Friday, December 30, 2011
Since then, the group has spent a fair amount of time thinking about how an independent investigation into UC police violence and administrative responsibility could take place without putting in legal danger those who offer testimony. We've also discussed some of the needs for support that those injured on November 9 and other days might still have, including the need for collective discussion to help work through the psychic effects of experiencing and witnessing police violence.
In order to begin getting people back together, talking about the securitization of campus, and making possible an investigation of recent university repression, the PPRB is planning a public forum for the first weeks of the spring semester, exact date to be announced.
For this forum, we're soliciting anonymous writings about the UCPD, and about past incidents of police violence. The statements will be read by volunteers at the forum. We're looking for all sorts of reflections from everybody affected: community members, students, workers, instructors, parents, and those relatively distanced from the universities.
Here's the form for written submissions.
Hopefully, the forum will open onto a sequence of actions this spring that push back against police impunity and administrative repression on and beyond our campuses.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
January 1st, 2012: Oscar Grant 3rd Anniversary Memorial March and Rally
Stand Up to the Watchdogs of the 1%--Your Local Police Department!
1pm March from Oscar Grant Plaza at 14th & Broadway to Rally at Fruitvale BART
A major political movement was launched on January 1st 2009. Its catalyst was the police killing of Oscar Grant, a young, unarmed Black father executed by the BART police. This murder awakened a sleeping giant—Bay Area residents angry and frustrated at the continued abuse of power perpetrated by law enforcement. Oscar and all the young people that were attacked and terrorized by the BART police that night, in addition to the many victims of police brutality in the greater Bay Area, have become ingrained in our collective memory. Their lives are the unspeakable price we pay to live in a society based on racial injustice.
Not only do police serve the needs of the 1%, they have always existed to put down resistance in communities of color. But when other BART riders posted their video recordings of the murder of Oscar by BART officer Johannes Mehserle, the internationally-viewed footage led to a new form of resistance: Community Copwatching. Cellphones, cameras and a popular upsurge brought the first arrest, trial and conviction of a white officer for killing a Black man.
The movement that touched ground in January 2009--the organizing to address police terrorism--laid the ground work for the movement against the 1% here in Oakland. The polarizing disparity of wealth and the numerous police killings in our communities are inextricably linked. To unravel a system that forecloses homes, pushes our families into poverty and criminalizes our youth while gentrifying our neighborhoods, we need to not only address a system based on greed but a system that needs police brutality to survive and thrive through state terror.
On this 3rd anniversary of Oscar’s murder, lets take to the streets to show that Oscar Grant is gone but not forgotten. Oscar lives on in the memories of his family and friends and in our resistance to the police.
For more information or to speak contact: oscargrantcommittee [at] gmail.com
Oscar Grant Committee
Bring the Ruckus
Monday, December 26, 2011
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Community Members,
We are writing to have our voices heard and call people to action to defend public education. Our futures are being mortgaged in order to maintain bloated administrative salaries and further privatize critical social services across this state, country, and around the world.
In the past decade alone the UC has seen a 342.2% increase in tuition and fees. This trend directly corresponds with a period of exorbitant administrative growth and devastating cuts to instruction, support services and staff, and other critical UC programs. On December 13, 2011 Governor Jerry Brown announced another $100 million in cuts to the UC system, which brings the total to $750 million this fiscal year alone.
The annual fees for attending a UC were $3,859 in 2001-2002; now they are $13,218, and estimated to increase substantially within the next four years. This trend runs completely contradictory to the 1960 CA Master Plan which calls for tuition-free public higher education in this state. Quality, accessible public higher education is a cornerstone for establishing social and economic equality on local to global levels and as such demands our active support and protection.
Our public institutions of higher education are being actively privatized and glutted by regents, trustees and administrators who are deeply invested in large private business interests. These people and the interests they represent want to continue profiting from a drive to remake our public institutions in the image of private-for-profit models.
We are asking that all of us continue to take a stand and fight back to defend our public institutions against the betrayal of many of those charged with their protection. As the students, faculty, and staff who run California’s public colleges and universities, it is our responsibility to assert every day that these are OUR SCHOOLS and that we are not powerless to further the mission of maintaining affordable, accessible and quality public higher education not only in this state, but around the world. An accessible educational experience is important for people everywhere to be able to obtain if they so choose that we might construct a more equitable, just and peaceful world for everyone.
The UC regents are invested with the responsibility of “managing” the UC system. They have insistently refused to engage in constructive dialogue with students, faculty and staff on critical issues that have been repeatedly brought to their attention. Some of them are personal friends and/or business partners of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or other influential politicians and that is precisely how they obtained their initial appointment as regents. A vast majority of the current regents have no professional background in public education and a corresponding majority of them maintain direct ties to business interests that seek to develop financially profitable relationships with the UC and other public institutions.
Banks and other corporations get bailed out and we get sold out, time and again. The regents’ silence in Sacramento fits the destructive model of privatization that they have in mind for the UC. As part of this agenda, it also fits their interests to raise the salaries of administrators even as they tell the rest of us that we need to “continue making sacrifices.”
We are the instruments of change and the power to create it lies in our hands. Enough is enough. We will let our voices be heard and continue to demand that the UC regents and administrators be held accountable. Please join us for a day of non-violent protest at the regents’ next meeting, which is scheduled to take place at UC Riverside on January 17-19, 2012. A day of mass mobilization to defend public education is being called for Thursday, January 19, 2012 at UC Riverside. Come join us as we continue the fight to defend and maintain quality and accessible public education not only in this state but around the world.
Concerned Students, Faculty, Staff and Community Members of UC Riverside
p/s: Please click the link & sign the Regent Reform petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/uc-regent-reform
Sunday, December 25, 2011
We propose to occupy and hold a large building that will serve the purpose of becoming a social center, convergence center and headquarters of the Occupy Oakland movement on Saturday, January 28th, 2012. The building will have sufficient office space for all of the Occupy Oakland committees and an auditorium large enough to hold Occupy Oakland general assemblies and adequate sleeping space. It will be a vacant building owned either by a bank, a large corporation of the 1% or already public. The occupation of the building will take place in daylight and on a weekend to ensure more safety and aim for maximum participation. The building will be the destination of a mass march, promoted as a “Move-In Day March” starting at Oscar Grant Plaza at 1pm and finishing up in the new building. Together we will enter the space, clean it, set it up and occupy it.As expected, the first meeting to start planning for the occupation will take place at 5pm on Wednesday, December 28th at the North Steps of Oscar Grant Plaza. The invitation we received via email reads as follows:
Having learned from the previous attempts at occupying spaces or buildings where we weren’t able to hold space because of police crack-downs and/or poor planning we know that the only way for this to work is having massive participation and when the time comes, effective defense of the building. To work out numerous details we propose having Building Occupation Assemblies that meet at Oscar Grant Plaza on Wednesdays at 5pm and on Sundays at 1pm with representatives from the Occupy Oakland committees and individuals. The working groups of this assembly will meet to discuss the plans necessary to make the move-in successful and create a vibrant social center. The strategies for the defense of the building will be decided collectively in these meetings.
We further propose a 2-day festival at the start of the occupation which would include cultural events, workshops and strategy sessions to generate community support and participation to further the occupy movement. The Building Occupation Assembly will coordinate this weekend festival. They will plan a full schedule of events, as well as coordinate outreach.
Those writing this proposal are in full agreement that keeping the address of the building a surprise is necessary when planning an action of this scale, so that the building proposed doesn’t have a preemptive shutdown by the city. On the other hand, to make this an all-inclusive action by Occupy Oakland, the authors of this proposal have been in touch with various individuals from committees regarding the particular address of the building. These include: the Kitchen Committee, Events Committee, Supply Committee, Sound Committee, Medics, Free School, Library, Finance Committee, Occupy Legal, Anti-Repression Committee and the Facilitation Committee yet we hope to expand this list. These individuals know the exact address of the building in order to help organize this action in a coordinated yet decentralized manner.
