California: Yesterday the dumpsters. Tomorrow the world.
Thursday, February 25 2010 Infoshop News
17 arrests made at UC Irvine; students barricaded police inside building, barricaded road. A curious thing happened yesterday at the University of California Irvine: for several hours, the campus descended into a state of anarchy. “UCI is NOT a state of anarchy!” – UCI Political Science Department Chair Mark Petracca, to Muslim students disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s talk 2 weeks ago.
Well, Mr. Petracca, we’ve tried it your way, it’s time for ours!
A curious thing happened yesterday at the University of California Irvine:
for several hours, the campus descended into a state of anarchy.
At 9:30am, 14 students and 3 AFSCME 3299 representatives began a sit-in
outside Chancellor Michael Drake’s office. The police were caught
completely flat-footed, and it was only because a police officer saw the
crowd and rushed to the 5th floor to lock Drake’s door that the students
didn’t get inside. A list of demands was issued, and while there has
already been much debate and discussion about the demands, we have no
interest in dissecting the demands–the fact that these issues are even
being talked about is sufficient. In fact, outside supporters seemed to
have their own motivations: support for the Black Student Union at UC San
Diego, workers' rights, ending privatization, student autonomy. Police
seemed unprepared to deal with the sit-in; really, nothing like this has
happened in years on our quiet Stepford-esque campus. After nearly an
hour, police finally made the move to arrest the protesters.
What made this action more than a protest, and took it beyond the spectrum
of most campus sit-ins, was the actions of solidarity by students outside.
To us, solidarity means attack, and attack we did. Students were able to
seize the moment, put their fears and disagreements aside, and quickly
moved dumpsters, tables, and even doors to barricade the doors to Aldrich
Hall. One door was left open–if the police want to take our friends to
jail, they’ll have to get past us!
We found each other in those moments of pushing and flipping dumpsters.
Black and white, teacher and student, none of those distinctions really
mattered. We were acting for our friends inside, and we were acting for
ourselves and each other. New faces appeared behind masks, and we all
found strengths that we never knew we had.
We later found out from our friends inside that as the actions outside
unfolded, police shouted news over the police radio: after the first
dumpster was placed, police rushed downstairs to assess the situation.
Soon, we had about 20 police plus our campus oligarchy (admin) barricaded
inside. It was only a matter of time before police broke the barricades–a
dumpster left on its wheels, a table not secured well enough–not that
that’s important. A few minutes later: “They’ve taken to the streets!”
Students rolled dumpsters into the street passing Aldrich Hall, Pereira, a
main artery on campus. Two dumpsters flipped, workers and students jumping
and dancing on top of them, and a crowd gathered around. All myths about
the agency of workers, AB540 students, students of color, women, queer
students were shattered–anyone can throw down when they believe they can.
For several hours, we ran wild mere feet from police, who watched
As our friends were being released, we left the street to rejoin them and
cheer their return. All were out by 2:45pm. Their charges were
minor–”failure to disperse.” It is easy to speculate: would their charges
have been worse? would they have been taken to county had we not escalated
outside? Our arrest count for the year is 29–a year ago we barely had that
many activists. Many of us are still free without charges, ready to
continue to escalate.
March 4 is right around the corner. Irvine awoke from its slumber
yesterday. We realize that we set the bar high, but we see this as a
challenge: how will we top yesterday’s action? If not dumpsters, will we
push something else? Just a few hours later, we all felt the pain of
coming down from a high, and the only way to restore that euphoria is to
get back in the action. We will never look at dumpsters in the same way.
Yesterday we discovered that we had it in us, that the revolutionary
spirit lives within us all, that it takes only a little provocation for
that spirit to be released. We have to come to terms with our own agency
and learn to love it. We also learned that spontaneity is liberation, and
the more unpredictable, the more ready to explode we are, the further we
can go and the more rewarding it will be.
