Thursday, November 18, 2010
A Report on the Protests at the 2010 Fall Regents Meeting
On November 17, as the UC Regents met in San Francisco to discuss a proposed eight percent undergraduate tuition increase, as well as a reduction in pensions for university employees, a group of over 300 students and workers from across the UC system gathered at the site of the Regents meeting. As the regents arrived, protesters formed picket lines at all entrances of the building, such that police officers ultimately had to forcibly break up protest lines in order to allow individual Regents to enter the building. After the Regents had been escorted into their meeting, protesters massed on the east side of the building. They pulled down a police barricade, and began marching toward the east entrance, hoping to enter into the Regents meeting and interrupt a process that promises to delay their retirements and cast them even further into debt. Students and workers were attempting to reclaim their futures from the Regents, whose austerity proposals appear to be little more than unjustifiable ends in themselves, as the stabilization of state funding has rendered such measures unnecessary.
Protesters were initially met at the east doors with police who wielded billy-clubs as bludgeons, and with a brief dousing of pepper spray. Pushed back once, students and workers massed a second time in front of the police line, and began again to walk towards the entrance. This time, the police coated them with an extended, indiscriminate blanket of pepper spray. People who were more than ten feet away from the line of police needed treatment for the burning sensation in their eyes and on their faces caused by exposure to this chemical weapon. Those closer to the police required intensive treatment, and were, in some cases, still in pain over an hour later.
After these incidents on the east door, protesters moved around to the other side of the building and attempted to enter into the Regents meeting through an attached parking garage. A number of protesters were able to enter into the interior foyer before being beaten aggressively with batons, pepper sprayed at close range, and, in some cases, arrested. Again, those who were sprayed required intensive treatment. During this confrontation inside the parking garage, UCPD officer Kemper pulled his gun on students without provocation. Concerning this incident, spokespeople from the UC administration and from UCPD have claimed – despite conflicting video evidence -- that a student took officer Kemper's baton and beat him on the head with it. Video of the incident shows Kemper losing control of his baton as he rushes students, and then -- without provocation -- unholstering his gun. An open letter has been released calling on the UC and UCPD to account for their public misrepresentation of this incident -- an incident that has severely frightened students and workers, who recognize that one further false move on the part of officer Kemper could have resulted in serious injury or even death.
At UC Berkeley, concerned members of the campus community will meet tonight to respond to the fee increases and to the police violence faced by students and workers at the Regents meeting. We will be meeting at 6pm in Dwinelle 370. Please join us in carrying forward the protests against educational privatization and police violence on our campuses.
* For an account of how the Regents could reduce undergraduate tuition and treat UC employees fairly, even in the face of recent reductions in state funding to the UCs, see Bob Meister's latest report: http://reclamationsjournal.org/issue03_meister.html
* For another extended account of the protest, which includes links to video, see the Informant's article: http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/11/uc-regents-meeting-erupts-in-clashes-between-police-protesters/
* Open letter demanding that UCOP apologize for false statements regarding officer Kemper: http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=437696762184