To conclude, in talking to members of our community and upon consulting committee members, many feel strongly that it is time to get Occupy Oakland indoors. The winter and rainy season is upon us and has taken its toll on our numbers, our strength, and our will to continue. We know there is much more to do, and we are excited to see our projects and political endeavors through by fighting for a new space seized from the 1% without permission that will suit our needs, and become something cherished by Occupy Oakland, residents of the Bay Area, and beyond.
Recently, the GA passed a proposal to take a large building as a social center for Occupy Oakland. The date for this action is January 28, 2012. The intention is that this space will become the new home for Occupy Oakland, providing ample space for all of our committees and activities, room for assemblies, and sleeping space. (It must be added, however, for those who are concerned about it, that there was much support at the GA for retaining a presence at Oscar Grant Plaza, and even re-encamping at the plaza at a later date, projects which many in attendance at the GA did not think were in opposition to each other). This is a huge, exciting and important step for Occupy Oakland, one that many have been talking about for a very long time -- at least since November 2 -- and we expect that success in this regard will likely be very inspiring for other cities. In order to succeed, we will need this building to be as vibrant and full of activity as the camp was. Therefore, we want to have the full participation of all the committees, groups and individuals who have so far made this experiment so powerful. The first meeting will be on Wednesday December 28 at 5pm on the north steps of Oscar Grant Plaza, and we strongly encourage everyone who can to attend.
Future Meeting Schedule: Until January 7th, the Building Occupation Assembly will meet Mondays and Wednesdays at 5pm (in accordance with the modified GA schedule). Starting Sunday January 7th we will meet Sundays at 1pm and Wednesdays at 5pm. If needed the frequency of these meetings will be increased by the assembly.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Original post here.
Immediately following the events of Nov. 18 at UC Davis, which have come to be known as “the pepper-spray incident,” I wrote an open letter to Chancellor Linda Katehi demanding her resignation. Since then, calls for the chancellor’s resignation have continued to grow. These have been issued by:
* A petition signed by more than 110,000 people;
* The board of the Davis Faculty Association;
* The majority of the faculty in the physics department;
* The English department;
* The department of comparative literature;
* The Program in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies;
* A group of faculty in the history department;
* The chairman of the UCD Graduate Student Association;
* The general assembly of the UCD student movement;
* A no-confidence letter signed by dozens of faculty from many different departments; and
* An international letter of solidarity declaring an academic boycott of UCD until the chancellor’s resignation.
It is no small thing for the majority of the faculty in two of the largest and most important departments in the sciences and humanities, physics and English, to call for the resignation of a university chancellor. It is even more significant when this call is joined by other departments and by more than 100,000 people, including thousands of UCD students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as residents of the city of Davis.
Despite the chancellor’s efforts to sow ambiguity concerning her orders to police, these calls for her resignation are ultimately grounded in an irrefutable fact: One week after the chancellor of UC Berkeley ordered riot police to remove an encampment on that campus, and one week after student and faculty demonstrators were brutally beaten by those police, Chancellor Katehi made the same decision in the same circumstances at UC Davis. She also ordered riot police to remove an encampment, and the same result, followed: police violence against students.
The decision to send riot police onto our campus under these circumstances was not a mistake or an oversight, but the repetition of a dangerous failure of leadership by another UC chancellor just nine days earlier. Considering the severe consequences of that failure for our students and for the reputation of our university, demands for the chancellor’s resignation are far from hasty or ill-considered. Rather, they acknowledge that while the chancellor already had ample opportunity to learn the lesson of what happened at Berkeley, she either failed or refused to do so.
Chancellor Katehi has said she accepts “full responsibility” for the events of Nov. 18. Those of us calling for her resignation agree that she is fully responsible, and we demand that she accept the consequences of that responsibility by stepping down.
Since Nov. 18, the inconsistency of the chancellor’s response to calls for her resignation has not alleviated but rather exacerbated her failure of leadership. On the one hand, she has accepted full responsibility; on the other, she has attempted to displace blame onto the vice chancellor and the police. As faculty and students have pointed out, the investigations organized by UC Davis and the UC Office of the President are riddled with conflicts of interest that belie their supposed independence and objectivity.
The cover provided by these investigations now allows the chancellor to respond to direct questions concerning her decisions on Nov. 18 by saying she is no longer at liberty to speak about the matter. While the chancellor emphasizes the need for “dialogue,” student and faculty forums organized by the administration have determined who can speak through a lottery system that seriously undermines any genuinely open conversation about her capacity to lead the university.
Meanwhile, articles have brought to light Chancellor Katehi’s co-authorship of a report recommending the return of militarized police to Athens Polytechnic University as a deterrent to the “politicization” of the campus, as well as her involvement with a program of information sharing between American university campuses and the FBI. These reports are troubling evidence of an ongoing effort to quell and suppress political dissent on university campuses through the use of policing and surveillance.
Amid these developments, the UC Davis administration has now announced the composition of a new Chancellor’s Advisory Board, which, we are told, will help to guide our university into the future. This board includes the CEOs of Bechtel and of Chevron, as well as the senior vice president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It also includes the principal of McGill University, who, twice in November 2011, ordered riot police onto that campus — police who also used pepper-spray against peaceful protesters. And it includes M.R.C. Greenwood, former UC provost, who left her post at the UC amid a scandal over improper hiring practices and conflicts of interest.
In other words, in the midst of international condemnation concerning the suppression of free speech and political dissent through police violence on our campus, Chancellor Katehi has chosen to surround herself with university administrators who have also used riot police to quell student protest and who have resigned amid scandals concerning the inappropriate use of administrative power. She has chosen to surround herself with the CEOs of corporations tied to war profiteering and environmental catastrophes.
While the chancellor now pretends to support the efforts of students and faculty to defend the public mission of the UC system, the composition of her new Advisory Board exemplifies a different vision: a future in which the shared governance of the university is replaced by ties to corporate interests that hasten, rather than struggle against, the privatization of the UC system.
What these developments since Nov. 18 confirm is what many students and faculty already realized then: that the chancellor’s decision to deploy riot police against students demonstrating in defense of public education was no “mistake” and had nothing to do with the “health and safety” of the campus community. Rather, it was the political content of the students’ protest that had to be suppressed due to the chancellor’s own political commitment and her own vision for the future of UC Davis: a commitment to the privatization of a great public university and a vision in which the interests of corporations and administrators take precedence over those of students.
Those of us calling for the chancellor’s resignation do not share that vision. There are many of us, and that is encouraging. For the good of the university, we continue to insist that the chancellor needs to step down.— Nathan Brown is a professor of English at UC Davis.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
(photo by Andrew Stern)
By Zachary Levenson
On November 18, University of California (UC), Davis police attempted to raid a student occupation on the campus. When a line of UC Davis students refused to move out of the way, Lieutenant John Pike covered their faces with military-grade pepper spray. He returned for a second round, making sure to coat everyone’s eyes and throats.
“When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood,” described Assistant Professor of English at UC Davis Nathan Brown.
Within 24 hours, a video of the incident had gone viral on YouTube, and the media feigned outrage. UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi apologized for the incident, and UC president Mark Yudof announced a task force to address the police violence. UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau was also forced to apologize after campus police clubbed UC Berkeley students and faculty while they also nonviolently defended an encampment on their campus two weeks before.
This is hardly the first time that California students have faced brutal police repression in recent years. This sort of authorized police violence has been a constant feature of campus administrations’ response to students as they have continuously mobilized against the privatization of their public universities over the past two years.
