Monday, April 30, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Do Not Misunderstand You

Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down. The lack of effective communication by the Chancellor at this time not only contributed to misunderstandings that made it difficult to evaluate the decision to use police to take down the tents. This communication failure also substantially undermined the goal of avoiding a physical confrontation between the police and protesters. — from the Reynoso Report.
It is no doubt in the interest of Linda Katehi and the UC Davis administrative class to take refuge behind the idea of a “misunderstandings.” The Reynoso and Kroll reports paint a striking picture of incompetence, malign stupidity, and an organizational “culture” that, barring any countervailing force, moves naturally in the direction of physically hurting people it believes to be in its care. This is, regardless of any questions of intent, an entirely adequate argument not just for removing the leading incompetents, but dissolving the structure itself.
The flimsy pretext to which Katehi clings is absence of malice. No matter how incompetent, delusional, and unable to exercise either command or good judgment, she is somehow credited with good intentions. Things would not have gone so poorly for the students, we are meant to believe, if not for a series of misunderstandings which should have been avoided but were not. The legal standing of the protest; the supposed presence of “non-affiliates” among the students; the authorized force level to be deployed against the protestors; and many other matters were all supposedly subject to misunderstandings.
This is not the case. Linda Katehi we do not misunderstand you.
Let us first grant all the disavowals. We don’t believe them for a second: they are the filler text of brutes and stooges, and we have seen them a thousand times.
But let us accept them all at face value:
¶ that the application of a law on a Friday afternoon which prohibits “non-affiliates” (and non-affiliates only) from camping overnight on the Davis campus was somehow merely a misunderstanding of that code (110).
¶ that claims regarding the presence of these “non-affiliates” — which proved utterly false, and which were authoritatively contradicted in advance of any police action by the only administrator who had visited the quad — were somehow just misunderstandings of who was there (21).
¶ that the purported desire of Linda Katehi that no violent force be used was simply misunderstood over and over again down a long chain of command, despite all indications to the contrary (34).
Let us grant all that; we are generous souls. What then remains that all sides and parties agree upon — that involves neither actual nor implied misunderstandings?
The following: that Linda Katehi did intend to deploy the force of law against “non-affiliates” to remove them from campus where they were legally disallowed. This is clear in the law cited and in her orders, and led directly to the violence (113). No one disputes this point, nor was there any misunderstanding regarding this rationale.
Let us now restate the November situation in which nothing is misunderstood:
In order to justify arrest and extraordinary physical force against students, on November 18th, 2011, Linda Katehi chose to consider the open quad of the UC Davis campus to be private, reserved for students, staff and faculty of the university.
Let us now move forward to March of 2012, some four months later, when 12 affiliates (eleven students, one faculty) were served with arrest warrants by mail threatening eleven years each in jail, and a million dollars in damages. Half of these affiliates were pepper-sprayed and/or arrested on November 18, unfortunate casualties of that series of misunderstandings amidst the military-grade war on non-affiliates.
The charges are as follows: one count each of “conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor” and 20 counts each of said misdemeanor. The conspiracy was, it would seem, a conspiracy to sit on the hallway floor in front of the US Bank lodged in the Memorial Union, allegedly obstructing said hallway. This was what the University went with. We know from the record that these charges were first chosen by the UC Davis police at the behest of the administration, and then forwarded to the District Attorney.
Said misdemeanor is California Penal Code 647c: “Every person who willfully and maliciously obstructs the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk, or other public place or on or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor.” For the purpose of bringing the force of law to bear on affiliates, the hallway of the Union is to be considered, as a legal matter, a public thoroughfare — that is, not limited in access to campus affiliates. The law in question applies only insofar as it protects the access of non-affiliates.
Here then is the March situation in which nothing is misunderstood:
In order to justify arrest and extraordinary charges against students and faculty, in January through March. 2012, Linda Katehi chose to consider the Memorial Union to be public, which is defined as freely open to non-affiliates.
Let us pause to restate this curious double situation.
In November, the presence of non-affiliates on the quad was officially and openly treated as cause to send in riot cops with unauthorized weapons in which they were untrained and bring grievous harm to students sitting peacefully.
In March, the full force of law and threat of eleven years in prison were levied officially and openly against these same affiliates to protect the right of passage of non-affiliates.
Linda one can see how this might be confusing. We have already stipulated all your ludicrous disavowals, the ones believed by small children and science professors. Even if we reduce it to matters on which all parties openly and officially agree, you wish to have it both ways. The campus is closed to all but the university community, and affiliates must be protected from non-affiliates; the campus is open for business and non-affiliates must be protected from affiliates. One can imagine how misunderstandings might arise from such contradictions, such an absurd jumble of desperate positions that shift with the breeze.
Linda we do not misunderstand you.
Behind this there is absolute coherence. Not around the law, not around campus health and safety, not around basic reason. The only coherence is this: If those who work and study on your campus gather together as a body with a political purpose, you will mobilize whatever petty and ludicrous pretext is to hand in order to beat, pepper spray, and arrest them. That is the goal for you. The evidence here is, we fear, inarguable. It cannot be misconstrued. Indeed the clarity of the situation and of your desperation is rather pathetic.
You are not a serious person but you are a dangerous person. We do not misunderstand you.
It will have escaped the notice of nobody that the convenient slippage between public and private which appears above as contradiction is a shadow cast by the central drama of the University of California over the last three or thirty years — the stage-managed indistinction between whether or not the school is public (as it claims to be in matters requiring public sympathy) or private (as it behaves otherwise, ceaselessly shifting cost and labor burdens onto the backs of students and workers). Surely it is this development, which has occasioned increasingly ambitious counter-struggles by students and staff, that has in turn allowed Linda Katehi and her crack team to bring the pain no matter the given circumstance.
In truth the circumstance is more precise and perverse than this. Images may help. Here are the two places on campus described above, the quad and the Memorial Union, which are in fact immediately adjacent each to the other:
So it is not a simple slippage but a true inversion — or a chiasmus, as the Greeks would have it.  The quad, with its double memory of shared, common space —the meadow and the agora — turns now to become private, and will be defended by military force from the public real or imagined. The student union, larded now with private franchises from the gleaming new food court to the corporate travel agency (there used to be a bank here as well, we gather) must be protected by the university and the District Attorney on behalf of the public.
And it is now we realize that Linda Katehi, while a manifestly failed administrator, is perhaps a gifted educator. Clearly she specializes in Greek thought. For is this not a lesson in the dialectic itself: each antagonistic term folding into its opposite, until a higher truth is revealed? This hides behind every contradiction, after all.
It is not a static opposition, to be sure, but a historical one. It is eerily familiar, in truth. The first scene is that of enclosure, the privatizing by force of common lands that inaugurates the modern world of employers and employees, commodities and wages, blood and fire. The second scene is that of globalization, wherein every corner of the earth must be drawn into the dream of liberal democracy, open to all — in so far as every corner of the earth might thereby become another outpost of the market, hiring a few, dispossessing a few more, and assuring that commerce is equally available to each with sufficient coin in purse. The whole history of capitalist modernity in four months!
Perhaps the higher truth is as simple as this: the opposition of public and private, and the insistence the administration is stewarding us in a single direction is itself inadequate to understand the present situation. “The public” in fact persists; it now refers to purchasers, who literally have no business on the quad; the businesses await behind the Memorial Union’s doors. We might, we must demand “public education” because this is an idea cherished by the public.
But at the same time we must understand that “public” too takes on a perjured meaning. Every word can be a double agent, as a Belgian gentleman once said. The word “public” is only too happy to serve power, to serve those who advance in a double column of armies and bankers, making free with the pepper spray and the debt machines. These too are public, as needed. It would be a misunderstanding, finally, to settle for “public” as the realm of freedom. It would be a misunderstanding to think that the administration will not embrace such things, if it justifies the crushing of any political act. And it would be a misunderstanding to think that we will stop before the shell game of public and private is annihilated, and the history that our friend has so recently summarized for us is brought to an end.
Linda we do not misunderstand you. Do not misunderstand us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Candlelight police station "attack"

