Revolution #184, November 29, 2009
Protests Spread Across California Opposing Tuition Hikes
Several thousand University of California students, from most of the UC campuses, held three days of militant protests this past week [week of November 16, 2009] at UCLA, where the UC Board of Regents passed a 32% tuition increase for UC students. Protests and building takeovers have spread across the UC system. Two buildings were taken over by students at UC Santa Cruz. At UC Davis, 52 students were arrested for taking over the administration building. And at UC Berkeley, police arrested 41 people who occupied a campus building.
The cost of a UC education has tripled over the past 10 years, and many protesters have said that the new increases—$3,000 a year—will drive them out of school. Demonstrators include undergraduate students, graduate students, teaching assistants, professors, and workers. Black and Latino students, those who are going to be most adversely affected by the tuition increase, make up a large percentage of those demonstrating.
At UCLA, students broke through campus police barricades in Covel Commons and were met with police tasers, batons, and riot guns as they tried to enter Covel Hall where the Board of Regents was meeting. Some students made it into the meeting room, where they shouted down the Regents before being removed. Several students were tasered and beaten, and 12 were arrested as they tried to get into Covel Hall.
In a blog in the Daily Bruin, where students were debating the use of tasers and batons, a UCLA student commented, “I don’t think you understand the validity and depth of anger towards the police. It doesn’t just stem from today’s actions but this for many students, especially minority students, is an on-going situation. I don’t think you understand the ways the UCPD treats students of color in certain situations, areas whether it be profiling or blatant disrespect for who they are as individuals.”
On Thursday, students took over Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus and chained the doors. They renamed the building Carter-Huggins Hall after Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, two members of the Black Panther Party who were murdered in Campbell Hall at a Black Student Union meeting in 1969. A student who was occupying the building stated, “Campbell Hall is closed indefinitely, but Carter-Huggins Hall is open to students today.” The building takeover lasted for 12 hours, as the students decided to leave before being arrested.
Several busloads of people from Watts were going to attend the Board of Regents meeting to speak out on whether or not UC would reopen King-Drew Medical Center in Watts. The university decided not to allow those from Watts on the campus, fearing that a mix of those from the most oppressed section of Los Angeles along with angry, protesting students would create conditions that could intensify the protests against the university.
Some of the demands of the students, besides opposing the tuition increase, included:
- Holding public discourse to focus on the role of the university within the larger economic structure and the impact of budget cuts on low-income people and people of color.
- Making the entire university a “free speech” zone. (At present, only designated spaces at designated times are recognized “free speech” zones on the UCLA campus.)
- “$0” tuition, like in the ’60s. Free education for all.
At UC Santa Cruz, the main road into the campus had to be shut down as students took to the streets in an attempt to shut down the university. Students later occupied the administration building there.
At UC Berkeley, demonstrators occupied Wheeler Hall and hung a sign out of a window that read “32 Percent Hike, 900 layoffs” with the word “Class” crossed out in red. They were demanding that student fees not be increased and that the university rehire the 38 custodians who had lost their jobs due to the budget cuts. Late Friday afternoon, after occupying the building for 11 hours, 41 people (39 students) were arrested. Over 2,000 students were outside the building supporting those inside. As one student was being taken from the building, she stated, “I feel like we mobilized people,” and despite the fact the students’ demands were not met, she said, “Not all gains are material.” A UC Berkeley graduate student, who occupied the building, commented that the occupation “...is not a slumber party. We are looking at finals and an increased workload. But this seems like the honorable thing to do for future students.”
Reporters from Revolution newspaper were in the midst of the protests. Stay tuned to revcom.us and future issues for more reporting and analysis, along with interviews from protesting students.
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