By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Nov 25, 2009 9:32 AM
In the early hours of the afternoon of Nov. 19, more than 2,000 students stood outside the office of the University of California’s Board of Regents. As it became clear that a motion to raise UC tuition by 32 percent had passed, the students screamed in outrage. Outside the meeting and all across the state, students began to fight back.
Berkeley student protest..
From inside the building, the regents could hear the students’ angry cries as they were held hostage inside the building. Because of the enraged protest at their decision to increase tuition by nearly one-third of its already steep costs, it was three hours before the regents felt they could safely leave the building. Fourteen students were arrested outside the regents’ office as they defied police orders and blocked the doorways.
As the regents left the building escorted by armed police, other cops held back booing and yelling students. Students surrounded the van in which the regents were to leave, preventing it from leaving for 45 minutes.
While state and federal governments continue to bail out banks and provide other subsidies to the wealthy, the UC system budget has been cut by more than $800 million. Two thousand university employees have been laid off amid the economic crisis, and it seems things will only get worse as further tuition hikes, fee increases and layoffs ensue.
Hundreds of students walked out of school at UC Berkeley in protest of the increase. Three students were arrested on the morning of Nov. 21 for “burglary” at Wheeler Hall, the largest classroom building on the campus. Then 41 other students occupied a classroom all morning and afternoon, hanging a banner out the window that read “32% Hike, 1900 Layoffs, NO Class.” Late that evening, police had to remove the classroom door from its hinges to get inside and arrest all 41 people, who exited the building to a cheering crowd of hundreds who had gathered outside and demonstrated in solidarity the entire day. Police, in full riot gear, used rubber bullets and night sticks to “maintain control” over the huge crowd.
Elsewhere at UCLA, two dozen students barricaded themselves inside Campbell Hall shortly after the vote was announced. The students, still occupying the hall as of Nov. 22, have renamed the building “Carter-Huggins Hall”—in memory of Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, two leaders of the Black Panther Party who were gunned down inside the building in 1969 under provocation from the FBI.
The statement from the UCLA students who have occupied the building proclaims, “We choose to fight back, to resist, where we find ourselves, the place where we live and work, our university.” They continue to hold their ground despite being Tasered and tear-gassed. One student’s leg was reportedly broken during police-initiated violence, according to an internet blog published from inside the occupied building.
At UC Santa Cruz, two buildings are under student occupation. The occupiers have issued a list of 32 demands on the administration, including the end of Taser use by campus security officers and an official apology from the board for the recent drastic decision. (www.studentactivism.net)
An occupation is also taking place at UC Davis, where students have taken control of Mrak hall. Dozens have reportedly been arrested at this campus.
In solidarity with students at the UC schools, students walked out at Fresno State University, while others briefly took control of a building at San Francisco State University.
A call for a National Day of Action to Defend Education on March 4 continues to gain support. Student groups across the country, as well as academic organizations and educators’ associations, have endorsed the call for mass protests on that date.
The revolts taking place across California today may be preparation for the massive revolts soon to come, as students demand their right to education, which is under attack by the forces of finance capital and the federal, state, and local governments they control.
The writer is a Fight Imperialism, Stand Together organizer in Cleveland.