On the 9th of Nov. 2011 the first Occupy Cal massive action took place. Over 3000 protesters joined at the Sproul Plaza, Berkeley, the iconic place where the Free Speech Movement started in the Sixties. Among the protesters were students, teachers, and professors together with community allies. Occupy Oakland, Berkeley and SF joined in solidarity with Occupy Cal. All of them were together on the 9 Nov to defend all sectors of public education in California, to say no to cuts, fee hikes, school closures, & privatization in any level of education (“Make banks pay!”).
Against the privatization of public education in California. “The Regents are the 1%”
Since 2008 the Regents at UC Berkeley have raised the tuition 200%. Now they are planning to raise the fees 81% during the next years. In the same meetings they decide to raise the cuts and the students fees, they raised their salaries (around $400.000 annual base salary). The Regents say they have no option and this is to keep the high quality of the education. Meanwhile, many are complaining about the larger class sizes, the fewer available classes, etc., which are consequence of the budget cuts.
Actually these protests at UC Berkeley started in 2009, with the first fee hikes, but now they have taken a new energy, inspired by the close Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street, and the previous Occupy movements all over the world (Egypt in April, Spain in 15May, and so on).
A group of students at UC Berkeley tell me that they are paying at the moment $ 31.000 or $ 36.000 per year as registration fee, some of them even more. Many students when they are done their degree in this University have debts around $30.000-50.000. Many families are getting into big debts because of this. The protesters think that the banks and also the Regents, whom are often connected with them and with the big corporations, are making profit off their debts. The Regents are not elected democratically by the votes of the University community. On the contrary, they are chosen directly by the Governor of California and approved by the State Senate. These 18 Regents who have monolithic power in the UC didn´t have any relationship with education before, and “that is why -a Cal Student in Political Science explained to me- they manage the university as a company or a corporation and, the students as commercial goods”.
Occupy Cal 9 Nov Action and the Police brutality.
On the 9th there were teach-outs at Sproul Plaza since 8.00. At 12.00 there was a Rally (people concentration) at the same place, and at 13.30 the first General Assembly. The assembly approved two proposals (see below), concerning the objectives of Occupy Cal, defined itself as a peaceful and non-violent movement. In the assembly, open mike: memories of the Free Speech movement, what Martin Luther King and others achieved with their peaceful resistance. Solidarity with all the occupy movements around the world. “The California dream is becoming a nightmare”, says one UC Berkeley student. Another: “The real change should be not only outside of us, but inside of us”. The common sentence: “The Regents are the 1%”. The assembly endorsed to camp at the green spaces at Sproul Plaza, so at the end of the assembly, around 14.30, several tents were set up. The police tried to take them away. The occupiers remained peacefully trying to keep the tents up and protecting the space, some of them linking their arms in a human chain, while they shouted together “Whose university? Our university!”, “No taxes, no fees, education must be free”, “We are the 99%”. Around 15.00 the police started to beat the students indiscriminately (video at the top). I didn´t see this directly, because in that moment I was some steps back, but what I saw were two girls going away and trying to breath, their hands holding their stomachs: they explain to me that the cops beat their stomachs with large batons (interview). “Are the police allowed to hit the students when they are peaceful in a public space?”-I wondered. The police took the tents away, but two tents remained when the police went out around 16.00.
There was a second assembly at 18.00 at Sproul Plaza, hundreds of people came again. At the end of the assembly, the votes endorsed to keep the encampment. There were around 6 tents set up.