Reposted from: a project of take back uci.

On the night of April 19, we met at the UC Irvine campus police station at 8:00—undergraduate and graduate students, a few faculty, and a light brown dachshund named Chewy. We plugged a projector and laptop into an outlet behind a tree and threw on the exterior wall of the station facing Pereira St. a compilation of footage of the last few years’ campus police violence: the infamous beatings of protesters last November in Berkeley, the pepper-sprayings of students at Davis, Santa Monica City College, and the CSU Regents’ meeting at Cal State Long Beach; militarized police confrontations with peaceful students at Riverside and Irvine. This large color video covered the upper part of the station’s brick wall and was visible to cars passing from the street. We watched the footage over and over as the sun set, and when it was finally dark we lit white and red taper candles, purchased just minutes earlier from the Albertson’s across the street. A little later, we lowered the station flags to half-mast. We had thought of the event as a vigil in solidarity of people brutalized by campus police violence.

The features of this event, which we experienced at the time and now as complicated and beautiful, raise interesting questions about how our response to police repression is evolving. The scenes of brutality are so relentless and egregious that the person who had the task of editing the footage together was moved to tears during her work by her immersion in it. At more than life-size on the outdoor wall, it was easy to feel again the visceral injustice of the scenes. At the same time, the main collective reaction to the appearance of the first images was delight—not at the violent content, of course, but at the capacity to make this happen. In the video we made of the action in turn, you can hear one woman yelling “It’s me! It’s me!” at the Long Beach scene. Everyone is laughing. Right away someone exclaimed, “This is not the reaction you would normally expect at police brutality!” and everyone laughed again. One of us with a small megaphone (which wasn’t turned on) took on the voice of a stereotypical cop to furnish a voiceover for some of the scenes: “The problem with these hippies is that they like it! They keep coming back for more!” It seemed appropriate to light a candle on a donut. The guy with the megaphone made an announcement: “For donuts, see the man with the donuts.”

After hours, there are generally two officers on duty inside the station. After about twenty minutes, one of them came out and turned to see the projection on the wall. He started and seemed uncertain what to do. He walked around the perimeter of the crowd and asked “Who’s the leader of this group?” Everybody laughed. After a while someone pointed to the violence on the wall and asked whether he’d been at the scene. “I wasn’t at that one,” he said. After a minute he wandered back the way he’d come.

As the evening goes on you can hear bits of ordinary conversations about work and activism: someone accepted a marginal teaching post “just to have something”; someone makes a reference to “the shittiness,” which sounds general; there are passing ideas about other actions and a reference to some stolen anti-UCPD posters. Milano cookies are offered around and accepted with gratitude. People struggle to keep their candles alight, cupping and enjoining flames in protest against the indifference of the wind. Someone grafts his dying red candle onto the white stump of another, and we make an intrusive joke about biraciality. Someone else expresses fatigue. Too many drops of candle wax fall on Chewy, who doesn’t complain.

We’ve preserved the casual soundtrack of our irreverence because it reflects the things that UCPD brutality interacts with in daily life. The laughing and talking in no way ignores or diminishes the violence; it indicates what we have to process the violence with. There were moments (also captured in the video) when in solitude or in collectivity we became meditative, lost in the edges of things—candlewicks, the flickering of images, in the not- knowing-how-to-feel-or-exactly-what-to-say. This night was a reflective expression of support for everyone whom campus police have beaten, whose fingers have been broken, and who has been sprayed with chemical agents in the last three years and a festive repurposing of UCPD’s public space. In retrospect, it was most of all a statement that anger, sorrow and joy can co-exist in the face of, and literally in the front yard of, police repression. Rather than sublimating pain and reversing it into an aggrandizing power, projecting the images created a new arena where people could do various things with the recent history plainly on view. “This is not the reaction you would normally expect!” expresses the pleasure of surprise in exceeding expectations.

Remarks at 4/23 rally for the Davis Dozen

Today's rally in support of the Davis Dozen was inspiring; those speaking offered compelling accounts of the mutually constitutive, and mutating, relations between university privatization and forms of state repression, and there were lots of people out, talking to each other and writing letters to the DA and the Chancellor. Everybody should make sure to call the Yolo County D.A. and Chancellor Katehi this week, and demand that the charges against the Davis Dozen be dropped.

DA Reisig's number: (530) 666-8180
Chancellor Katehi's number: (530) 752-2065


Hi everybody.... Along with twelve others, I've been facing stay-away orders and charges from November 9th, a day when hundreds of students linked arms around the occupy cal encampment, facing waves of police aggression. A number of people had their ribs broken or bruised that day. And a few, including someone who was standing next to me, had to go to the hospital because of their injuries.

Among the thirteen of us being charged, many of us were struck but almost all of us weren't even arrested on the 9th; rather, we simply received a letter this March from the District Attorney informing us of our arraignment dates. It seems that the UCPD and the Chancellors selected a number of organizers and groups they wanted to shut down this spring, and, not having the legitimacy on campus to prosecute us through the office of student conduct, they just asked the District Attorney to do the work of repressing student protest for them. But their plan hasn't worked: the attempted prosecutions have been met with pickets and other expressions of outrage, including dozens of phone calls on our behalf from students and instructors at UC Davis. The pressure you all and others have been able to exert seems to have convinced Chancellor Birgeneau and the District Attorney to back off on the charges.

We're organizing against the charges, but the charges haven't subsumed our organizing or shut down other protests: these past weeks, we've continued fighting the Regents' attempts to take even more from students; their attempts to impose ever heavier debt burdens, and to convert UC campuses into homes for banks and other capitalist firms. Just yesterday, hundreds of people, including dozens of UC students and alumni, reclaimed a tract of land that the University was planning to sell to Whole Foods. We remade the field into a small farm, planted 15,000 seedlings, and established an encampment beside the rows of vegetable shoots. We're fighting to reclaim the material conditions of our lives and for our learning; and as we fight, we won't let them cut us off from each other, or cut any of us down.

