Cops Off CampusPosted: December 10, 2014
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.