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In Quebec It’s Official: Mass Movement Leads to Victory for Students September 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Education, Quebec.
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Published on Friday, September 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

Naomi Klein: ‘This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win.’

  – Common Dreams staff

Students protesting the rise in tuition fees demonstrate in Montreal Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

After a year of revolt which became known as the “Maple Spring”—including massive street protests that received global attention—university students across Quebec were celebrating victory on Thursday night following the announcement from newly elected Premier Pauline Marois that the government was cancelling the proposed tuition hike that led to the student uprising and nullifying the contentious Bill 78 law which was introduced to curb the powerful protests.

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”

“Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec,” she added. “It’s a triumph of justice and equity.”

Well-known Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, responded to the news by tweeting:

This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win. “It’s official: Quebec tuition hikes are history”

oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2012…

And, “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) during the most tumultous and pitched episodes of the student mobilization, in French:

Victoire étudiante! Bravo aux grévistes ! “@LP_LaPresse: La hausse des droits de scolarité annulée, la loi 12 abrogée bit.ly/SbBSse

Marois’ announcement followed her very first cabinet meeting and was a fulfillment of promises she made during her recent campaign against the former premier, Jean Charest.  For his part, Charest became the prime target of ire for students during their fight against the tuition hikes and following the passage of Bill 78, which he signed. The most odious sections of Bill 78, which later became Law 12, will be nullified by decree, said Marois.

The Montreal Gazette reports:

Whichever side of the debate you were on, there was no denying the significance of the moment. Marois, who was criticized by the Liberals for wearing a symbolic red square in solidarity with students for much of the conflict, made a promise to cancel the tuition increase — and she moved quickly to fulfill that commitment.

Students, who organized countless marches and clanged pots and never wavered from their goal of keeping education accessible with a tuition freeze, seemed at last to have triumphed definitively.

The various student groups, which range from the more radical CLASSE to the less strident FEUQ, do not share all the same political goals or tactics, but it is unquestionable that their shared movement helped lead to the downfall of the Charest government, paved the path for Marois victory, and culminated in yesterday’s victory.

As CBC News reports:

“It’s certain that we were very present[...] during the election to make sure that Charest, who was elected with a weak majority vote in 2008, was not reelected,” said Desjardins.

Another more militant student association, CLASSE — the Coalition Large des Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Étudiante — has as its central mandate a goal to keep fighting for free tuition. But Desjardins said FEUQ plans a calmer approach on pressure tactics.

Desjardins said she does not believe CLASSE’s campaign for free tuition will negatively impact the FEUQ’s plans. She pointed out that both groups had clearly outlined their differences during the student crisis.

The FEUQ president also said a consensus between the government and all student associations is possible.

Massive Student Protest Fills Streets of Montreal after Proposed ‘Emergency’ Law May 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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Published on Thursday, May 17, 2012 by Common Dreams

Thousands of students react after Quebec tries to make their strike illegal
- Common Dreams staff

Thousands of student protesters flooded the streets in Montreal last night after Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced a proposal for a new ‘emergency law’ in a bid to end the ongoing 14 week old student uprising and strike.

Students protest in the downtown streets of Montreal against tuition hikes on May 17, 2012 (Photo: Rogerio Barbosa/AFP/GettyImages)

 The proposed legislation would halt the spring semester, push up the summer holidays, and restart classes in August. The move would maneuver around the current student strike and walkouts, moving classes to later in the year, in an effort to ‘restore calm’.

The government also hinted at severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or prevent students from entering classrooms; further details about the extent of the law and its penalties will be released today.

The demonstrations on Wednesday night followed this announcement, as several thousand students met with police, who have started cracking down on the protests across Quebec. Up to 122 students were arrested, as “the acrid scent of police crowd-control chemicals billowed in the cool nocturnal air,” National Post/CA reports. “This on a night when Charest shared plans to clean things up.”