In many ways, what's been happening at Berkeley echoes what's been going on here in Davis. There's a similarly discredited chancellor, who is similarly trying to shut down student protest by getting the DA to bring severe charges after the fact against a dozen-or-so people. Our outgoing chancellor discredited himself in various ways last fall: but not nearly as badly as your chancellor, Katehi. A lot has been said and written about what they've done though; I don't have much to add right now about that. Instead, I want to say a little bit more about how we've responded to their acts of aggression.

In November, after they struck and sprayed us, we cared for and supported each other, linking arms, washing each other's eyes out with liquid antacid and water, putting bandages on cut up backs, staying up at night beside the tents to watch out for raids, and escorting from campus those who attacked friends and classmates. We came together in ways we hadn't before. In the hours and days after the police injured us, we gathered in assemblies of thousands and called strikes, asking people on other campuses to join us as well, to leave their classrooms for a day and take action together against fee hikes and recent police violence.

How students at Berkeley and at Davis acted in concert on these days was particularly inspiring. You all were there for us then; and you've come through for us more recently as we've faced stay-away orders and charges. In November, you all were gathering, partly in support of us, when Lt. Pike sprayed burning chemicals across your faces and down your throats. A number of those pepper sprayed that day are now facing charges in connection with another action. You all have exposed yourselves to risk in standing with us; now, we're going to be there for you as you face these charges. We'll chip in and make calls this week. And we'll talk to our classmates and fellow workers about how they can support those being charged. A number of us in the GSI union, from different campuses, actually just put together an email that's being sent out to all our members statewide, asking that they call the Yolo County DA and Chancellor Katehi, and demand that the charges on the Davis Dozen be dropped.

Together, let's get these charges lifted. And let's keep up our struggles to abolish student debt and to reclaim the spaces and times of our lives.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Occupy the Farm

[Update: lots more beautiful pictures, including the one below taken by Dave Id, at Indybay.]

640_2012-04-22_15-21-20_416.jpg original image ( 3264x1840)

From Occupy the Farm (via fb):

April 22, 2012

Occupy the Farm Activists Reclaim Prime Urban Agricultural Land in SF Bay Area


(Albany, Calif.), April 22, 2012 – Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.

For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot.

"For ten years people in Albany have tried to turn the Gill Tract into an Urban Farm and a more open space for the community. The people in the Bay Area deserve to use this treasure of land for an urban farm to help secure the future of our children," explains Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, an Albany resident and public school teacher for 38 years.

Occupy the Farm seeks to address structural problems with health and inequalities in the Bay Area that stem from communities’ lack of access to food and land. Today’s action reclaims the Gill Tract to demonstrate and exercise the peoples’ right to use public space for the public good. This farm will serve as a hub for urban agriculture, a healthy and affordable food source for Bay Area residents and an educational center.

“Every piece of uncontaminated urban land needs to be farmed if we are to reclaim control over how food is grown, where it comes from, and who it goes to,” says Anya Kamenskaya, UC Berkeley alum and educator of urban agriculture. “We can farm underutilized spaces such as these to create alternatives to the corporate control of our food system.”

UC Berkeley has decided to privatize this unique public asset for commercial retail space, and, ironically, a high-end grocery store. This is only the latest in a string of privatization schemes. Over the last several decades, the university has increasingly shifted use of the Gill Tract away from sustainable agriculture and towards biotechnology with funding from corporations such as Novartis and BP.

Frustrated that traditional dialogue has fallen on deaf ears, many of these same local residents, students, and professors have united as Occupy the Farm to Take Back the Gill Tract. This group is working to empower communities to control their own resilient food systems for a stable and just future – a concept and practice known as food sovereignty.

Occupy the Farm is in solidarity with Via Campesina and the Movimiento Sin Tierra (Landless Workers Movement).

The Gill Tract is located at the Berkeley-Albany border, at the intersection of San Pablo Ave and Marin Ave.

• Join us: Come dressed to work! We need people to help till the soil, plant seedlings, teach workshops, and more.

• Donate/lend: We need shovels, rakes, pickaxes, rototillers, drip irrigation tape, gloves, hats, food, and anything else farming related!

• Monetary donations can be sent through our website at

640_2012-04-22_14-50-39_457.jpg original image ( 3264x1840)

Friday, April 20, 2012

UC Berkeley Capital Projects, Stadium Edition

The Wall Street Journal reports on the UC Berkeley administration's disastrous plans for financing the renovation of the football stadium. In short, the brilliant idea was to raise $270 million from the sale of seats, presumably to its hyper-rich, 1-percent alumni. As one might expect, things didn't quite work out as our highly-paid financial managers imagined: only $31 million (about 11 percent of the total) was raised over a period of three years, leaving us about $240 million in the hole.

Wonder who's going to get stuck footing the bill...
Although its $321 million price tag would make it one of the most expensive renovations in college sports history, the university said the project would be funded privately, largely through long-term seat sales and naming rights.

But three years into the fund-raising effort, a projected $270 million from the sale of seats has failed to materialize. At the end of December, the school had collected only $31 million in the first three years of the sale. Now it has become clear that the university will have to borrow the vast majority of the money.

In recent interviews, university officials acknowledge that if revenue projections fall short and won't cover the bond payments, the shortfall "would have to come from campus."

The idea that money for the football stadium could come from campus funds, which include student fees, is an admission likely to stir outrage at a school that's already facing possible double-digit tuition increases. "It is disconcerting that the university may be gambling with student fees and other academic funds to cover a massive financial commitment for a football stadium," said Cal computer-science professor Brian Barsky.


The nearly half-billion-dollar Cal athletic project encompasses a $321 million renovation of Memorial Stadium that opens Sept. 1 and $153 million for a new multisport training facility. That's far more than Stanford University spent building a new stadium in 2006.

In public pitches for the project starting in 2006, university officials talked about raising hundreds of millions through an "Endowment Seating Program" that was to endow all 29 of Cal's varsity sports and more yet by selling naming rights to various components of the stadium. The official name will remain Memorial in honor of war veterans. But the economic downturn hindered sales and by November 2010, [Sandy] Barbour [Cal's athletic director] had posted online a letter to fans saying she was "heartbroken that the program's intentions will, in all likelihood, not be fully realized."

The total bonded debt for the project, including the training center, will be $447 million. That's apparently an unprecedented amount of borrowing for a college-sports project, far above the $220 million that Minnesota borrowed to build a new stadium in 2009, the $200 million that Washington has borrowed for its stadium renovation and the $148 million that Michigan took out to add luxury seats that opened in 2010.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Occupy UC Davis Protester Expelled [Updated]

[Update from the comments, posted on 4/22 at 9:15am]: "on Thursday, 40 pissed-off people walked into the Dean's front office and sat and made their case until the Assistant Dean agreed to a meeting with Thomas for the following day, with his lawyer present. The following day, Thomas was reinstated at the university — this despite the rather instant dismissal and refusal to consider an appeal just a couple days before.