Early in the morning of November 20, 2009, 43 students from the UC Berkeley occupied Wheeler Hall, the building with the most classrooms on campus. When police arrived a couple of hours before classes began for the day, they found the doors barricaded and a small contingent of supporters gathered outside. Within a few hours campus unions were picketing, and students and workers had surrounded the building, chanting in solidarity. By midday, the number of supporters outside Wheeler Hall had grown to over 2,000, now actively defending the occupation in an impassioned standoff with hundreds of riot cops sent in to enforce order. Hanging from a second floor window was a spray-painted banner reading, “32% HIKE, 1900 LAYOFFS,” and the word “CLASS,” circled with a line through it. Purportedly in response to state funding retrenchment, the UC Regents had approved a 32% tuition hike for UC students across the state the day before. Students were livid.
In fall 2009, across the state, students launched dozens of occupations, sit-ins, marches, rallies, and blockades against the tuition hike and austerity measures. The police responded with repression, using batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and even Tasers. During the Wheeler Hall occupation demonstrations, one student was shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet at point-blank range, another ended up in the hospital after her fingers were nearly amputated by a police baton, and dozens reported being beaten.
“Behind every fee increase, a line of riot cops,” read a graduate student nearly two weeks later, standing atop a chair, at a forum organized by the UC student government in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Police Department (UCPD). “The privatization of the UC system and the impoverishment of student life, the UC administration’s conscious choice to shift its burden of debt onto the backs of its students—these can be maintained only by way of police batons, Tasers, barricades and pepper spray. These are two faces of the same thing.”
When he finished reading the statement, the students rose to their feet and followed him out of the room.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
[Audio version here]
The moment we’re in right now is auspicious, fragile, and surprisingly well-defined. The thing that strikes me most about the moment is how much it is a particular moment, with specific characteristics and borders. It appears as the clearest-looking and most pregnant moment since students starting taking action in Fall 2009. It’s the moment we’ve hoped to attain since Fall 2009. And now that it’s here, it won’t last long.
In Fall 2009, UC’s upper administration must have assumed that they could wait out the student movement. This assumption has been proven false by a relatively small core of student activists who weathered a very difficult year in 2010-2011. What resources does the administration have for surviving the student movement, so that it can go ahead with privatization? (1) The frequent and intimidating use of the UCPD; (2) the criminalization of protest, including prosecution in criminal courts; (3) control of the UC bureaucracy; (4) a media strategy of deflecting attention to the Legislature (a strategy whose logical end would be the headline “Regents On Same Page with Angry Mob”); (5) unlimited funds at their disposal to pursue 1-4.
But we have seen the weaknesses in these strategies.
Policing and criminalization have not stopped the protests. In fact, they have got in the way of the UC media strategy, as public attention has turned from the budget shortfall to outrages that UC administrators themselves are ordering. This means that two of the five fronts that UC administration has controlled have shifted, and their media strategy is damaged. They realize this, and they’re not sure what to do about it. The cancelled CSU meeting, semi-cancelled Regents meeting, new rules for protesters issued by UC Riverside, the responses of the Regents to the interruption of their meeting, the response of UC San Diego to students breaking into their library on Monday, and the various appointed commissions are all examples of administrative reaction to the transformation of the police and criminalization arenas. One thing that can be gleaned from the assorted reactions is that it’s likely to be a long time before police do anything incriminating on camera again. I think activists realize that in future, UCPD is not likely to offer up such means for galvanizing campus solidarity as the pepper spray video has been. Of course, I’m not saying that UCPD is going to be non-violent now, but rather that it’s not likely to be the kind of violence that you can photograph. We’ll need to find other ways to photograph privatization, and other ways to continue trying to get through to the media what privatization is.
In order to explain why I think getting through to the press matters, I need to go back to my list of UC administrators’ resources. Of those categories of resources, their strongholds are their ability to fund infinitely their usurpation projects and their control of the bureaucracy. What is a UC administrator? What makes Dean Edley possible? Where is Dean Edley manufactured? I’ve been a department chair, if of a small department, and in my experience the existential substance of an administrator depends on (a) funds and (b) the internal politics of bureaucracy understood in terms of detachable self-interests, otherwise known as: what other administrators think. In my time as a chair, the only way it was possible to get anything to happen was to make or threaten to make one administrator look bad in the eyes of another. It’s to this extent that administrators care about the media: when they look bad in the press, it matters because other administrators are watching.
The Regents have defined their funding as private funding, and given the confluence of their interests and the interests of their private funders—who are often enough one and the same, as in the person of Richard Blum—they’re never going to run out of it. However, attacks on the salaries of the administration are worthwhile. They’re worthwhile not because they solve the budget crisis, as the Regents like to say, but for every other reason: first of all because they speak to justice and the broader Occupy movement and the press understands that; secondly because the funds are real and certainly would be more useful almost anywhere else; but also because we might take the administration at its word and consider the possibility that “talented people,” by which they mean themselves, would flee the UC system if their salaries were lowered at all. If upper administration cares about its salaries so much—enough to keep incurring bad publicity, which they also care about—we should keep attacking their salaries, and most of all, their ability to set their own salaries.
But that’s a minor point: the goal is not merely to pick off Regents but to change social relations.
So now I come to the last resource they have, control of the bureaucracy through control of the support of other administrators. At this point, UC bureaucracy has a complex relationship to faculty governance. Upper administration has avoided and circumvented faculty governance to advance privatization, for example by operating through appointed task forces interpolated into the system of standing Academic Senate committees. Yet they still rely on faculty to staff these task forces and to deliberate on and implement their conclusions. Thus, it remains inescapable to consider the role of the faculty and the question of the relation of representational procedural democracy to the movement to Reclaim UC. My impression is that so far, most UC faculty have considered it their role—our role?—their role—to fight privatization through the given governance and social structures, regardless of what their political beliefs are off campus. In other words, people who aren’t proceduralist liberals off campus or in their writing on campus fight privatization through Senate committees, faculty associations, and social groups committed to a dialectic of recognition with the administrators as antagonists. The idea is that even as direct actions by students are going on, these representational and discursive realms remain worth intervening in and reflect a kind of division of labor between students and faculty. (It’s also not a negligible factor that the Faculty Code of Conduct may be even more repressive than the Student Code of Conduct.)
I’d like to suggest that given the significance of bureaucracy as an administrative stronghold, the arena of bureaucracy is worth intervening in if and only if the legitimacy of governance by upper administration is negated by the intervention. A professor who agrees to be on a committee thinking that from that position she’ll be able to limit damage and fearing that if she is not on it things will be even worse is not negating the legitimacy of the administration, so that should not be done.
But a resolution introduced in the Academic Senate, or issued by an individual department, stating that the Regents should not be allowed to set the salaries of upper administrators would reject their legitimacy and would be worth doing, not least because it would be news. A resolution by the Riverside Academic Senate, or individual departments, rejecting the brutish rules for protest that UCR’s Dean of Students has just invented would negate their legitimacy and would be worth doing. One of the remarkable things that happened quietly a couple of weeks ago which shouldn’t be lost amid the spectacular things that also happened is that the departments of Asian-American Studies, English, and Physics, as well as a group of historians, at Davis released statements expressing no confidence in their chancellor autonomously, without going through a given bureaucratic structure for resolutions or comment. Nor did they speak as atomized individuals gathered temporarily on a petition. Rather, they identified themselves as un-Chancellor-friendly ongoing spaces and created a new form of relation to Davis administration. Further, they pulled the Law faculty into responding to them in kind.
The faculty response at Davis was the first instance that I know of that the Administration’s hold on the bureaucracy itself—its structure and its hegemonic representative capacity for faculty—could be weakening. If they lose their grip on the bureaucracy, the upper administration will be exposed to the contempt of their national peers; and being administrators, they would experience that as an existential threat.