We offer this account to students around the country and the world. If we
could do it, so can you. As we pass through our 15 minutes of fame, we
want to make it clear that there is nothing unique about our situation.
Two days ago, we never would have anticipated this. We have struggled for
some time to organize students; we just realized that that was the
problem–they didn’t lack organization, they lacked confidence. Go out and
try new things. Show students they can act. Be creative. Be realistic,
attempt the impossible. Sit in. Lock down. Lock in. March 4 is just a few
days away, but it only takes a few moments to turn a boring action into
Yesterday the dumpsters.
Tomorrow the world.
Subversities has additional info about the arrests inside.
Protesters stage sit-in outside Chancellor Drake's Office. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010
Irvine -- In a sign that civil disobedience at University of California, Irvine has reached a new level of direct action, 17 activists, many associated with the Worker-Student Alliance at the Irvine campus, were arrested shortly before noon today (Wednesday, 24, 2010) after several hours of sustained chanting in a hallway outside UCI Chancellor Michael Drake's 5th floor offices in Aldrich Hall, after being warned by UCI Police that they were participating in an illegal assembly.
The protesters, including AFSCME local 3299 union lead organizer Juan Castillo (previous Subversity interview) and WSA leader Dennis Lopez (earlier Subversity interview), were one by one asked if they wanted to leave or would be arrested and then lifted up from the hallway floor (where they had been seated together) and handcuffed before being escorted by UCI police down the stairs. The arrests were observed by local media and UCI faculty members.
Before the arrests, protesters, in disciplined chants, that continued for several hours, called on UCI and Chancellor Drake to "in-source" service workers currently working for ABM. Drake had appeared moved at a recent forum with students when the spouse of a laid-off service worker asked him to settle the labor dispute.
In literature distributed at the event and at a rally outside Aldrich Hall, the protesters described their sit-in as not an "occupation, nor is it unlawful assembly or trespassing." Instead, "we have expropriated Aldrich Hall" the protesters declare. They continue: "As part of the University of California, this building belongs to the students and workers." They attribute their action to the "increasing privatization of our system": "This action is the result of frustration with conventional avenues of participation. The crisis is too extreme for gradualism and the ideals of public education are slipping away; direct confrontation is needed."
Protesters chant outside Chancellor's Drake Office as UCI Police begin arrests. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010
The action comes five days after a few dozen other students took over Langson Library the past Friday evening and held teach-ins in the lobby with faculty until they were evicted after 11 pm by UCI Police who occupied the loan desk. (The library had extended opening hours past the normal 5 p.m. to accommodate the protesters.)
The protesters also made 12 demands on the UCI Administration, and three on the UC Regents, including an end to military and private security contracts. The demands appear online at the blog, Democratize Education: Taking Control of Our Education. We list them here as well:
To UCI Admnistration:
1) We demand that UCI administration implement a comprehensive financial aid system by fall 2010 that apportions grant aid (excluding loans from the equation) and on-campus housing based on family wealth rather than income. Financial aid must be designed to counteract the economic effects of structural and systemic racism in our society.
2) We demand the immediate direct hiring of all outsourced ABM workers and fair pay for all campus workers. Students and workers do not support discriminatory hiring practices that victimize immigrant, Latina/o working families.
3) We demand that Chancellor Drake publicly commit to seeking out private donations that will specifically fund financial aid to AB540 students or begin providing financial aid for AB540 students directly from his office’s discretionary funding. We want administration to publicly recognize that AB540 students do not share the same economic freedoms and securities as other populations.
4) We demand that UCI administration immediately disarm all police officers of Tasers. This action is supported by the December 2009 ruling of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Taser has replaced the lash of the whip as a device in the service of state sanctioned anti-blackness, evidenced so blatantly at UCLA this past November, and UCI’s administration should lead in the banning of this device.
5) We demand that UCI immediately equip the campus with gender neutral bathrooms. Students and workers who do not fit the illusion of gender normativity suffer routine violence and intimidation. UC should not privilege heteronormativity over the interests of its LGBT community.