* * *

CBC News: Montreal student protest ends with 122 arrests

 

* * *

National Post/CA: 122 Quebec protesters arrested in raucous night before proposed student-strike breaking legislation

The unrest on Wednesday night followed the Quebec government’s announcement it would suspend the current academic session for striking students in an effort to calm things down.

It also hinted at more punitive measures, without sharing details. [...]

In that charged atmosphere, thousands of chanting students spilled into the streets of Montreal, marching straight to the city’s main commercial district. Their demonstration was peaceful until some rocks apparently thrown at police resulted in riot squad charges to clear Ste-Catherine Street. [...]

Authorities reported 122 arrests, three injured police officers and also some injured protesters.

Charest’s legislation would temporarily halt the spring semester for the minority of faculties paralyzed by the walkouts; push up the summer holidays; and reconvene students in August so they can complete their session before starting the fall one in October.

The government also hinted at severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or otherwise prevent students from entering classrooms.

Charest did not answer when asked about reports of stiff fines. He simply said those details would be revealed when the legislation is tabled — perhaps as early as Thursday.

He did make it clear the legislation will target the crowds of protesters who have blocked access to schools and even stormed into classrooms in an attempt to enforce what they call a legal strike.

* * *

Associated Press: Emergency law considered in Quebec student protest

Quebec was set to consider emergency legislation Thursday aimed at calming weeks of student protests over rising tuition costs, after thousands took to the streets once again and more than 100 were arrested.

Authorities said 122 were arrested late Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators spilled into the streets of Montreal, with some smashing bank windows and hurling objects at police.

Legislation could be introduced as early as Thursday amid student strikes. Dozens of protesters on Wednesday stormed into one Montreal university for the first time, breaking up classes.

Premier Jean Charest said he would table emergency legislation aimed at ending the disorder, while sticking to the planned tuition hikes.

In appreciation of the Quebec student strike May 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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By Anne Lagacé-Dowson, www.rabble.ca

| May 8, 2012

Photo: radicalmontreal.com

Like sap rising in spring, the printemps érable showcases the talents and humour of Quebec students. Here are some examples:

Red-clad students board subway cars during the morning rush hour on the orange line of the metro. One per car, they stand silently looking straight ahead. When the car stops they get out, position themselves at equal intervals along the platform so that when the metro pulls out of the station passengers see a blur of red.

Red, the colour of radical movements, has been taken over by the students, who wear red knitted or crocheted squares, or squares of red felt, attached with a safety pin. Or just a plain old square of red duct tape.

Music students perform a professional calibre “Sacre du printemps” by Igor Stravinsky to cheer the protesters, a piece that sent the Paris establishment into paroxysms of rage when it was first played in the spring of 1913.

Students build red cubes, using them as part of a piece of street theatre at the Earth Day demonstration, the biggest demonstration in the history of Canada and Quebec.

Videos, installation art, signs brandished by philosophy students in Latin and Greek. Fine arts students make picket signs with wonderfully detailed portraits of Quebec politicians.

Poems, songs, videos and music clips. If the purpose of an education is to learn how to think creatively, then the education system is working.

For 40 years, older people have lamented self-absorbed, apolitical youth. Now that so many have taken their ideas to the streets, many of those same observers are outraged, calling them spoiled, pointing to their iPads and Starbucks coffees as evidence.

The unemployment rate for young people is at 14 percent and most of them end up burdened with huge debt when they graduate. Many students work while studying — 20 or more hours per week. They may have a Starbucks coffee from time to time. So what?

Supporters of the Occupy movement in New York speak admiringly of the Quebec student mobilization.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of the movement, writes: “A deep democratic movement, something most of us have never seen and scarcely imagined, turned a small park near Wall Street into the centre of a global storm. Everybody knows the deck is stacked. But it turns out not everyone is willing to put up with it.”

Beautifully written, and who would have thought that the Quebec branch of this worldwide mobilization, with 300,000 people in the streets, would have become the most stupendous of all? Quebecers in the streets are united, with the world marching. Everyone knows something is profoundly wrong — with the economy, with the environment, with the political system, corrupted with cash.

