Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Undercover Police Infiltrate Student Group at UW

South Puget Sound IMC Wed, 04/21/2010

On Thursday April 8, students, workers, and instructors welcomed an
unfamiliar face to a publicly advertised meeting for a campus-wide strike
May 3rd. A woman who identified herself simply as “Tani" described
herself as an "alum" of UW still paying back student loans who was
passionate about the cuts. She also said that her father worked with Waste
Management and she was in the meeting to find out what the May 3rd strike
committee was involved in with regards to the Teamsters' recent call for a
strike. "Tani" actively participated in the planning meeting for a
large-scale action demanding immigrant and worker justice, student access
to UW, and smaller class sizes and writing center to improve education.
The following week, however, student activists accidently bumped into
“Tani” again—this time, though, as Officer Tanesha van Leuven of the UWPD.
We have reason to believe that Tani was sent by the University of
Washington to spy on the meeting.

The University of Washington has made police infiltration and intimidation
its primary tactic for retaliation in the ongoing battle against
privatization at UW. In the Fall and Winter of 2009, immigrant workers
faced continuous harassment from the UWPD for talking with other workers
about their working conditions, clearly violating labor law. That
September, two women of color journalists and activists—a childcare worker
and a pre-nursing student—were arrested after interviewing immigrant women
workers during their break time about the challenges they face in the
workplace. With layoffs and arbitrary shift changes being enforced by
custodial services, many workers have experienced inhumane amounts of
extra work and speed up. UWPD officers also often harass students who
choose to organize within on-campus registered student organizations while
they are handing out flyers, or even just walking on campus going to
class. For example, last Tuesday, while passing out flyers and talking
with students, two women graduate students were approached by a bike
officer of the UWPD who told them “I wish I could arrest people for no
reason.” These attacks, the violence perpetrated against activists in
Seattle, Portland, and Olympia, the increase in police killing of unarmed
people of color, and now the covert infiltration of a student group by
UWPD raise serious and alarming questions about possible violence and
surveillance against students and workers at the hands of the University
and its police force.

Since June of 2009, workers, students, and community members have been
fighting against lay-offs of immigrant workers, increases in tuition that
exclude working students and students of color, cuts to quality education,
and an ongoing process of privatization that favors revenue for some at
the top of the university, while taking funds away from students and
workers. While the university’s state budget continues to be cut, the
reality is this cut is less than 3% of the total UW budget. In fact, most
of the budget shortfall—$469 million—came from the university's risky
investments, NOT from the cuts from the state. Since 2004, the UW Treasury
has been investing in hedge funds, and hiking tuition, from $4968 in 2003
to $8800 in 2010, to back up these investments should they default. Rather
than cutting from the top, and changing its spending focuses, the
university continues to perpetuate the myth that tuition hikes go toward
ameliorating the state cuts.

On March 4th, while over 700 students and workers were protesting budget
cuts on and off campus, and many more were protesting across the country,
the UW met with the UAW 4121, Academic Student Employees (ASE’s),
bargaining team to start contract negotiations. At this meeting, the UW
told UAW negotiators that because they opposed a tuition increase bill in
the legislature in February, the University would retaliate against all
ASE’s by taking away lay-off protections, increasing healthcare premiums,
and firing all tutors and writing center instructors, among other
take-aways. Many UAW members are pushing their elected representatives to
call a strike, which was already authorized by membership, to begin the
first day after contract negotiations if the University continues to
bargain in bad faith. The May 3rd student strike was planned to
correspond with this day, and to support custodians and other state
workers facing cuts.

Through its actions, the University PD has shown itself to be
unaccountable to students and the UW community. It does, however, do the
work of controlling student movements on behalf of the UW administration.
The UWPD and the UW administration seek to curtail organizing by workers
and students, but they will not succeed.

UW Group: Officer Went Undercover To Infiltrate Meeting

April 20, 2010
SEATTLE -- Some students are angry after a University of Washington police
officer went undercover and attended a meeting of students planning a
campus-wide strike.

The group, UW Student Worker Coalition, said it publicly advertised the
meeting that was held last Thursday to talk about planning the strike on
May 3.

According to a news release from the group, the planning meeting was for a
“large-scale action demanding immigrant and worker justice, student access
to UW, and smaller class sizes and a writing center to improve education.”

Students who attended the meeting said they welcomed an unfamiliar face, a
woman who called herself "Tani."

“Who introduced herself as an alumni of the school, who had a lot of
student loans, who has a father who is a teamster,” said graduate student
Jacob Greenberg.

Greenberg said the officer was dressed in street clothes and involved
herself in the planning.

"She was trying to advocate that students stay out of the way of blocking
any sort of entrances on campus," Greenberg said.

Days after the meeting, other students who'd been at the meeting spotted
the woman out of street clothes and in her UW police uniform.

Police said the woman is Officer Tanesha Van Leuven, and the UW police
command staff defends what she did.

"We saw that they were having an open meeting and we sent an officer in
plain clothes,” said Cmdr. Jerome Solomon.

When KIRO 7 reporter Karen O’ Leary asked, “She didn't identify herself as
a police officer?”

“No, I don’t believe she did,” Solomon said.

He said the police were trying to get information from the group, the same
group that had organized a large protest against budget cuts on March 4.

"We have an obligation to obtain as much information that we possibly can
so we can ensure the rights of the protests and the rights of the
students, staff and faculty," Solomon said.

He said police did nothing wrong, but some students disagree.

“If I was in that position, I would be upset because it's an abridge of
trust,” said student Christopher Teeny.

Matt Hamilton was at that meeting and was distributing fliers Tuesday
about the upcoming protest.

"It was an open meeting because we have nothing to hide and we want
maximum participation from all members of campus, but the one group that
we do not want there is the police because they have a history on this
campus of harassing student activists,” Hamilton said.

A spokesperson for UW administrators said he was not aware of the incident
and that it’s not the school’s policy to have police attend meetings
without identifying who they are. He also said it was an error in judgment
on the police chief’s part.

He also said administrators plan to meet with the police on Wednesday to
discuss the incident.

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