So I’m brought around to something I never thought I would recommend: faculty reinforcements—faculty participation of a targeted sort—in the movement to Reclaim UC, so that we can follow these departments at Davis into a new area of contestation. Public response to the acts of Berkeley professors Celeste Langan, Robert Hass and Geoffrey O’Brien, who were beaten alongside student protesters by Berkeley police on November 9, show that professorial participation in anything that delegitimates the Administration is disproportionately effective. The disproportion is disturbing because a faculty body seems to be worth more than a student body. That’s a problem. But only their participation could bring that problem to light where it otherwise would have remained hidden. In order to keep and increase pressure on the administration at this moment when the police front may be disappearing from visibility, one thing we should do—faculty and students (and here I have just used a version of the first person plural that I thought no longer existed)—is negate the legitimacy of the police-related commissions, especially the ones farcically composed by Yudof. Their egregiousness is legible, even to the uninitiated, even to the press; and for that reason they are an excellent introduction to privatization and anti-privatization.
The People’s Police Review Board deploys a principle we all need to support. If faculty show up at a stop of Dean Edley’s listening tour among protesters making it clear that it’s outrageous that the event is happening at all, that will be disproportionately useful. Boycotting the events, making it clear why not to show up, would also be useful. Instituting an actual alternative review board on whatever collective level is possible would be excellent. Why wait for Yudof to withdraw his appointments? Why shouldn’t faculty and students form an alternative body and demand that the witnesses responding to Yudof’s review respond, while they’re at it, to our own?
What matters here is form and principle. The outcome would not be merely the propositional conclusion of the investigation, nor UCPD’s refusal to comply with one, and the corresponding demands these events would generate. Rather, what’s important is the capacity of self-respecting communal forms to dramatize the administration’s illegitimacy using Yudof’s commission as an illustration. Given that faculty bodies are worth more to the University and media than student bodies, students are going to have a much harder time delegitimating the administration without this particular kind of faculty support: the kind that involves professors’ asking themselves, What are we doing to legitimate and delegitimate privatization?, ceasing to do the former and making sure to do the latter. The grievable faculty body reaps advantage every time faculty appear in the service of delegitimation, and only then.
To sum up, then: many areas of the struggle are changing rapidly and some may be vanishing as we have known them. These sudden shifts in terrain reflect the pain the movement is inflicting on the Administration and the unevenness of its reactions. Things are moving so rapidly that we could easily fail to adjust. If that happened, it could be difficult to get into a similar place again. So winter quarter is the time to expand into the very areas into which the Regents have retreated by undermining the conditions that support administrators as administrators, and which are their main refuge, and making this effort literally visible (everything now should be photographed and filmed as artfully as we can manage it). Funding they will always have; but with their contacts, they can just as well have it somewhere else, and I suspect that thought has flitted through the mind of every UC administrator. Contesting administrators’ control of bureaucracy matters because they experience that control as the anchor of their identity, and this is one of their limitations, a soft spot in their mental and material organization. My philosophical emphasis is on non-instrumental and negative thought and non-teleological self-constitution, so it may seem to go against the grain to have offered reflections that are so prosaic. But this is a matter of historical and perceptual scale. There is a degree of magnification, a middle distance, that is always prosaic even as it is surrounded by an infinite and unsystemizable complexity. Needless to say, all of this is worth doing regardless of what happens after.
Monday, December 12, 2011
December 12, 2011
We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.
We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.
We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.
Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?
We love being behind the wheel. We are proud of the work we do to keep America’s economy moving. But we feel humiliated when we receive paychecks that suggest we work part time at a fast-food counter. Especially when we work an average of 60 or more hours a week, away from our families.
There is so much at stake in our industry. It is one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations. We don’t think truck driving should be a dead-end road in America. It should be a good job with a middle-class paycheck like it used to be decades ago.
We desperately want to drive clean and safe vehicles. Rigs that do not fill our lungs with deadly toxins, or dirty the air in the communities we haul in.
Poverty and pollution are like a plague at the ports. Our economic conditions are what led to the environmental crisis.
You, the public, have paid a severe price along with us.
Why? Just like Wall Street doesn’t have to abide by rules, our industry isn’t bound to regulation. So the market is run by con artists. The companies we work for call us independent contractors, as if we were our own bosses, but they boss us around. We receive Third World wages and drive sweatshops on wheels. We cannot negotiate our rates. (Usually we are not allowed to even see them.) We are paid by the load, not by the hour. So when we sit in those long lines at the terminals, or if we are stuck in traffic, we become volunteers who basically donate our time to the trucking and shipping companies. That’s the nice way to put it. We have all heard the words “modern-day slaves” at the lunch stops.
There are no restrooms for drivers. We keep empty bottles in our cabs. Plastic bags too. We feel like dogs. An Oakland driver was recently banned from the terminal because he was spied relieving himself behind a container. Neither the port, nor the terminal operators or anyone in the industry thinks it is their responsibility to provide humane and hygienic facilities for us. It is absolutely horrible for drivers who are women, who risk infection when they try to hold it until they can find a place to go.
The companies demand we cut corners to compete. It makes our roads less safe. When we try to blow the whistle about skipped inspections, faulty equipment, or falsified logs, then we are “starved out.” That means we are either fired outright, or more likely, we never get dispatched to haul a load again.
It may be difficult to comprehend the complex issues and nature of our employment. For us too. When businesses disguise workers like us as contractors, the Department of Labor calls it misclassification. We call it illegal. Those who profit from global trade and goods movement are getting away with it because everyone is doing it. One journalist took the time to talk to us this week and she explains it very well to outsiders. We hope you will read the enclosed article “How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers.”
But the short answer to the question: Why are companies like SSA Marine, the Seattle-based global terminal operator that runs one of the West Coast’s major trucking carriers, Shippers’ Transport Express, doing this? Why would mega-rich Maersk, a huge Danish shipping and trucking conglomerate that wants to drill for more oil with Exxon Mobil in the Gulf Coast conduct business this way too?
To cheat on taxes, drive down business costs, and deny us the right to belong to a union, that’s why.
The typical arrangement works like this: Everything comes out of our pockets or is deducted from our paychecks. The truck or lease, fuel, insurance, registration, you name it. Our employers do not have to pay the costs of meeting emissions-compliant regulations; that is our financial burden to bear. Clean trucks cost about four to five times more than what we take home in a year. A few of us haul our company’s trucks for a tiny fraction of what the shippers pay per load instead of an hourly wage. They still call us independent owner-operators and give us a 1099 rather than a W-2.
We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America. Every year it literally goes from bad to worse to the unimaginable. We were ground zero for the government’s first major experiment into letting big business call the shots. Since it worked so well for the CEOs in transportation, why not the mortgage and banking industry too?
Even the few of us who are hired as legitimate employees are routinely denied our legal rights under this system. Just ask our co-workers who haul clothing brands like Guess?, Under Armour, and Ralph Lauren’s Polo. The carrier they work for in Los Angeles is called Toll Group and is headquartered in Australia. At the busiest time of the holiday shopping season, 26 drivers were axed after wearing Teamster T-shirts to work. They were protesting the lack of access to clean, indoor restrooms with running water. The company hired an anti-union consultant to intimidate the drivers. Down Under, the same company bargains with 12,000 of our counterparts in good faith.
Despite our great hardships, many of us cannot — or refuse to, as some of the most well-intentioned suggest — “just quit.” First, we want to work and do not have a safety net. Many of us are tied to one-sided leases. But more importantly, why should we have to leave? Truck driving is what we do, and we do it well.
We are the skilled, specially-licensed professionals who guarantee that Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart are all stocked with just-in-time delivery for consumers. Take a look at all the stuff in your house. The things you see advertised on TV. Chances are a port truck driver brought that special holiday gift to the store you bought it.
