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.


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