André Pratte, chief editorialist of La Presse, who is in favour of the tuition fee increase, compares the upheaval to May 1968. Students around the world protested against the war in Vietnam and demanded a voice in their education. In 1970, four students were shot down and killed at Kent State University in Ohio. You have probably heard the song by Canadian Neil Young that starts with the line, “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming…”

When it was all over, students had a say in the running of educational institutions.

Quebec’s student strike perplexes, annoys, thrills. Montreal writer Elise Moser says she supports it for three reasons:

a) The more accessible education is, the fairer, more stable and richer a society is, because we can develop the resources of all our people, not just the thin layer of entitled wealthy who can pay for education. That seems obvious, doesn’t it?

b) The strike is not just against a tuition hike, it’s for a much broader vision of an equitable society.

c) The investment in an undergrad degree produces much higher economic returns to the state than an equal amount in subsidies to industry.

On March 22, at least 100,000 people protested peacefully in the streets of Montreal against the tuition fee hike. That was the first sign that something really big was underway. In another song of the 60s, Bob Dylan sang, “Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

The tuition fee hike amounts to a 75 per cent increase over five years – $325 per year for five years. About $325-million in all. The cost of the fiasco of a new building constructed by the Université du Québec à Montréal called L’Îlot Voyageur: $500-million. So why the insistence on the fee hike?

Ideology. An election promise. The need to be seen to be fiscally responsible.

After the World Trade Center attacks, social activism declined. The gap between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent grew. Now over ten years later a new generation of activists is looking around and saying, ‘Wait a minute, this system is not so great. The neo-liberal model led to a worldwide financial crisis that brought the world economy almost to its knees. Just what is so great about the status quo?’

It has always been easier to stand back, cross your arms and do nothing. To go along with things as they are. But the reason we have public education, votes for women, public healthcare, libraries and paved roads is because people who didn’t just go along with the status quo built systems that defended the interests of the people.

They were called names too — “communists,” “anarchists,” “agitators.”

I was struck by an interview I saw with a government minister who said she doesn’t like demonstrations. No one likes demonstrations, Minister. It’s just that sometimes demonstrations are the only tool people have to make themselves heard.

Let the last word go to filmmaker Hugo Latulippe, excerpted from the poem he wrote called Nous sommes des millions, published in Voir:

“Puis, raillé nos enfants insurgés.
Minimisé l’envergure du geste, la largeur des idées.
Minimisé les milliers d’entre eux dans la rue.
Grave erreur.”
[...]
“Nous sommes arrivés à ce qui commence.
Le feu a pris pour de bon.
Nous sommes des millions.”

Anne Lagacé-Dowson is director general of the anti-bullying Tolerance Foundation. She is an award winning broadcast journalist and political analyst.

This article was originally published in The Hour and is reprinted here with permission.

Quebec Students Ignite the Popular Imagination May 3, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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By Stefan Christoff, rabble.ca | Report

Thursday, 03 May 2012 09:32

(Photo: Robin Dumont / Flickr)

Vibrant nightly protests over the past week in downtown Montréal, in solidarity with the Quebec student strike, are sparking global attention. As the Quebec-wide strike continues – it has now been going for over 11 weeks – a new energy is apparent in the city.

All across the city spotting the symbolic red square patches is easy; on any city bus or métro car patches are proudly pinned on jackets or backpacks.

Despite repeated incidents of police brutality, strikingly hostile mainstream media coverage and a sustained refusal by the Quebec Liberal government to negotiate in good faith, popular support and energy toward the strike is growing. Beyond surveys, or poll numbers, the Quebec student strike is historic in nature, a sustained mass protest movement creating political space to debate not only rising tuition fees but also fundamental questions of social justice.

A clear shift is occurring on the streets, as protests are now expanding to highlight environmental justice and the growing economic inequities in Quebec at a time of austerity-driven economics.

Today in Quebec the earning gap between the wealthy and the rest sits at a 30-year high, according to a recent study by Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economiques. Economic injustice in Quebec is increasingly a focus of student protests and the upcoming May Day protests will illuminate points of unity between striking students and larger social movements on the streets.