Around 21.30 the police started again to provoke and beat the students, who were in a peaceful attitude there. The police shut the tents down and stayed in the place where the tents were set up before. Meanwhile the police beat the students indiscriminately, the students shout to the police: “Peaceful protest!”, “We are peaceful!”, “We are fightingyou’re your children!”, “Don´t beat the students!”, “Don´t violence!”, “Shame, shame!”, “All the world is watching you!”. Some students had to go to the hospital because of the police brutality, many people were complaining about the pain that the batons caused them. “How is this possible? –I asked– Have the police the right to beat the students whenever they want, without any responsibility?” Astonished, I asked to different people, some of them answered me: They are not allowed to beat us, but they do”, others “they are allowed”, or “I don´t know, but they do”. I asked the same question to the cops: most of them didn´t want to answer. Finally one of them, from the Oakland police, says to me that they came “to protect the properties”; “And the humans?” –I asked–, and the officer answered “Yes, the properties and the humans, but…”. During the day 39 people were arrested, plus one faculty member. One student who suffered the police violence talked about his experience, when after having been beaten the police took them inside Sproul Hall and one officer said to him: “You have no rights”
(More info on oxthepunx.wordpress.com).
The police brutality: It seems that nobody knows the rules, or that there are no rules. No responsibilities. Like in the Wild West? Also here, in Berkeley, well known as the most progressive area in US?
Education in violence. But we know that police are just puppets on the fingers of the 1%: they tell them what to do, and how.
We know that violence is always the failure of moral authority.
Around 22.15 the students joined again in a brief assembly to decide to meet the next day at 9.30 at Sproul Plaza and to have since this day a General Assembly at 6pm everyday, at the same place.
The next day, 10th November, in a campus-wide email Chancellor Birgeneau said that “the police were forced to use their batons”. No responsibilities.
After a wide protest against the police violence on the 9th, from students, professors and workers at the UC Berkeley, on the 14th November Chancellor Birgeneau expressed through a campus message that there will be a review of the police actions on the 9th and that there will be amnesty for some of the students who were arrested. The Regents meeting planned to be held on the 16th Nov in which they were going to vote for the 81% fee hike, has been cancelled because of the recent events.
But the Occupy Cal assembly does not think this is enough. Actually, they think this is just the beginning.
Occupy Cal called for a Strike on the 15th of November. On the 16th there will be a new collective action at UCSF Mission Bay Campus, San Francisco.
SoniaSol, Berkeley 14th Nov
Occupy Cal 9 Nov Pictures on flickr.com
Call for Open University Strike and Solidarity Actions on November 15th
Issued by Occupy Cal
After a mass rally and march of over 3,000 people, and repeated police assaults on the Occupy Cal encampment, the general assembly at UC Berkeley decided on the night of November 9th – with over 500 votes, 95% of the assembly — to organize and call for a strike and day of action on Tuesday, November 15. We ask that all classes be cancelled or held at Sproul Plaza.
The Open University strike is both a response to the University’s violent raid on the encampment, and an action against the defunding and privatization of public education in California.
We will strike to reassert our collective right to freely assemble, both at the University and elsewhere, so that we are able to build public spaces where we can discuss and counter the various crises affecting our communities. We stand in solidarity with the Occupy movement, and especially with Occupy Oakland, which has been, and may again soon be, repressed by the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department.
We will also strike to reaffirm our determination to fight for a truly public and free University, and for the refunding of all levels of public education and public services. Since the crisis of 2008, the UC Regents have accelerated their push to privatize the University, subjecting students to unsustainable levels of debt, excluding increasing numbers of students, and further resegregating public education in California. The policy of privatization also subjects workers to layoffs, work speedups, and drastic benefits reductions. All these regressive transformations are forms of structural violence, which the police enforced against the assembled students, faculty, and workers on November 9th.
We call upon all sectors of public higher education in California to take actions on Tuesday, November 15th, up to and including strike actions, and to join the mass convergences on November 16th at the UC Regents meeting and the CSU Trustees meeting. We also call upon workplaces and K-12 schools to join us, either by taking actions at their sites or by converging on UC Berkeley and helping us to open up and transform the University from which most Californians have been systematically excluded.
We do not think that property destruction is a useful tactic and we ask those who join the Open University to respect this sentiment. At the same time, we do not think that it is a good strategy to use physical force against those who might engage in such acts.
Please join us on November 15th as we stop business as usual at our University in order to open up and transform our campus, and as we reestablish the Occupy Cal encampment.
Occupy Cal’s Demands
- Respect Free Speech, Including the Right to Set Up Tents.
