Monday, April 23, 2012

Remarks at 4/23 rally for the Davis Dozen

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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