We would rather stick together and transform our industry from within. We deserve to be fairly rewarded and valued. That is why we have united to stage convoys, park our trucks, marched on the boss, and even shut down these ports.
It’s like our hero Dutch Prior, a Shipper’s/SSA Marine driver, told CBS Early Morning this month: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
The more underwater we are, the more our restlessness grows. We are being thoughtful about how best to organize ourselves and do what is needed to win dignity, respect, and justice.
Nowadays greedy corporations are treated as “people” while the politicians they bankroll cast union members who try to improve their workplaces as “thugs.”
But we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12. Our friends in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports created a pledge you can sign to support us here.
We drivers have a saying, “We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”
The brothers and sisters of the Teamsters have our backs. They help us make our voices heard. But we need your help too so we can achieve the day where we raise our fists and together declare: “No one could stop us from forming a union.”
SSA Marine/Shippers Transport Express
Port of Long Beach
Ports of Seattle & Tacoma
6-year port driver
Port of Los Angeles
Port of Oakland
7-year port driver
Ports of New York & New Jersey
15-year port driver
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Last Wednesday evening, as I sat on the Mario Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall waiting for the Peoples’ Police Review Board meeting to begin, Alex Kim greeted me and silently handed me a small flower. Each time I visit the site of our Occupy Cal encampment, I look forward to seeing him and hearing him play the violin or just adding a bit of friendliness to our little community. Alex has continuously occupied our encampment since the day it was erected, and beginning in late November, he took a voluntary vow of silence as a means of nonviolent protest.
At 4:38 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Alex was approached by UCPD officers who grabbed and handcuffed him before taking him away. According to several witnesses, police officers responded that he was arrested under Section 5150 of the California Welfare Institutions Code, which states, “When any person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled,” he or she can be taken to “a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Mental Health as a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation.” In other words, as a result of his choice to remain silent, Alex was deemed mentally unfit. But we understand that this was not the real reason for his arrest; rather, Alex was targeted for his dedication to the Occupy Movement.
As someone who knows Alex, I believe that this is a truly abhorrent abuse of police power—one that threatens all of us with arbitrary and psychologically damaging detentions under the auspices of public safety. Not only have our freedoms of assembly and speech been repressed, but now, even our constitutional right to remain silent is being actively undermined.
-Beezer de Martelly
image from the daily cal.
Despite the fact that we were mostly strangers to each other, we forged a real sense of common purpose yesterday; by the end of the meeting, we were engaging in collaborative debate about mass actions with an inspiring level of thoughtfulness and sensitivity to each other and to the auspicious political moment in which we find ourselves.
As a comrade, who took these notes, said: "The spring is shaping up to be truly awesome."
OUTLINE OF THE MAJOR PROPOSAL ON WHICH WE DECIDED
*** Day of Action March 1, 2012, followed by a March to Sacramento, March 5 Rally, and Occupation of Capitol Building ***
~We are calling for a Day of Action across the state on March 1, 2012, where each sector/location/body self-organizes locally (+ regionally if they choose) to support public education and social services for the 99%.
~Following this Day of Action, we call for a march to converge on Sacramento in time for the March 5 rally for education initially called by the student governments. (We are considering a multi-day, continuous march from the east bay, but honor broad forms of participation in the actions leading up to the fifth).
~We call to "Occupy the Capitol" (building) for several days, beginning on March 5, and this space will be a hub from which we can plan other kinds of actions (such as marching on The Chamber of Commerce, on banks, etc., which are in close proximity to the capitol);
~We will begin autonomous build-up actions starting in late January/early February (these include several of the other proposals not mentioned above)
~Saturday, December 17th @ 12pm, 2070 Allston Way, Suite #205 in Berkeley, CA
(anyone who wants to participate on the facilitation committee should meet at 11:15)
~Goals: set up working groups and plan next steps; generate a way for all of us to coordinate and stay in touch
~Call/Stream In: Organizers will try to make this meeting accessible through establishing a call in # or streaming the meeting
~Occupy Cal: following the forceful crackdown on the OC encampment on 11/9, OC hosted a mass General Assembly of thousands who voted to approve an Open Letter calling for a sequence of mass actions beginning early next semester: http://www.change.org/petitions/open-letter-defend-ca-public-education
~Against Cuts: plan to march to Sacramento on March 5th as part of a large mobilization for public education
~Campaign for Millionaires' Tax: filed for a ballot measure to tax the superrich; will need to gather many signatures in January
~Local 1481/Jefferson High School District: currently organizing students to go to board meetings in an attempt to block massive spending cuts
~Occupy UCSC: interested in forging UC-wide network
~UAW 2865: achieved statewide endorsement for the Occupy Cal Open Letter; working to restructure and democratize the education system across the state as well as the Regents (several seats will be vacant in the next few years)
~BFT/Occupy Oakland: the education sector will play a major role in mobilizing for the port shut down on 12/12 in solidarity with port workers' and truckers' unions
~SF State/Statewide Employee Union: working with Re-Fund Cal; believe we need to move beyond lobbying
~CA Faculty Association: were able to shut down Cal State East Bay through mass strike action
~CFT: Peralta is currently fighting against Morgan Stanley for issuing a bad loan
~KPFA/KPFK: will host a statewide show about the privatization of and assault on public education; get in touch if interested in helping
~Oakland Education Association: facing several school closures, and teachers have been very active in movements and strikes
~EDU/United Educators of SF: concerned about Gov. Brown's "trigger cuts" and his stance on no concessions or raises for teachers;
~Occupy SF: planning an action on the date that Gov. Brown's "trigger cuts" are announced
~City College SF: hope to host a more permanent occupation in the spring to activate more community college students
~Occupy UC Davis: interested in organizing with larger networks cross-sectorally; in it for the long haul; email email@example.com
~Occupy Stanford: have been occupying library for last two weeks and hosting teach-ins
~UPTE: working with other unions; large support for this movement
~Occupy Oakland Education Committee: in protest of the Oakland school closures, there will be a rally at Laney College this coming Wednesday beginning at 4:30, where people will march to the school board meeting at 5
~BAMN: in support of those who were arrested at Berkeley on 11/9, there will be an arraignment rally on Monday Dec. 12 at 8:30 am at Wiley Manuel Courthouse
~Student Action for Education/De Anza College: working to build community college network
Saturday, December 10, 2011
"On Dec. 12, general assemblies (the decentralized governing bodies of OWS) in Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., Santa Barbara, Calif., Portland, Ore., Seattle, Longview, Wash., San Diego, Anchorage, California’s Port Hueneme region, and dozens of smaller camps plan to blockade ports and halt commerce for a day. There is a combined Dallas-Houston effort to demonstrate at the port in Houston. Japanese rail workers, who are sympathetic to longshoremen, who work a partner company of Bunge — the company Occupy is protesting — will be demonstrating in Japan.Farther inland, Denver will try to shut down a Walmart distribution center. Occupy Bellingham may block coal trains; and landlocked California occupiers will bus to the coast."
Friday, December 9, 2011
I. Beyond “police brutality”...
We should be clear: the UC Davis police used caustic “nonlethal” spray on those student protestors because they could. The institutional entitlement to use such police force, however ill-advised it may seem in hindsight, is neither incidental nor ad hoc—it is systemic, legally supported, and absolutely normal. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the acquittal of five Los Angeles Police Department officers in the street torture of Rodney King, it is urgent to once again examine how police violence shapes our everyday realities in different and contradictory ways.
(A note on the prevailing language: “police brutality” has become a vastly misused term. While the phrase intends to communicate a sharp criticism of state power that has presumably violated its own self-defined laws and regulations, it is often used to refer to violent police practices that are utterly, ritually sanctioned by law.)
