Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Berkeley grad unionists' statement on Sept. 22 actions

Ratified, Monday September 26, 2011
Statement of Solidarity with September 22 Actions and Arrestees:
UAW 2865, Berkeley Unit

On September 22nd, members of the UAW 2865 joined several other students, workers, faculty, and their organizations to nonviolently protest the austerity measures undermining the quality and purpose of public education at UC Berkeley and other universities around the state. Hundreds participated in a rally at Sproul Plaza and marched through campus to raise awareness of the undermining of our public institutions and reclaim education as a civil right.

Near the end of the march, participants decided to occupy and utilize empty classrooms in Tolman Hall where the Department of Education is based to hold teach-ins, documentary viewings, and general meetings open to anyone who wished to contribute. While some classrooms in Tolman Hall are still in use, the reclaimed classrooms, which once prepared future generations of educators, are now empty due to administrative and state disinvestment. We students, workers, faculty, and community members understand this neglect of space to be symptomatic of a larger crisis of priorities: upper-level administration and faculty – as well as UCPD – take increasing portions of the budget while workers are fired, overworked, and underpaid; student fees and tuitions are increased; and classroom buildings as well as departments are abandoned. Such austerity measures satisfy investors by selling off our futures, displacing educational costs onto unreasonable amounts of student debt. The university continues to grow and enhance its brand while instructional value suffers, students struggle to graduate, and staff works more for less money and job security. Students and workers transformed these derelict spaces into improvisational classrooms where people could speak critically and openly about how these changes are affecting their lives and about local, national, and international movements to restore affordable education at the center of our democracies. Documentaries were viewed. Food and water was distributed. A conversation with a student activist in Chile was organized. Teach-ins were held.

Although hundreds of students and workers entered Tolman Hall to carry out these peaceful demonstrations, they were met by the UCPD with shows of aggressive, physical force and pepper spray. Throughout the day, the presence of the UCPD militarized the situation and often escalated confrontations. Demonstrators grew increasingly frustrated as they watched one participant be beaten and seized in a hallway outside of a classroom under the pretense of fabricated charges. Around 8:50pm, the UCPD began locking down the building on peacefully chanting demonstrators without giving a dispersal order or even announcing that the building was to be closed – in contrast to the official statement made by UCPD and the UC administration. The counter-force exerted outside the building came after the police locked the doors on protesters. Ultimately, nearly all protestors inside the building were allowed to leave peacefully without receiving citations. We believe these violent, precipitous, and likely illegal actions by the UCPD to be a localized expression of broader structural tensions augmented by divisive strategies of austerity and privatization. The core mission for all members of the academic community –workers, students, faculty, and community members alike—should be the restoration of the purpose and viability of education as a public, democratic good.

The repression of students and workers cannot be tolerated!
Austerity undermining public education will not be tolerated!

As members of the UC community, we demand:

A complete reversal of recent fee increases.
A revision of current admissions policies to lift barriers faced by underrepresented students of color and working class students.
The re-hiring of workers fired as a result of budget cuts
A full investigation of the Regents’ conflicts of interest, especially their investments in banks and for-profit schools.
An end to UC administrative and police surveillance, violence, and intervention in political and academic activities.
Equal and full access to the university for undocumented students and workers.
The democratic control of the university by students, faculty, and staff.
All charges be dropped against the two individuals arrested on Sept. 22.

The UAW Local 2865, which represents academic student-workers, calls on community members and all faculty, students, workers and their organizations to join us in making these demands.

The escalation of police force against peaceful demonstrators indicates that conventional measures of protest and dialogue have been denied despite official pronouncements by UCPD and the UC administration. If faculty, students, community members, and workers cannot gather peacefully on campus to defend public education against the austerity measures imposed by the UC administration and enforced through the brutality of UCPD, we are increasingly left with no choice but to disrupt business-as-usual at the university in order to be heard.

We call on all community members, faculty, students, workers and their labor unions, associations and organizations to accelerate preparations for larger, collective actions if our demands are not met following sustained efforts of public statements, negotiation, and peaceful protests against the UC administration.

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