Last week Aveos airline maintenance workers in Montréal, fired last month without due process, joined with striking students in a morning protest outside a shareholders meeting of Air Canada in downtown Montreal. On the streets, la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), a major union federation in Québec with a history of strong links to grassroots activism, has consistently joined striking students on the street.

In Québec the student strike is igniting the popular imagination.

Recent night protests have been starting at Émilie-Gamelin square, close to Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), taking to the streets for hours on end, as many join the protests spontaneously as the protest weaves throughout downtown Montreal districts. As the night protest moves the size grows, tens of thousands marching in the cool spring air, waving red flags in the rain. The student strike is crossing many political barriers at a rapid speed and turning into a social movement.

Despite the growing protests, the movement does face incredible challenges, beyond just the usual cynical commentators across the mainstream media in Quebec and Canada.

Police repression has at times been extreme, with hundreds of students arrested and disturbing physical violence by police toward the protest movement. On the streets police often launch flash bang grenades. To take just one example, last week in Montreal one of these grenades exploded over a night demonstration, unleashing toxic CS gas on the protest.

Montreal police use the flash bang weapon, made by Defense Technologies, a subsidiary of the world’s second largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, despite the obvious danger to student protesters. Striking student Francis Grenier suffered a serious eye injury in early March due to an explosion close to the eye while playing harmonica and is still recovering.

Unity within the student movement is another major challenge, the more institutional Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) are consistently facing divide and conquer offers by the Québec government pushing to exclude the protest-driven Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) from any negotiations. Despite a history of division in previous student mobilizations, the major student unions today are remaining strongly united in this mobilization to halt tuition hikes in Quebec.

Calls for a broader social strike, an effort to transfer the energy of student protests into larger struggles for social justice is strongly backed by CLASSE, a network of student unions that supports direct action and openly rejects the capitalist economic system.

Over recent years CLASSE has actively supported anti-poverty struggles in Quebec and international solidarity campaigns like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestine.

Protests will continue in Quebec over the next days, from May Day to the upcoming Liberal Party general council meeting, scheduled to take place later this week. The Liberals have in fact announced they are moving their meeting from Montreal to Victoriaville, due to fears of mass protest.

As the momentum of the Quebec student strike continues to grow, with nearly 180 000 students remaining on strike, many open questions ring out beyond Québec.

Can the Quebec student movement, clearly a collective struggle against austerity-driven economics, spark or inspire broader mass struggles for social justice in Canada?

Stefan Christoff

Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based writer, musician and community activist who contributes to rabble.ca. You can find Stefan at http://www.twitter.com/spirodon/

 

Student Protesters in Montreal Stage ‘Marathon’ Day of Action April 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Constitution, Education.
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Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by Common Dreams

On strike over tuition fee increase, organizers commit to “marathon of intensive vindication”

- Common Dreams staff

University students in Montreal are staging a 12-hour ‘marathon’ protest as their ongoing demonstrations over a tuition fee hike come to a critical point.

Student Protest - March 22 2012Students protesting in Montreal on March 22. (photo:  Tina Mailhot-Roberge)

Organizers have waves of students heading out on the streets of downtown Montreal every hour, from seven this morning until 7 this evening.  Today’s protest follows months of actions on the streets of Montreal in addition to boycotting classes.

Now Quebec’s longest student strike ever, it is widely supported with 185,000 students striking — nearly half the university body. The strike began in February with students demanding the government drop their plan for a $1,625 tuition increase over five years.

Student leader Jeanne Reynolds said bluntly, “There’s only one way to end this strike: cancel the tuition fee increase.”

Protesters today have cited police use of pepper spray on protesters, and the Montreal Media Co-op tweeted this earlier today:

Overheard from @SPVM officer as protesters pepper sprayed at BN: ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’

And Montreal City and Press reports that police have used “chemical irritants” on protesters.

* * *

CBC News: Student protest ‘marathon’ underway in Montreal

A day of rolling student protests in downtown Montreal started off with police declaring a blockade at the Banque Nationale illegal.