- Immediate Resignation of Robert Birgeneau, George Breslauer, Harry LeGrande, and Mitch Celaya. Democratic Election of their Replacements by Students, Faculty, and Staff.
- Charge the Police Responsible for Brutalizing Protesters. No Use of Force Against Protests on Campus.
- Amnesty for All Protesters.
- Make UC Berkeley a Sanctuary Campus for Undocumented People. Pass the UC-wide Dream Act.
- Equal Benefits and Retirement Security for UC Union Workers.
- Reverse the Fee Hikes, Cuts, and Layoffs To At Least Their 2009 Levels.
- Refund Public Education and Public Services: Tax the Banks and Billionaires. Repeal Prop 13.
- Full Implementation of Affirmative Action. Overturn Prop 209.
- Stop the Privatization of Public Education.
- Bail Out Schools and Public Services. Redirect Military Funding to Education.
- Immediate Forgiveness of All Student Debt.
- Repeal Race to the Top.
- Stop the Attacks on Teachers Unions.
Schedule for November 15 Open University Strike at UC Berkeley
8am-5pm: All day Open University activities (teach-outs, workshops, public readings, installations, etc.) at Sproul Plaza and surrounding areas.
Noon: Mass convergence at Sproul Hall and formal inauguration of day-long
Noon – 2pm: Teach-outs in Sproul Plaza.
2pm: Rally against police violence and other, related forms of violence, including dispossession, privatization, and debt.
2:30pm: March to Berkeley High and Berkeley City College.
5pm: General Assembly at Sproul Plaza.
Endorsers of the Nov. 15 Strike and Day of Action
Occupy Cal, UC Berkeley Faculty Association, UCSF Faculty Association, UC Davis Faculty Association, UC San Diego Faculty Association, UC Council of Faculty Associations, AFSCME 3299, ACCE, California Nurses Association, Communities for a New California, UAW Local 2865 (UC), UAW 4123 (CSU), UC-AFT.
Two Proposals to Be Vote on Nov. 9 Occupy Cal General Assembly
Proposal One: Endorse Nov. 16 Mobilization
“Occupy Cal endorses the call to massively mobilize to shut down the UC Regents meeting on Nov. 16 to say no to fee hikes, Budget cuts, privatization, and austerity within the University of California and all levels of public education. Bail out the schools, not the banks.”
Proposal Two: Issue Initial Statement of Occupy Cal
“We, the UC Berkeley General Assembly, hereby establish an encampment on the UC Berkeley campus. We establish our encampment in order to reverse the privatization of and cuts to all levels of education, and to help the university become what it always should have been: open and free to all.
We disagree with the idea that this university and this land are the property of the UC Regents, the vast majority of whom hail from the top 1% of wealth holders. We recognize that the privatization of the University of California system has not happened in isolation, but is part of a broader process by which wealth becomes increasingly concentrated and the vast majority of the population, especially the por, working class, people of color, indigenous, queer, and other marginalized people, are excluded from political, economic, intellectual and cultural life.
Thus, we stand in solidarity with the greater occupation movement and we encourage other schools, communities, and workplaces to establish occupations of their own.
All decisions that affect the entire camp must be decided by the General Assembly. Any actions taken by individual or groups but not supported by a vote in the General Assembly do not represent the encampment. UC administrators, police, and politicians must respect the decisions of the General Assembly, and no person or group has the ability to speak for the encampment except the General Assembly.
We will hold General Assemblies everyday at 6pm, unless rescheduled or cancelled by the facilitation committiee. The General Assembly will pass agreements using a modified consensus process adopted from other occupations. A proposal must garner 80% support to pass or must me amended until it gains 80% approval; this means no one person has the power to individually block a proposal.
We will maintain the encampment through the establishment of committiees, including but not limited to the facilitation committiee, programming committiee, safer spaces committee, security committiee, and media committee.
We will remain peaceful and non–violent. We will do everything to ensure the campus is a safe space and will not engage in vandalism.
We will take care of each other and the space we create.
We will organize.
We will have fun.
We will not end our encampment until we are ready.”