The public response to the display of police violence at UC Davis has been predictably characterized by a combination of righteous outrage and institutional shaming, accompanied by somewhat more muted and unconvincing—though equally predictable—defenses of the UC Davis police department and chancellor. Two facts are not in question: first, the campus deployed an armed police force to squash a conventional act of civil disobedience that was, in the recent historical scheme of things, quite institutionally polite and undisruptive; second, that same armed police force was authorized to use nonlethal weapons on nonviolent student protestors. (We must also remember that the spraying of such chemicals has been widely known to cause death in many instances.)
What does remain in question, however, is how and why these facts are being translated into a liberal-progressive political reaction that seems to naturalize—that takes for granted and/or completely obscures—the fundamentally racial and racist structure of US policing, which finds its modern roots in slave patrols, US colonial military outfits (in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere), Texas Rangers (killers of Apaches, Cherokees, and Comanches), and white citizens’ militias throughout the post-Civil War era North and South. In other words, is it possible that much of the critical response to the scene at UC Davis is actually condoning racist police violence rather than challenging it, and if so, what is enabling such critically-minded people to do so?
II. The liberal racial sensibility
The video evidence of police repression widely circulated from the UC Davis campus via YouTube (etc.) has quickly taken hold of a liberal racial sensibility that absolutely abhors “police brutality” when it is waged on peaceful and/or nonviolent student protestors. (Progressives, radicals, anarchists, and other leftists often share in this liberal racial sensibility despite their left-of-liberal self-identifications.) We must be willing to acknowledge that the political and moral indignation over such excessive displays of nonlethal state violence (that is, pepper spray rather than bullets) is quite openly amplified when such tactics are used on white students, in the space of historically white institutions (as of Fall 2010, Davis had more white students enrolled than any UC campus besides UCLA).
There is something structurally white supremacist about this very indignation: the political expressions of outrage and institutional shaming over the spectacle at UC Davis are fueled by an over-identification with (historically white) university campuses as places of presumed innocence, wherein enrolled and employed (white) bodies are also presumed to presume innocence. If we are to be honest in this moment, we must also recognize that many have only now been provoked into talking and thinking critically about the violence of the police because they are moved to defend the presumption of white bodily and spatial innocence, and are not necessarily concerned about police violence against those whose bodies (and the spaces they inhabit) are presumed guilty, or something close to it.
III. De-provincializing UC Davis
As the dust begins to settle from the spectacle and outrage surrounding the campus police’s use of chemical weapons on those students at UC Davis, it becomes ever more necessary to de-provincialize this form of state violence. By this, I mean something beyond the self-evident assertion that the acts of the UC Davis police and chancellor are “not isolated incidents”: the question is whether we adequately understand how they are not isolated incidents. The installation of militarized police forces on US college and university campuses—a practice several decades old—must be understood within the general social and historical context of domestic policing, and the specific policing imperative to engage in undisguised modalities of domestic racialized warfare, by way of wars on gangs, drugs, migrants, terror(ists), and so forth.
To de-provincialize the police violence at UC Davis is to take seriously the notion that the nonlethal (though no less repugnant) violence of those particular university-based police officers would have been impossible without the absolutely lethal and regular exercises of police violence in places (and on bodies) nowhere near that grassy campus quad. My more fundamental concern thus lies with the policed, human raw material that precedes and exceeds those pepper sprayed students at Davis.
Apolitically policed Black and Brown bodies—young and old, urban and rural, transgender, queer, and straight—are incapable of extracting anything remotely like the consensus of liberal outrage surrounding (and ultimately protecting) the openly political policing of white, able-bodied college youth. While all policing is fundamentally “political,” only a select few of its forms are addressed as such.
This political abyss, the one that allows for acute indignation to be reserved for the policing of those presumed racially innocent (white), reflects a political and spatial provincialism that some of us simply cannot afford to stomach, and which gets to the heart of a racial antagonism that structures major strains of many progressive, social-justice oriented struggles, including the domestic Occupy movement.
Despite the outpouring of righteous and anxious statements from university administrators and other public officials disavowing this allegedly isolated instance of excessive state violence, there was a reason why those riot-geared UC Davis officers—who had to know they were performing for the cameras—did not hesitate to (nonlethally) fire. It is not difficult to see that in the post-1960’s period, militarized police repression of actual and potential political disorder is as American as the atom bomb. However, what is too quickly taken for granted is that the primary places in which such police power is exercised are the very same that are least likely to send their young people to places like UC Davis, and which are the primary sites for which the state has trained its police to engage in domestic, low-intensity warfare by way of drug sweeps, no-knock warrants, street harassment, traffic stops, and justified use of (deadly) force. What is to be made of the UC Davis police action of November 18, 2011, once we understand that the foundation of those officers’ presumed right to violence is not in some failure of bureaucratic protocol, nor in the obvious evidence of poor administrative leadership, but instead derives from the generalized legal, political, and cultural mandate of the US policing apparatus to dispense force as it sees fit?
Whether or not the officers and administrators implicated in these latest exercises of campus police violence are kept on the job, we can be certain that they will not face legal or criminal sanction, a fact that is so broadly and preemptively assumed that any possibility to the contrary is almost never mentioned in public discourse. The insulation of policing from the very criminal legal apparatus that it supposedly serves (and many would contend that the relation of service is the other way around) is what constitutes the operational premise for such exercises of state violence. It is this relation—and not the alleged excessiveness, illegality, or “brutality” of the police violence itself—that must be confronted if the goal is to be something more than just another piecemeal expression of localized shock and awe.
The diverse and complex practices of police violence are not only inseparable from the institutional evolution of policing in the last half-century, they are essential to the very institutional integrity and identity of the US police regime writ large. All of which begs a fundamental question: if the policing apparatus cannot be corrected, punished, or reformed against its own institutional entitlement to exercise violence more or less at will, in accordance with the law, and “within policy”—that is, if the solution is not simply to get the cops to “do their jobs better,” since in most everyday exercises of police violence (including fatal ones) they are generally affirmed as having done their jobs pretty damn well—then what political responses are available, and toward what ends?
IV. Yudof and Bratton: the case for (low-intensity) war
Now that University of California President Mark Yudof has called in domestic war expert and current LAPD Chief of Police William Bratton and his high-tech Kroll Security Group to conduct a “truthful and objective” (Bratton’s words) investigation of the mess at UC Davis, the lesson should be clear: the site of the (public) university is as much a focus of strategic state (and police) militarization and repressive mobilization as it is of budgetary “crisis” and de-funding.
Let us not forget that this is the same Bratton who pioneered “zero tolerance” (or “broken windows”) policing as a method to surveil, terrorize, and criminalize Black, Brown, and poor people in New York City throughout the 1990s. Bratton’s policing strategy during this period facilitated a dense climate of police harassment and violence against Black and Latino/a youth, based on often flimsy suspicion of such offenses as loitering, public noise, avoiding subway fees, and truancy. His name remains a Satan-like reference for the many who experienced (survived) the grip of his regime in NYC.