The Dean assures us this has nothing to do with the direct action. No, nothing at all."

An update and call from our comrades at the Davis Antirepression Crew for a Solidarity Study-In at the Dean's Office.

A UC Davis undergraduate in art studio was arrested early Saturday morning, 17 March, in his dorm room, by members of both the UC Davis and City of Davis Police. He was charged with Felony Vandalism and held in jail over the weekend and into finals week; his school supplies, phone and computer were all confiscated. With no access to his contacts nor warning of the arrest, he was unable to contact legal representation. Incommunicado in jail, he was unable to take final exams, and was only bailed out (for $20,000) when concerned friends began looking for him after he had been missing for days. UC Davis Student Judicial Affairs, which initiated the warrant for his arrest, didn’t bother to notify his home department, his family, friends, or professors to let them know the student’s whereabouts.

Several weeks later, both Student Judicial Affairs and Student Housing threatened him with disciplinary measures including eviction and expulsion, in addition to the criminal charges they initiated through Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. The student, who entered UCD as a transfer student last fall, has since been expelled based on poor academic performance, on top of criminal charges that may carry a 3-4 year sentence and $10,000 fine. As a student prominently involved with Occupy UC Davis, arrested during the pepper spray incident on Nov. 18, 2011, these charges appear to be a means to intimidate and punish him for political activism.

The charges against this student-activist are in line with the ongoing and systematic police and legal repression of the Occupy movement. Threatening people with inflated or trumped-up charges, a familiar tactic in many vulnerable communities, is now increasingly wielded as a strategy to chill political dissent on campuses — a way of exacting punishment in jail time, legal expenses, and interference with other obligations before the opportunity for trial. “This is the new de facto regime of guilty until proven innocent, and it should be opposed by every decent person,” said Joshua Clover, a professor at Davis. The university News Service, which reports directly to Chancellor Katehi, has already expressed its enthusiasm for engaging “law enforcement to prosecute proven violations” — seeming to misunderstand the legal relation of trials, proof, and guilt almost entirely, with harmful consequences for students.

The Reynoso Task Force Report on the UCD Pepper Spray Incident just last week verified that the administration’s unfounded hysteria regarding the Occupy movement resulted in their extralegal use of force against student activists. Importantly, the Reynoso Report also underscored the need for campus authorities to handle student political protest through already established, appropriate channels; namely through the SJA and Student Affairs — and not by means of police and criminal charges.

We urge the UCD campus community and the general public to reject categorically the administration’s use of legal maneuvering to suppress political dissent.


Bring a cushion, 5,000 friends, your favorite textbook, and a colorful sign to the Office of Letters and Sciences! We're going to meet at the building's ground level entrance. If you can't attend this event, support Tomas at his arraignment this Friday.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

On "Non-Affiliates" in the Reynoso/Kroll Report

The Reynoso/Kroll Report [pdf] has shed new light on the striking (though by no means unexpected) malice, stupidity, incompetence, and immaturity of the UC Davis administration and police department. Mistakes occurred at every step of decision making, from the senior administrators of the so-called "Leadership Team" to the responses of individual cops on the ground. In reality, though, it's probably too generous to call these command failures "mistakes" -- they indicate something else, a sort of willful antipathy combined with authoritarian paternalism directed toward the student body by Chancellor Katehi, her "Leadership Team," and the UC Davis administration in general.

It is with the specter of the "non-affiliate" that this authoritarianism manifests itself most clearly. To state this argument in stronger terms: the "non-affiliate" is the central element that both shapes the administrative gaze and reveals its operative logic. Structurally, the "non-affiliate" plays a similar role to the "outside agitator" (a figure that has for its part also made some significant appearances in recent East Bay struggles), those excluded bodies that transgress the constitutive boundaries of a particular political formation or community. What is at stake in the definition of the "non-affiliate" is a spatial politics of both inclusion and exclusion, since by defining who is excluded this language at the same time defines who is included. To the extent that the target of protesters at the UC and beyond has been precisely the privatization of public education, these protests -- which have consistently faced repression at the hands and batons of UCPD -- are about redefining the spatial logic of inclusion/exclusion that drives the decision-making of the UC administration.

The Kroll report contains a fascinating set of statements culled from interviews conducted with the high-level UC Davis administrators involved in making the decision to send in the cops:
In planning its response to Occupy-related activism, the Leadership Team discussed the presence of “non-affiliates” in the Occupy group. According to Chancellor Katehi, “We had noticed that this group, this year specifically, has people -- even when they came to Mrak -- who were not students.” “We were worried at the time about that because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students . . . we worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record . . . if anything happens to any student while we’re in violation of policy, it’s a very tough thing to overcome.”

According to Vice Chancellor Meyer, “our context at the time was seeing what's happening in the City of Oakland, seeing what's happening in other municipalities across the country, and not being able to see a scenario where [a UC Davis Occupation] ends well . . . Do we lose control and have non-affiliates become part of an encampment? So my fear is a long-term occupation with a number of tents where we have an undergraduate student and a non- affiliate and there's an incident. And then I'm reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act with your daughter, and how could we let that happen?” (Kroll, pp. 27-28; emphasis added)
The language of the administration depicts the "non-affiliate" as a highly sexualized, racialized, and criminalized body, a foreign, contaminating body, a body that does not belong, that, like a cancer, presents a clear and present danger, that must be quickly identified and surgically removed. As Elizabeth Freeman writes,
[T]his is a public, land-grant university, whose mandate is to be open and accessible and to serve the people. All California residents, indeed all residents of the U.S., are “affiliates” of the UC system. The Morrill Act, granting the land for land-grant universities, also contained legislation that authorized the federal government to systematically steal Native American lands by interfering with both Native American and Mormon systems of kinship and inheritance. Thus most of us are in the first place the outsiders occupying these tracts, our very presence here legitimated by the government’s enforcement of Protestant norms of gender, sexuality, and kinship. Second, since the Americas were settled, the discourse of rape has been used to terrorize people of color as potential rapists, and to limit the freedoms of white women as potential victims. I imagine that any female participants in the Occupy protests would find Vice Chancellor’s remarks patronizing in the extreme. Third, the rhetoric of “Save Our Children” has been a pernicious part of anti-gay movements since at least Anita Bryant’s 1977 campaign against legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Miami. It was part of Proposition 8. Anyone knowing anything about the history of anti-gay organizing in this country cannot fail to see that invoking the specter of the violated child is a right-wing tactic.