6) We demand the recall of the three groundskeepers that were laidoff in October 2009 and the reinstatement of the 5% time reduction of the entire campus of AFSCME 3299 service unit.
7) We demand that no disciplinary action (academic or legal) be taken against the 11 students arrested at Ambassador Oren’s event. UCI and the surrounding community’s repeated attacks against, and hyper-surveillance of, Muslim and Arab students aids in branding legitimate political criticisms against the apartheid state of Israel as ‘uncivil’ and fosters a segregated cultural, social, and intellectual climate for the university. Deploying rhetoric that equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism serves to annihilate rather than engage in dialogue.
8) We demand 100% funding from administration for a recruitment and retention center for underrepresented students. Recruiting and retaining students of color and low-income students should be a campus priority, but UCI has neglected to support these important efforts.
9) We demand that until state-funding has been restored to the UC system in full, that all budget cuts imposed in the fall be redistributed by imposing an equal percentage cut to each of UCI’s schools.
10) We demand that UCI administration immediately reinvest in the ethnic, queer, and women’s studies departments/programs. UCI should foster an environment that is supportive of students who are considered outside of the “mythical norms” of our society. As evidenced so blatantly at UCSD this past week, Black subjects are in an antagonistic position against the institution, this sentiment is reinforced by administration and creates a safe space for anti-blackness. UCI administration should lead in creating a campus that engages in academic, political, and social reeducation which challenges structural and individual racism, sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia.
11) We demand that Chancellor Drake publicly disclose all of UCI’s military and private security contracts. Furthermore, we demand that Chancellor Drake shut down the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs and discontinue all military and Homeland Security contracts that aid in both the mass murder of people around the world by U.S. imperialism (particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and Pakistan) or the violent police repression of students and workers within the U.S. In solidarity with workers and students around the world, we demand an end to genocidal imperialist wars for profit and empire: U.S. imperialism out of Iraq and Afghanistan!
12) We demand that UCI not feed the prison-industrial complex. We demand that UCI end its contract with Motorola by fall 2010. Furthermore, we demand the removal of all Dell, IBM, and Texas Instrument products by fall 2010 as well.
Demands to the UC Regents:
1. We demand amnesty for all previous and current participants in protest on UC campuses. The Regents must restore all penalized students to good academic standing, recall all fired workers, and issue a public statement demanding that any and all criminal charges be dropped.
2. We demand the UC Regents and the Office of the President terminate ALL military and private security contracts currently in place at UC campuses and research facilities. In solidarity with workers and students around the world, we demand an end to genocidal imperialist wars for profit and empire: U.S. imperialism out of Iraq and Afghanistan!
3. We demand that the Regents revisit the November 2009 decision to increase student fees by 32% and address student and faculty objections to this decision. We demand that this public discussion of the 32% fee increase include three agenda items:
(a) A period for public comment;
(b) A vote, in full view of the public, reconsidering the 32% fee increase;
(c) A vote, in full view of the public, to ban all outsourcing of workers.
UPDATED 1:40PM: University Communications (Cathy Lawhon) has just sent out a statement; of course no one was at risk, it was a totally peaceful and disciplined sit-in as a faculty member noted. And the whole sit-in was over by noon. Anyway, here's what the PR folks sent out at 1:30 pm:
A group of students and labor organizers occupied the fifth floor of
Aldrich Hall at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, disrupting business and
presenting a wide-ranging list of demands.
Offices on the fifth floor were locked down and protestors were
informed that they should leave or they would be arrested. By noon,
police arrested 17 protestors inside Aldrich Hall who refused to leave
and cited them with unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse.
Students arrested will also be cited with violations of university
Demonstrators outside the building blocked several exits impeding the
ability of those inside to leave. Police surrounded the perimeter of
the building and exits were cleared.
By afternoon, staff inside Aldrich Hall were evacuated to ensure their