It was also Bratton who, as the Los Angeles police chief, endorsed a rather incredible 2007 study by the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Group that concluded that despite more than 300 official complaints filed by LA residents, LAPD officers had not once stopped, detained, questioned, or otherwise engaged a civilian as a result of their perceived racial identity (about 80% of these racial profiling complaints were dismissed out of hand by Internal Affairs as “unfounded”). This was the sixth consecutive year in which Bratton would proudly assert that there was not a single example of racially-based misconduct among his officers. Further, despite the explosive and recent revelations of the Ramparts Division scandal in the late-1990s, the videotaped police beating of disabled Black teenager Donovan Jackson near the beginning of Bratton’s first LAPD term in 2002, the now infamous 2007 police riot at the MacArthur Park immigrant rights rally, the rampant use of “gang injunctions” to detain, humiliate, and physically violate Black and Brown children and youth, and myriad other instances of police violence, it was the same Bratton who stated in 2008 that the LAPD “is not a racist department. It is not a homophobic department. It is not a brutal department.” (LA Times, April 30, 2008) In addition to all of this, it is also Bratton who has advocated hiring police officers from communities of color in order to magically make “policing more attractive to a changing population.” (The Guardian, August 13, 2011)
Without belaboring the point, the fact that Bratton has been hired by Yudof, will be paid with public funds to conduct the UC Davis investigation, and retains even a shred of credibility as an impartial or “objective” investigator of police violence/brutality is somewhere beyond absurd. It is no less than a pronouncement that the University of California is a place of toxic hostility for those who rationally (and self-defensively) view Bratton—and, for that matter, the police—as the diametric opposite of peace and security. Some would venture to say that Bratton’s entry is merely the crystallization of an institutionalized racial hostility that has aggressively inclined since the passing of Proposition 209 in 1996, which exterminated affirmative action initiatives, dramatically shifted the racial and socioeconomic demographics of the UC student body, and brought even more suspicion on those Black and Brown bodies walking across campus.
There is something else about the UC President’s hiring of Bratton and the Kroll Group that is worth considering. State and campus administrators seem to clearly understand that in the history of progressive, leftist, radical, and revolutionary social movements, university and college campuses worldwide have consistently played central roles as on-the-ground think tanks, centers of massive political mobilization, and major catalysts for the initiation, sustenance, and fulfillment of world-altering visions of political insurgency and social change. American apartheid was dismantled in significant part due to the political organizing undertaken by and with students, on and adjacent to college and university campuses. The recent emergence of the anti-prison industrial complex and prison abolitionist movement has been fueled by major public gatherings and consistent political actions at places like Columbia Law School, Laney College (Oakland, CA), and UC Berkeley. Recently, Occupy sites have sprouted up at colleges and universities all over the US, though perhaps most conspicuously on UC campuses (thanks to the UCD police). This history is further reason why the recent UC Davis police violence must be deprovincialized: because campus police and their administrators already view themselves within a global and historical context of managing, containing, co-opting, and repressing the potentially explosive and disordering political mobilizations that can happen just outside their office windows.
Allow me to briefly mention a recent development at my own place of work to illustrate the point in detail: on November 22, 2011, a mere four days after the pepper spray had cleared at Davis, the UC Riverside Office of Student Affairs, led by the Dean of Students, issued a declaration of “Protest Guidelines.” The document is framed by the affirmation, at once paternalistic and Orwellian, that “FREE SPEECH IS WELCOME HERE.” (All caps in the original.) It proceeds by providing a detailed protocol for “How to have a successful protest at UCR.”
What follows reads more like amateur political satire than serious university policy. First, the “CHECKLIST TO PLAN YOUR PROTEST” dictates that a registered UCR student organization or campus department must “sponsor your protest” at least a month before the event. Then, at least 2 weeks prior to the event, protest organizers must contact the Assistant Dean of Students and meet with an “Event Review Committee” that will “preview your preliminary plans.” In the meantime, potential protest organizers are put on notice that “protests with multiple risk factors, and/or an expected audience of over 100 will take more time to approve.” During the actual event, protestors are directed to appoint a “contact person” who will “consult with the Assistant Dean of Students or UCR designee throughout the event.” To top it off, this protest contact person and the Assistant Dean/UCR designee are instructed to “Exchange cell phone numbers.” (The entire document is available here: http://deanofstudents.ucr.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/Policies_Procedures/protestguidelines.pdf)
Such are not simply small-minded rules conceived in the friendliest spirit of political intimidation (the consequences for not following the protocol are never mentioned in the document). We must recognize that they comprise a particular tactic within the framework of low-intensity domestic war. Implicit threats of student suspension and expulsion, faculty subjection to conduct and disciplinary procedures (via the Committee on Charges, to which a case against the author was brought and dismissed in 2002-2003), and police intervention hover over the UCR Protest Guidelines and similar campus protocols elsewhere. While none of this is to be confused with the worst of Bratton’s NYPD or LAPD, the UCR document’s criminalization of potential political disorder (“free speech” run amuck, without permission or approval) is not far from the police chief’s “zero tolerance” philosophy of social control.
V. If they’ll do that to them…
The galling ease with which the UC Davis cops sprayed those students—as if they were exterminators treating an ant infestation—is not best understood as primary evidence of mentally unstable, corrupt, or evil individual police officers who must be individually punished and held accountable for their actions. Rather, it is the very casualness of their violence that provides insight as to the historical depth and institutional reach of the late-20th and early 21st century US racist state. The bare fact that armed police officers at an elite public university can douse (white) students with clouds of pepper spray provokes some of us to translate that scene into a language of deeper alienation and terror: If the cops are willing to do that to white college kids, what are they willing—and probably eager—to do to us? Of course, the “us” cannot be homogenized here, because anyone remotely familiar with the history of racist US state violence recognizes that the police consistently deploy different strategies and intensities of force on different bodies, based on geographic location, racial profile, perceived gender and sexual identity, presumed non-citizen status, and so forth.
Nonetheless, the point should be clear: if we are to treat the UC Davis scenario as something more than an isolated incident of officers gone wild—and many students, activists, teachers, journalists, and other thinkers clearly wish to do so—we cannot help but come face-to-face with the enduring and complicated machinery of the racist state. If they’ll do this to upwardly mobile white people on a liberal Northern California college campus, what will they do to the rest of us, especially those whose guilt is more or less presumed in the eyes of the police as well as their recent critics?
-Dylan Rodriguez, UC Riverside
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
On the official web site of the Regents of the University of California it says, “If you would like to email the Regents, please address your comments to Regents Office (firstname.lastname@example.org).” Alternatively, you can find that Marsha Kelman is the Secretary and Chief of Staff to The Regents and her email address is email@example.com.
Here is my recent experience with that channel of communication.
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Secretary and Chief of Staff to The Regents
Please forward the attached letter (via email, so as to retain
electronic links therein) to each member of the Board of Regents.
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Secretary and Chief of Staff to The Regents
UC Office of the President
... On September 16 I sent you some material... which I asked to be distributed to the regents. Was that distribution carried out? And if so, in what manner?
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... We have not located the email you sent on September 16. If you will send it again, I’m happy to make it available to the Regents through our normal correspondence process.
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Here is the email I sent you on September 16. Please acknowledge immediately that you have received this.
I cannot imagine how the original email did not reach you.
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I have received your email with the attachment.
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My original request was that you forward my letter (which was the attachment) to each regent by email. Will this be done? When?
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Our process is the same one we’ve had in place for many years. We list the
correspondence we have received and ask the Regents what they would like copies of for review...
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Thank you for FINALLY acknowledging what I had feared: That it is almost impossible for an ordinary person to communicate with members of the Board!
Sunday, December 4, 2011
"Behind the headline-grabbing brutality of the pepper-spray video lies a decades-long story of the gradual privatisation of California's public college and university system - even as resources shifted to building a massive prison system instead. On the one hand, students face skyrocketing tuition costs - up more than 1,000 per cent in just over two decades, if current plans go forward - while tax increases on the wealthy are anathema.
Exhibit A on the latter point is UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, on whose orders the riot police were deployed. Katehi is both a member of the 1% and an overt supporter of police repression on campus. Although she has tried to disavow any responsibility for the pepper spraying of students, it has quickly emerged that she was a co-author of a report used to justify the recent repeal of a 1974 law, banning the police from Greek universities. That law was passed following the overthrow of a military junta. The repeal came just in time, earlier this year, to help suppress Greek protests against the imposition of harsh austerity measures.