The specter of the “stranger” raping the young has been used to legitimize all kinds of violence. I cannot accept leaders who would mobilize it to defend the use of force against political protest.
Similarly, Nathan Brown writes,
Ah, once again, “the City of Oakland,” so close to the City of Davis, and yet so far. What sort of people might one find there? But is it not the case that what was actually happening in the City of Oakland and other municipalities was egregious police violence against peaceful demonstrators -- including the near-killing of protester Scott Olsen in Oakland on October 25? And what is it, exactly, that our tepid Vice Chancellor has in mind when he refers to “this unthinkable act” that might transpire between an undergraduate and a "non-affiliate"? Does he mean rape? It seems this is either a concept he does not understand (“with your daughter,” he says) or a word he is unable to use in a sentence. But perhaps he just means “sex and other things”? Perhaps the very notion that an undergraduate -- and a “daughter” no less -- might have sex with a “non-affiliate” is an unthinkable act in the view of our painstakingly upright administrators. Confronted with the cultivated ambiguity of the Vice Chancellor's formulation, I suppose we can conclude that when you don't know what you're talking about, it's best to equivocate.

In brief, all that the pathetic and infantile discourse of the “Leadership Team” has to offer in its defense is the danger of sex and drugs, of “older people,” and the terribly frightening specter of “Oakland.” One needn’t look far to find an identical sexist, paternalist, pseudo-moralistic discourse deployed in the most unbearably racist, xenophobic contexts. It is always the same thing with authoritarian bureaucrats who send in police to guard the young and innocent against those who “come from the outside”: they are more than willing to sanction brutal violence to buttress whatever obscene fantasy of purity serves as their faulty moral compass.
As Freeman and Brown effectively demonstrate, the report points to something that cannot be fixed by implementing some policy or other, clearer guidelines for crowd-control, a more effective organizational structure for the pathetic "Leadership Team," or sanctions of individual police officers for their brutal oversteps. Even in the few cases where they are laid out clearly and forcefully, such policy recommendations would represent piecemeal attempts to manage the symptom of a problem that runs much deeper. The problem has to do, rather, with a particular way of seeing the world, with the administrative gaze. What activates the administration's response, its rapid and reflexive turn to its repressive arm, the UCDPD, is the shimmering and intangible image of students as "very young [white] girls" threatened by outsiders, "older people" from "Oakland." At the same time, it is precisely the student's abstract nature in the eyes of the administration that enables and rationalizes the violent assault against its real, flesh-and-blood counterparts.

This authoritarian paternalism -- Vice Chancellor Meyer even refers to UCD students as "my children" in his statement to the Kroll investigators (p. 39) -- also has a legal significance that so far has received somewhat less attention. One of the most striking parts of the Kroll report is the widespread confusion among UC administrators and their police counterparts about the legal basis for the police action. The report identifies three legal justifications that were given for the raid. The first is a subsection of California Penal Code Section 647, which reads "Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor: (e) Who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it." Students who were arrested on the day of the pepper-spraying were charged with this, though the DA later opted not to press charges. Not coincidentally, it's the same Section (though a different subsection) with which the Davis Dozen are being charged by the Yolo County DA. (It turns out that this particular subsection was originally intended to "criminaliz[e] African American civil rights protests in the 1960s.") Since the arrests were made in the afternoon, however, the point here is that "it is not clear that the arrestees were, in fact, connected to any of the tents or had in fact 'lodged' on University property" (Kroll, p. 112). Likewise, the second legal basis for the police action was a UCD policy prohibiting "overnight camping" on university grounds. Again, since the arrests took place in the afternoon, this policy is entirely irrelevant.

The third and most significant legal basis for the police action circles back to the figure of the "non-affiliate." The report cites a letter from Senior Campus Counsel Michael Sweeney to the Kroll investigators. Dated January 13, this retrospective letter contains the clearest statement from the UCD administration as to its official position on the legality of the action: "The law that most clearly applies is California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 100005, enclosed, which prohibits non-affiliates from camping on University property." "Thus," the Kroll report continues, "in response to questions about the legal basis for the police action the administration cites legal authority that only applies to non-affiliates" (p. 29).

The "non-affiliate" stands at the heart of the (il)legality of the police operation, whose entire premise was the abundance of "non-affiliates" insidiously dispersed throughout the student body on the day in question. Chief Spicuzza stated that "her officers had told her that 80 percent of the people out there weren't students, that we had non-affiliates here" (Kroll, p. 56); while "Officer F" reported that "through conversation with the occupants, it was determined that the majority were NOT affiliated with the University [but were] part of the 'Occupy' movement" (Kroll, p. 38). The absence of "non-affiliates" -- or at least the administration's incapacity to demonstrate a "non-affiliate" presence -- means that not only the arrests but very nearly everything the police did on that day was illegal: "Without the legal authority to demand that the tents be removed, the police lose the legal authority for much of what subsequently transpired on November 18, including the issuance of an order to disperse and the declaration of an unlawful assembly" (Kroll, p. 110).

Like the "outside agitator," the "gang member," the "prisoner," the "illegal alien," and the "terrorist," the "non-affiliate" marks the limit of the rule of law. But this limit is constantly being contested. Through direct actions like occupations, pickets, and barricades, we generate new lines of care, affinity, and solidarity that reconfigure these boundaries of inclusion/exclusion. On one hand, the UC administration pushes poorer students and students of color off our campuses while replacing them with corporate and financial capital. On the other hand, the anti-privatization movement pushes capital off campus while repurposing and opening up the university's spaces and resources for everyone -- not just for the benefit of the administrators and police who, in this age of austerity, make our lives increasingly miserable, precarious, and violent.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Reynoso Report: A Portrait of Administrative Malice, Stupidity, Incompetence, and Immaturity

Today the Reynoso Report was released. The distribution of this report, initially due within two months of the pepper-spray incident of November 18, has been much delayed. But the timing of its release is opportune, because this is precisely the moment for a serious, honest assessment of the conduct of the UC Davis administration with regard to campus protests against rising tuition and in defense of public education. This is the moment for such an assessment because twelve students and faculty, among them some of those pepper-sprayed on November 18, are currently facing serious criminal charges at the behest of the administration for their political activities on campus—charges which carry a possible jail term of eleven years. If an assessment of the administration’s approach to political activism at this crucial moment is to be both serious and honest, it will necessarily be blunt and uncompromising: in a word, excoriating. That is the tenor of the following letter, addressed to students, faculty, and staff at UC Davis and throughout the UC system.

The Reynoso Report is based on the fact-finding of Kroll Securities, and the manifest conflicts of interest inherent in the appointment of Kroll have been well documented. Thus we might reasonably expect Kroll’s report to offer something like a best-case assessment of the administration’s involvement in the pepper-spray affair. And indeed, the fact-finding upon which the report is based is often middling and ineffectual. On the key issue of the Chancellor’s actual orders on and prior to November 18, it has very little to say. Rather, it relies primarily upon an interview with the Chancellor conducted after the fact, on December 20, to gauge her position. Given the international condemnation the Chancellor was facing at that time, no one should be surprised to find her remarks composed of efforts at self-serving revisionism. The report states openly that Kroll “relied upon UC Davis in the area of document production; it was deemed infeasible for budgetary, timing, and other reasons for Kroll to conduct an independent, systemic forensic review and analysis of UC Davis servers, hard drives, and electronic devices.” In other words, only those documents (such as administrative emails) that UC Davis itself offered for inspection were reviewed. In short, on the key matters of concern we might expect the report to address, Kroll’s fact finding leaves serious omissions.

