in the streets nationwide to oppose racism and state violence today.
Yet some friends are bound to ask, “Why so much noise and trouble? Why not show up and state our case with eloquence? If we are clear, articulate, and open to dialogue, won’t we have more credibility?”
The flaw in these questions is the assumption that our message has not been heard. In fact, administrators and Regents already know what we have to say. And they knew before we even said anything.
What student would relish the idea of paying more money and going deeper into debt to stay in school? Who wants to pick up more hours at their job only to have the wages fly from their boss’s hand straight into the coffers at Hahn, where they sit as collateral for financial products? It doesn’t take any administrative experience in higher education – which is good, since Napolitano and most Regents have none – to predict that students will be angry about a $3,000 tuition hike.
The only contingency that matters for the Regents is not whether we’re unhappy, but rather, how we show it. Our ideas and feelings are only relevant if we impose them as a necessity. The UC administration is banking (literally) on the hope that we will eloquently make our case and then leave them alone – that we will open an inconsequential dialogue and wait quietly for a response. Our plan must be the opposite: forget speaking and remember how to scream. Forget treading lightly and remember how to stomp. Walk out of class, walk into the offices of those who have chosen to be our adversaries, and make their jobs impossible.
One way or the other, we will walk out of class. Either we walk out on Monday, or we walk out defeated when the bill collectors come to our doors. Rarely is a choice so simple.
A previous communiqué announced our opposition to both the UC Regents and Governor Brown: “Fuck the Regents, and Fuck Jerry Brown Too.” It is now necessary for us to declare our opposition to the latest plan for privatization put forward by the California Democratic Party.
The cowardly California Democrats, fearing the retribution of the students and people of California, have announced a new plan to avoid fee hikes. But their plan proposes cutting scholarship programs for middle-class Californian students and raising tuition for out-of-state students by over $4,000. Let’s be clear about the strategy they’re employing: instead of imposing cuts on all students, the Democrats intend to attack certain constituencies, middle-class and out-of-state students, the classic imperial maneuver of “divide and conquer.” They want to divide us, leave us to fight over the scraps left by the state.
What’s more, in a crude and grotesque application of their neoliberal ideology, the Democrats propose offering “completion incentive grants” to create “financial incentives” for students in the CSU system to graduate faster. Underlying this move is a frank acknowledgement that the education system has completely failed us: standardized test-based public education has not prepared students for college, and the university does not provide students the resources they need to finish according the administration’s schedule.
Despite their awareness of the fact that students often need to work full-time to keep up with the cost of living while they go to school, the Democrats are proposing the use of incentives to impose a form of factory speed-up: encouraging students to drive themselves into the ground and cut corners in their education, just to win a bonus that isn’t even worth a week of a Chancellor’s income.
Of course, they claim they will help speed students along by throwing money into more classes, as well as more advising and support. But don’t mistake this for a concern with your education. “If we invest more, we expect better efficiencies,” the Senate Leader shamelessly confessed to the Sacramento Bee. Students are being reduced to pure financial flows, to sources of income that can be manipulated and controlled by the unholy alliance of big capital and Homeland Security. No wonder they want to admit more students.
The California Democrats’ plan is not a plan to create better, more accessible, or more democratic university. It is an insidious form of privatization and financialization that converts your education into a flow of money, and your life into endless work. It represents another form of class warfare waged against the people of California. They can be sure that the people of California will respond in kind.
Those of us who are occupying Humanities 2 express our solidarity and commitment in struggle to our comrade who was sexually assaulted in a lecture hall adjacent to our occupation. We are deeply affected that our comrade experienced sexualized violence and we vehemently oppose and refuse to tolerate patriarchal expressions in our space – be them physical or otherwise. The CruzAlert purposefully pretends that the sexual assault itself was a natural outcome of the occupation movement, and that when we attempt to imagine and create spaces that are beyond the university’s reach of control, we have naively put ourselves in danger and opened ourselves up to violence.
It is an attack on the survivor to attack the movement with which she is associated. It is unfair to imply that the survivors participation in this occupation has brought on this violence against her. The closing statement of this email utilizes victim blaming language by implying the survivor experienced sexual assault because of the environment she was in. The language in the email from the UC police misrepresented the condition of the occupation as a way to legitimize an eviction and discredit the student movement. We are disgusted that the Cruz Alert has co-opted issues of sexual violence as a mechanism to gain support for police repression against the occupation, considering the university nor the police have historically cared to punish perpetrators of sexual violence. We say this out of our overwhelming compassion for survivors and our rage against perpetrators.
There are many instances of sexual assault that occur on campus, the majority of which go unreported in this way (via Cruz Alert) to the campus community. These issues are pressing student concerns and need to be addressed appropriately in every instance, may that be through adequate support services for survivors (which the UCPD failed to include in their email) or following through on prosecuting perpetrators We are prepared in this space to extend support to survivors.
To all women: Your struggles against patriarchal violence are our struggles.
To all survivors of sexual violence: We stand in solidarity with you.
To perpetrators: Our movement is against you.
Feminists of Hum2