As for her economic status, Katehi was hired in 2009 at $400,000 per year plus substantial benefits. That's the same base pay as the American President, and well more than double the pay of California's governor, who makes less than $175,000. Katehi holds numerous patents and her husband also teaches at UC Davis - more than enough to place her solidly in the 1%. Her salary represented a massive 27 per cent increase over the pay for the previous chancellor - the very same year that student fees were being hiked by 32 per cent, while classes were being cut. The reasoning was... well, it's not reasoning, really. It's just how things are done within the 1% - a procedure based on comparing pay for the heads of various different colleges, public and private, including Johns Hopkins, Yale and the University of Chicago.[...]
Now UC Davis is a very good school, but even UC Berkeley isn't Yale. It's not so much a question of educational quality - it's a question of founding mission and purpose... which are not very well served by the sorts of people sitting on the Board of Regents, none of whom has a distinctive educational background. The UC system is part of a three-tiered college system - universities, state colleges and community colleges - that according to California's 1960 Education Master Plan is supposed to provide affordable higher education to every high school graduate in the state who wants a public college education. Indeed, technically, it's supposed to be tuition-free. But student "fees" now make a mockery of that. The 32 per cent fee increase mentioned above was just a tiny fraction of the enormous fee increases since 1992 - roughly 1/16 of the 534 per cent total increase in dollars through 2009 - or 1/10 of the total when adjusted for inflation. It's now even higher, and current plans would jack that increase up to more than 1,200 per cent over 1992 levels in just the next few years.
Fee hikes haven't been smooth. They've skyrocketed in stages as public funding from California's state budget has plunged in a series of successive budget crises. But the dynamics are more complicated than first meets the eye, as UC Santa Cruz politics professor Bob Meister explained back in 2009. There are actually incentives for university officials to welcome state budget cuts, explained Meister, President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations. State budget money comes with strings attached, prioritising education. But money from student, ironically, has no such restrictions, and hence is perfect for empire-building, he explained.
"How does UC sell $1.3bn in construction bonds immediately after declaring an 'extreme financial emergency,' slashing funds for teaching and research and cutting staff and faculty pay? By using your tuition as collateral," Meister wrote online at KeepCaliforniasPromise.org. "Higher tuition lets UC borrow more for construction even while it cuts instruction and research." And this is only the beginning, he explained.
"UC's most recent (post-"emergency") construction bonds are just the beginning of a long-term (10-15 year) plan to borrow very much more against very much higher tuition in order to fund individual projects that no longer have to be approved by the state or paid for out of each project's own revenue."
In short, rather than the university existing to serve the students, it's the other way round. From the Board of Regents' point of view, the students are - above all else - a revenue stream to secure Wall Street funding. Hardly a surprise, really, when you consider the makeup of the Board."
Saturday, December 3, 2011
["This sign is larger than 30" x 30," you're under arrest"]
New UC Riverside Protest Guidelines:
- Protest must be planned a month+ ahead, and communicated to admin
- An admin representative must be present
- Admin must approve march routes, chalking messages
- All protest must be sponsored by a department or registered organization
- No signs on sticks
Just in time for a Regents meeting at UCR on January 18.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Calls for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi have come from the Occupy Davis GA, the online petition which currently has over 110,000 signatures, and numerous academic departments on campus. The English Department has called for not only Katehi's resignation but also, in the interest of student health and safety, the disbanding of UCPD. But some faculty, it seems, are privileged enough to feel differently. They signed a nauseatingly disingenuous letter of support for Chancellor Katehi:
We, the undersigned UC Davis faculty, support the free exchange of ideas on campus and students’ right to peaceful protests. We are appalled by the events of Friday, Nov. 18, on the Quad, but heartened by the chancellor’s apology and her commitment to listen to and work on the students’ concerns.Who are these people? How could they be so ignorant about the history of police violence at UC Davis and across the UC system? A quick glance is all it takes to see that they overwhelmingly represent professional schools and the hard sciences, departments which tend to benefit most from the UC administration's privatization agenda. But a compañero went even further and compiled the following list: "Meet the Snakes: Salaries of Faculty who Support Katehi."
We strongly believe that Linda Katehi is well-qualified to lead our university through this difficult healing process and oppose the premature calls for her resignation; this is not in the best interest of our university.
It's a long list so we're putting it below the fold, but we recommend taking a look. The bottom line, however, is this: the average salary of the signatories is $151,111.50.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Please join us at 60 Barrows Hall....
7:28: We're working on starting the meeting now.
7:32: Meeting has been convened, someone from copwatch is giving us a history of the police review board. "...in 1980s, ASUC voted for independent police review board, modeled on the former city of berkeley police review board. now, the copley decision limits the power of these boards. but because the chief of police sits on this board, it's not independent. this board only meets once a year -- it's not anything like the berkeley police review board. here is the process of the ucpd and the uc police review board: it takes months to get anything back...."
7:37: "...the UCB review board can't initiate investigations. they can't review UCPD polices. but there are a lot of policies and procedures that the UCPD uses that are seriously problematic, they can use choke holds (this hasn't been allowed at the city of berkeley for some time)..."
7:38: The student rep on the PRB, laying it down about the PRB (off record).
7:42: Voting on whether to stay in 60 Barrows.... Vote passes. We're staying.
7:50: Proposal for three investigations: of pepper spray use, november 9th, ucpd shooting on November 15.
7:52: Next proposal: we know that the police shouldn't investigate themselves. we need a separate process to investigate police. also, this PRB isn't effective. we should be making a board to look into PRB, and start investigating police policies.
7:54: Next proposal: investigate the investigation company (Kroll) charged (by Yudof) with investigating the police violence at ucd and ucb. william bratton, from the kroll security group, is the one charged with the investigation.
7:57: UCPD rep is telling us there will be a cop in the doorway till we're done.
8:01: Cop's here, being goofy. This is odd. Anyway.... getting back to the agenda.
8:02: Next proposal: Can we give concrete proposals for how cops should act, how they should be evaluated; would we recommend a 360 degree review process.
8:03: Next proposal: This body should put out reports regularly. There should be a way to hear complaints, and we should ask for complaints about recent months.
8:04: We should try to get similar boards going at other campuses, other places.
8:04: Proposal: That we investigate other events as well as Nov. 9.
8:05: Proposal: I think it would be awesome to actually gather the testimony and the evidence. That's easy. Also, I think we should draw up a list of folks who are credible and who have experience, professors and community-based people, students, etc. Also, the ASUC should make a way and a place for this independent body. If we do this, ppl would be amazed and shocked.
8:07: Proposal: I think we should also review the police review board.
8:09: Discussion of the PRB standards for Nov. 9 review: board will determine whether the violence exceeded campus norms, but we have to determine what those norms are... PRB can't accuse officers, just make recommendations to the admin about how the police can become more efficient. Please discuss what the standards of the PRB should be for this investigation.
8:16: The PRB is split. Most of them are for the police. The minority isn't listened to when we raise criticisms.
8:19: Proposal: Talk about how people who testify can be protected, especially journalists. Also, we should request that procedures of PRB and their investigation be open to the public.
8:20: Proposal: Approach CRP and Uncivil Procedure about how to coordinate the investigation.
8:22: We're moving toward self-organized committees: A group to constitute a space where people can bring complaints; a group to organize investigations...
8:24: Talking about proposals for how to create investigative bodies that are accountable to the general, people's police review board / general assembly
8:36: Proposal that we have stable standards and practices for the investigations.
8:40: Discussing when and where we'll have our next meeting.... Wednesday at 6pm, Sproul steps. Facilitation committee is at 5pm on Sproul steps.
9:05: We just decided to break into working groups (one for collecting testimony; one for organizing investigations)....
9:10: Gonna sign off for now. Come by next Wednesday, 6pm at Sproul if you want to get involved in the People's Police Review Board!