Nevertheless, the information we are offered in the report amounts to a damning portrait of administrative malice, stupidity, incompetence, and immaturity.

1) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi and other senior administrators propped
up their decision to evict the Occupy UC Davis encampment with fear-mongering based on the fallacious claim that numerous “non-affiliates” of the university were involved in the camp, ignoring and rejecting clear statements to the contrary by their own staff.

2) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi insisted on the removal of tents from the quad by police with no legal basis for such a police action, and that there were thus no legitimate grounds for ordering a police operation at all.

3) The report makes clear that Katehi ignored the concerns of her own staff and of the police that attempting to evict the encampment at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon would lead to a confrontation.

4) The report makes clear that, despite the Chancellor’s belated claim of November 21 that she ordered the police not to use force, the Chancellor made no concrete effort whatsoever to avoid the use of police force against demonstrators on November 18.

In short, the report makes clear that the so-called “Leadership Team,” and particularly the Chancellor, acted in a flagrantly totalitarian fashion. The Chancellor promulgated falsehoods concerning the basis for police action; she ignored the lack of legal grounds for such an action; she overruled objections to the timing of the eviction; and she made no reasonable effort to avoid police violence against students.

Since the Chancellor has been calling upon us to wait for the findings of the report before passing judgment concerning the events of November 18, let’s assess its conclusions and pass judgment accordingly. Its “key finding” is unequivocal:
While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day.
This means that it is the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration, not the police, which bears primary responsibility for what happened on November 18. With the faintest glimmer of urbane wit, the report finds that “the actions of the Leadership Team provide a case study in how not to make important institutional decisions.”

For the sake of clarity, let’s summarize the report’s findings apropos of the points listed above.

1) On the matter of the supposed threat posed by “non-affiliates”:
When explaining their decisions on Nov. 17 and 18, UC Davis administrators repeatedly referenced this concern about individuals not affiliated with the university at Occupy movement protests and encampments on campus, and the security risks created by their presence. Indeed, in Chancellor Katehi’s letter distributed to campus protesters on Nov. 18, the day of the pepper spray incident, the Chancellor wrote “We are aware that many of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus are not members of the UC Davis community. This requires us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.” As our report will indicate these concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll.
Leading up to the eviction, Chancellor Katehi and Vice Chancellor Meyer were not swayed by the reports from Student Affairs staff that the Occupy activists were overwhelmingly comprised of students.

2) On the absence of legal justification for police action:
It is clear that the UCDPD leadership was concerned about its legal authority to remove the tents, at least during the daytime. It is equally clear that the UC Davis Administration was adamant that it did not want tents on campus and that the tents were considered a threat to health and safety. Just as the Leadership Team ultimately failed to arrive at a policy that appropriately constrained the conduct of campus police, so too did it fail to press for a definitive legal assessment of the scope of its authority to order the removal of the tents. In the course of its investigation, Kroll has been unable to identify the legal basis for the decision of the Leadership Team to act against the protesters and for the operation mounted by the UCDPD. It appears that the UCDPD mounted its operation absent the clarity of legal authority under pressure from the Administration to do something to get rid of the tents.
3) On the administration’s failure to heed warnings about the probability of a police confrontation with students if the eviction was carried out at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon:
In the 24 hours before the police operation commenced, both Student Affairs staffers and campus police provided warnings to members of the Leadership Team that a confrontation might occur between activists and police on the Quad. These warnings do not appear to have impacted the decision-making of the Leadership Team, however....While the Chancellor viewed herself as chairing a consensus-driven discussion, her subordinates instead heard her issue an executive order. By insisting that the tents not be allowed to stay up on Friday night, Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day....Based on the accounts of several officers, including Lieutenant Pike, Chief Spicuzza informed her officers that key and controversial decisions, including the 3 p.m. time for the operation, had been made by Chancellor Katehi herself.
4) On the Chancellor’s failure to pursue any real measures that might prevent the use of force against students:
Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down....Vice Chancellor Meyer explained that “he did not understand that Chancellor Katehi believed that no force at all would be employed in taking down the tents until her comments following the November 18 police action.”...No members of the Leadership Team took responsibility for ensuring that all the members of the Team including the Police Chief had a common understanding of the scope and conduct of the police operation to be executed on Nov. 18.
These are devastating conclusions. Not only do they indicate unacceptable failures of leadership on the part of the Chancellor and other senior administrators, they indicate a willful disdain for the facts of the situation and a complete lack of effort to avoid the sort of outcome we witnessed on November 18. The report finds that “there was no immediate need to order the police to take down the tents on Friday, Nov. 18.” But despite the fact that “possible alternatives for protecting students in the encampment seem almost self-evident,” “the administration decided to deploy police to remove the tents on Nov. 18 before considering possible alternatives.” The Reynoso Report makes it clear that the UC Davis Administration acts in an extra-legal fashion, deploying the police force at their disposal without justification while criminalizing those who act against their policies.

Given the gravity of these charges, what do we find in the report which might account for the decisions of the Chancellor and her “Leadership Team”? Here we turn from tragedy to comedy, encountering statements from senior administrators of such frivolous stupidity and lugubrious immaturity that it is difficult to believe they could be made by people attempting to defend the validity of their leadership at a major research university.

On the inconvenient dearth of so-called “non-affiliates” at the encampment, Vice Chancellor Wood states: “students for us range all the way from eighteen…through the graduate postdoc, they could be 30 and be a student….I want to be fair that someone might see a pretty scruffy older person [and] presume them not a student.” I’m afraid this is indeed the caliber of seriousness and rigor—scruffy or not scruffy?—upon which the most important administrative judgments are based at UC Davis.

But let’s turn to Chancellor Katehi’s gravely earnest explanation of why tents just could not be allowed to remain on the quad for even one more night. Perhaps we might encounter a finer degree of reasoning from someone of so high a station:
We were worried at the time about that because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students…we worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record.
The best rationale our Chancellor can come up with (after a month’s reflection) for a major police operation against non-violent student protesters is “the use of drugs and sex and other things” in the midst of “very young girls.” This is the sort of thing, or so she has heard, that goes on in “Oakland.”

But if this is utterly laughable nonsense in the context of university life, where football games and fraternity parties give rise to all kinds of “drugs and sex and other things” among “affiliates” and “non-affiliates” who “come from the outside,” perhaps Vice Chancellor Meyer has something more intelligent to say?
Our context at the time was seeing what’s happening in the City of Oakland, seeing what’s happening in other municipalities across the country, and not being able to see a scenario where [a UC Davis Occupation] ends well . . . Do we lose control and have non-affiliates become part of an encampment? So my fear is a long term occupation with a number of tents where we have an undergraduate student and a non-affiliate and there’s an incident. And then I’m reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act with your daughter, and how could we let that happen?”
Ah, once again, “the City of Oakland,” so close to the City of Davis, and yet so far. What sort of people might one find there? But is it not the case that what was actually happening in the City of Oakland and other municipalities was egregious police violence against peaceful demonstrators—including the near-killing of protester Scott Olsen in Oakland on October 25? And what is it, exactly, that our tepid Vice Chancellor has in mind when he refers to “this unthinkable act” that might transpire between an undergraduate and a "non-affiliate"? Does he mean rape? It seems this is either a concept he does not understand (“with your daughter,” he says) or a word he is unable to use in a sentence. But perhaps he just means “sex and other things”? Perhaps the very notion that an undergraduate—and a “daughter” no less—might have sex with a “non-affiliate” is an unthinkable act in the view of our painstakingly upright administrators. Confronted with the cultivated ambiguity of the Vice Chancellor's formulation, I suppose we can conclude that when you don't know what you're talking about, it's best to equivocate. 

In brief, all that the pathetic and infantile discourse of the “Leadership Team” has to offer in its defense is the danger of sex and drugs, of “older people,” and the terribly frightening specter of “Oakland.” One needn’t look far to find an identical sexist, paternalist, pseudo-moralistic discourse deployed in the most unbearably racist, xenophobic contexts. It is always the same thing with authoritarian bureaucrats who send in police to guard the young and innocent against those who “come from the outside”: they are more than willing to sanction brutal violence to buttress whatever obscene fantasy of purity serves as their faulty moral compass.

Let’s be honest then: whatever the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration says to legitimize its actions only certifies its illegitimacy by pointing up its remarkable stupidity, its dangerous incompetence, its apparent inability to say anything even remotely credible. These are people who have nothing to do with what a university is supposed to stand for—except to the extent that they directly oppose and obstruct it.

At the moment, the Chancellor and her totalitarian administration have only one claim upon legitimacy: the failure of an Academic Senate ballot measure expressing no-confidence in her leadership, and the success of a ballot measure accepting her “good faith apology.” Over 110,000 people signed a petition calling for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. But 697 faculty, after all, voted against the no-confidence measure. 442 faculty voted to accept the Chancellor’s apology. Surely, then, this is all the information we need to affirm the Chancellor’s right to remain at her post? But let’s look at the results of another ballot measure, which:
1) condemns both the dispatch of police and use of excessive force in response to non-violent protests on November 18, 2011
2) opposes violent police response to non-violent protests on campus
3) demands that police deployment against protestors be considered only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted and with direct consultation with Academic Senate leadership.
It turns out that 343 faculty voted against this ballot measure, a shameful fact for those of us who call these people our colleagues. This result makes it very likely that over 300 of those who accepted the Chancellor’s apology or who expressed confidence in her leadership also voted against condemnation of and opposition to the excessive use of force by police, or the consideration of alternatives to the use of police force. With friends like these, the Chancellor finds herself among the only company suitable to uphold the authoritarianism of her administration: the sort of people who are happy to support police violence against students.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor’s “good faith apology” to students pepper-sprayed in the fall now takes the form of an effort to have those same students prosecuted for their blockade of the US Bank branch on campus: another principled and courageous stand against the privatization of the university. Subject to international humiliation for her malfeasance in November, the Chancellor has reached out to student protesters in March by trying to destroy their lives through criminal charges. This is what the “good faith” of the administration amounts to.

Enough is enough. It is obvious that the Chancellor will cling to her station by any means necessary, but the case against her is now so overwhelmingly clear it brooks no argument. Since the Chancellor has called for “healing,” let me offer a prescription: those of us among faculty, students, and staff who care about the university and about the demonstrators who stand up for it should immediately organize an ongoing picket and blockade of Mrak Hall, until the Chancellor is forced off the UC Davis campus—just as Chancellor Birgeneau tendered his resignation when faced with a picket of California Hall over retroactive charges against those beaten by police at Berkeley.

Surely this is the only genuine way the Chancellor’s disingenuous calls for “healing” can be answered.

Of course the Chancellor will find this proposal, and this letter, “uncivil.” But now that we finally have documentation of the hollowness of her words and the culpable folly of her actions, we can cut once again through the drivel with which she insistently responds to the most serious allegations.

Katehi: get out.

Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis

Monday, April 9, 2012

On the Recent Retreat of US Bank and US Bancorp

These days, US Bank is retreating on multiple fronts. First and most immediately, protesters at UC Davis recently won an important victory in the battle against the financialization of public education when the bank decided, following a blockade that lasted an entire quarter, to close its on-campus branch. While it remains unclear whether the new ID cards that UC Davis students were forced to obtain, which double as US Bank ATM cards, will be phased out ("Your Aggie Card. Your ATM Card. All in one."), the bottom line is that a central and high-traffic space on campus has been stripped from the bankers' hands. The administration and the Regents will continue their search for "new, fun sources [of revenue]," as UCD Associate Vice Chancellor Emily Galindo described the US Bank deal (at approximately minute 2:30 in the linked video), but this space is ours -- it belongs to the students, workers, faculty, and community -- and we won't let them sell it off (or, for that matter, sell us off) again in backroom deals to their fellow 1%-ers.

Second and in the bigger picture, it's being reported today that US Bancorp (the parent company that owns US Bank) is exiting the private student loan market. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the corporation held about $4.66 billion in student loans at the end of 2011. JP Morgan Chase also decided recently to "sharply reduc[e] its lending." For these lenders, dealing in the student loan market is apparently not worth the risk. (It's worth noting that this trend is by no means absolute. Other lenders, like Discover Financial Services, are "ramping up their participation in the [student debt] market" just as US Bank is pulling out. Similarly, according to UCD spokesman Barry Schiller, other banks have "informally expressed an interest to step in" to replace US Bank.)

All of this is taking place in a context of increasingly apocalyptic discussions about the possibility that the student debt bubble is about to burst ("This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy"). We don't want to get into that debate here. All we want to do is offer some brief thoughts on the possible intersection of the parallel retreats of US Bank/corp we identified above. The imbrication, that is, between two levels of scale: the blockade and subsequent decision of US Bank to abandon its Memorial Union branch; and the strikingly coincident decision of US Bancorp to abandon its financial position in the student debt market.

In a recent op-ed in the California Aggie, UCD professor Joshua Clover argued that "The university is selling students to the bank because it’s the only way to generate more income from students who don’t otherwise have it." He continued:
This is why shutting down the bank of campus is not just a sensible idea but an obvious first step in reclaiming education. The bank is not only profiting, but it is also the emissary of the profit motive; it does nothing else. Perhaps the closing of this small branch is purely symbolic; it won’t end global capitalism, after all.

But perhaps it’s something more. Everybody starts small. You fight where you can. The fact that there are ten thousand banks doesn’t mean you don’t begin with one -- it means you do. Closing a single recruiting center wasn’t going to end the military, but one by one, such closings helped end the war. The bank is fighting a war on your future, and for the moment the university is collaborating -- on the wrong side.
While there's no question that the bank blockade directly caused US Bank to withdraw from the campus of UC Davis, it would be absurd to suggest that the same blockade was responsible for scaring US Bancorp into deciding that student debt was no longer worth it. It's not just a question of scale. For the bank's financial managers, student debt simply wasn't generating enough profit to justify the expense. And with defaults rising, those same profits may appear increasingly risky in their speculative eyes.

In other words, US Bancorp's withdrawal from the student debt market was a result of the crisis. That crisis, however, takes many forms: it is a crisis of profitability, of course, but it also appears as precarity in its multiple economic and affective senses; as austerity and the regime of state violence on which it depends; and as the global waves of outrage, protest, and insurrection that more than anything characterize our historical moment. It is out of this last formation of crisis that the slogan emerged during the California student movement in the fall of 2009: we are the crisis. If the bank in Memorial Union is "the emissary of the profit motive," as Clover suggested, then it also constitutes a localized, concrete form into which this abstract phenomenon had congealed. We should understand the blockade, likewise, as a small but significant drop in a much larger wave that not only forced US Bank off campus but also pushed US Bancorp out of student debt.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Call Campaign to Drop the Charges [Update]

[Update 3/10 12:45pm]: Regarding the first day of the call campaign (yesterday), a comrade writes, "So many thanks to everyone who made calls to the DA's office today -- evidently, the phones were jammed up or busy for much of the day. If you haven't made a call yet or are open to doing it again, we're hoping to have the phone calls continue for another couple of days, so that we create a lasting problem for an office evidently divided on the question of whether to press the charges."

On April 9th – 11th, we’re calling District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and asking that she drop the charges on the Sproul 13. Please join us! It only takes a few minutes…

Last November 9, UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty tried to set up a small encampment on campus, in solidarity with the then-burgeoning Occupy movement and in opposition to the ongoing privatization of the UC. Campus police and Alameda County Sheriffs viciously beat the students in order to stop the tents from going up. This incident, captured on videotape, sparked international outrage. Nonviolent protesters were dragged to the ground by the hair, hit over the head with batons, and sent to the hospital with broken ribs. The event was a scandal for the campus police and the administration, and the Chancellor eventually admitted that he took “full responsibility for [the] events” and offered amnesty under the campus code of conduct to everyone arrested that day. You can watch the videos of the events here:

Now, nearly four months after the fact, 13 people are being charged with misdemeanors for the events of November 9, even though most of them were never arrested. Their charges include obstruction of a thoroughfare, resisting arrest, battery on a peace officer and remaining at the scene of the riot. Conviction on these charges could bring, at worst, up to a year of jail time. Despite the Chancellor’s promise of amnesty, the UC Berkeley police forwarded cases to the DA, recommending charges for 12 students and one professor. What’s worse: the DA recently issued stay-away orders for 12 of the protesters, telling them they could only set foot on UC property for “lawful” purposes, such as attending class. After public pressure from government officials, the DA has rescinded these orders, but they remain evidence of the vindictive arrogance of the prosecutors.

The charges against the Sproul 13 set a troubling precedent. Students who protest the rising tuition and mounting indebtedness that follows in the wake of the privatization of the University should now fear that, at any time in the future, they might receive a letter in the mail, carrying with it the threat of jail. These unfounded charges have already produced strong responses at Berkeley and beyond. The faculty associations of Berkeley and Irvine have condemned the charges, and called on Chancellor Birgeneau to stand with them. The Graduate Assembly at Berkeley has called for the charges to be dropped, as has UAW 2865, the graduate student union. The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution calling for the charges to be dropped. And the ACLU has issued a letter putting the circumstances of the charges into question. This is, of course, in addition to the widespread outrage about the role of the police and the administration that day.

On April 9th – 11th, we’re calling the Alameda County DA’s office and telling her to listen to all of these groups and drop the charges against the Sproul 13. Please join us and tell her that no one should be charged following the shameful events on November 9.

If you have five minutes, also call Chancellor Birgeneau, and ask him to publicly call on DA Nancy O’Malley to drop the charges.

We believe that a wave of phone calls, at this moment, could prompt the DA to rescind all charges. Please help us by making a few calls this Monday through Wednesday.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s phone #: (510) 272-6222; (510) 268-7500; email:

Chancellor Birgeneau's phone #: (510) 642-7464; email:

Monday, April 2, 2012

UCPD Pushed Alameda County DA to File Criminal Charges against UC Berkeley Protesters

On November 9th, 2011, protestors and police clashed over an encampment that protestors had erected near Sproul Hall.

A quick update on the charges filed by the Alameda County District Attorney against thirteen November 9 protesters -- students, faculty, and community members -- that gives us a better picture about how this whole thing went down. The Chronicle reports that UCPD actively though secretly pressured the DA to go forward with these charges (and, we might reasonably assume, to request the stay-away orders as well) four months after the fact.
Campus police officers . . . took a more private approach to get their message to the district attorney.

They called Ron Cottingham, president of the 62,000-strong Peace Officers Research Association of California, the most powerful police group in the state, and asked him to call the district attorney.

During the subsequent conversation with Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy, Cottingham was told that no decision had been made, and that, yes, the police would be listened to as well.
Apparently, the cops were pissed off by Chancellor Birgeneau's vacuous letter to the DA, which politely asked the DA to "be sensitive to the context of the campus environment and to the strong feelings this has raised on campus."

No doubt, these are strong words. As is often the case, however, what the letter doesn't say is more revealing than what it does. Birgeneau's letter in no way demanded the charges be dropped. In fact, he goes out of his way to emphasize that the decision rests solely with the DA: "We do not have access to the evidence reviewed by your office showing the actions of individuals, and are not taking a definitive position regarding the appropriateness of individual charges." A convenient suggestion, from the perspective of the administration -- just as they always try to divert protesters' energy by sending them on "a slow boat to Sacramento," their PR strategy is inevitably based on shifting the blame off of themselves and onto other independent actors.

But if we take Birgeneau's words at face value for a second (it's so hard to do, we know, but bear with us just for a second), we are left with the disturbing possibility that UCPD is actually running the show, with literally no accountability whatsoever to the UC administration.

In the end, these details confirm what we wrote last week:
As we've seen recently at UC Berkeley, with the filing of criminal charges as well as stay-away orders against a number of prominent student protesters, UC administrators willingly collaborate with the offices of their respective DAs. In order to do this, the administration sends UCPD to actively search out information ("evidence") against student protesters, which is then forwarded to the DA. At times, this evidence has come from the medical records of students who had sought treatment at University Health Services after being assaulted by the police themselves.
And that's why we say NO COPS NO BOSSES!