The demonstrations Wednesday will take place over 12 hours in what organizers are calling a “marathon of intensive vindication.”

A new march will start every hour, originating from Victoria Square, and will take different routes through the city’s core.

* * *

Montreal Gazette: Quebec students’ tuition fight reaches crucial point as semester runs out of time

MONTREAL – It’s a crucial week in what is now historically the longest student strike in Quebec’s history, but there is no resolution in sight to the dispute over tuition fees or to the social unrest it has sparked.

Exams and final papers are just around the corner for Quebec’s university and CÉGEP students, but students and government officials are still at an impasse – and despite student leaders saying it was important the two sides meet this week, a government spokesperson said on Monday there were no talks planned. [...]

There are about 185,000 students on strike now – almost half the university and college population of 400,000. About 90,000 of them have agreed to an unlimited strike that won’t end until the government rescinds its plan for a $1,625 tuition increase over five years. [...]

The government has repeatedly said it would not enter into negotiations with students until they accept a tuition increase.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Report Released: Campus Police Force ‘Very Dysfunctional’ April 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Criminal Justice, Education.
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Roger’s note: now that it took over four months to document the obvious, the question is whether the UC Davis administration and police will be held accountable and face justice, or will the authorities decide, to use the infamous words of our gutless president, and choose to “look forward rather than backward” (which is code for letting those in power get away with crimes for which we ordinary folk would pay dearly).

Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by Common Dreams

Pepper spraying incident ‘should and could have been prevented’

  – Common Dreams staff

 

Months after students at UC Davis were filmed being soaked in pepper spray and arrested by police in riot gear after peacefully protesting at their university, a UC Davis ‘task force’ has finally released a report on the incident today.

The report includes a number of criticisms against police and administrative action on the day stating, “The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented.” The report is critical of the actions of Police Chief Annette Spicuzza. It states, “the command and leadership structure of the UCDPD is very dysfunctional.”

The 190-page Reynoso Task Force Report said the use of pepper spray was “not supported by objective evidence and not authorized by policy.”

According to CBS News, the report finds:

  • The incident was not managed according to plan.
  • The pepper spray used (MK-9) was not an authorized weapon for UC Davis police officers and officers were not trained in how to use it.
  • Chancellor Linda Katehi bears responsibility for deploying police at 3 p.m. to remove tents rather than earlier in the day or the night before
  • Chancellor Katehi bears primary responsibility for failing to communicate her position that physical force should be avoided.
  • Lt. John Pike bears responsibility for the use of pepper spray on the students.

The Reynoso task force will be presenting the report live at UC Davis from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Eastern, which will be available via webcast here.

Ten Things You Should Know About Friday’s UC Davis Police Violence November 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Education, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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November 20, 2011 in Students

1. The protest at which UC Davis police officers used pepper spray and batons against unresisting demonstrators was an entirely nonviolent one.

None of the arrests at UC Davis in the current wave of activism have been for violent offenses. Indeed, as the New York Times reported this morning, the university’s administration has “reported no instances of violence by any protesters.” Not one.

2. The unauthorized tent encampment was dismantled before the pepper spraying began.

Students had set up tents on campus on Thursday, and the administration had allowed them to stay up overnight. When campus police ordered students to take the tents down on Friday afternoon, however, most complied. The remainder of the tents were quickly removed by police without incident before the pepper spray incident.

3. Students did not restrict the movement of police at any time during the demonstration.

After police made a handful of arrests in the course of taking down the students’ tents, some of the remaining demonstrators formed a wide seated circle around the officers and arrestees.

UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza has claimed that officers were unable to leave that circle: “There was no way out,” she told the Sacramento Bee. “They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.” But multiple videos clearly show that the seated students made no effort to impede the officers’ movement. Indeed, Lt. Pike, who initiated the pepper spraying of the group, was inside the circle moments earlier. To position himself to spray, he simply stepped over the line.

4. Lt. Pike was not in fear for his safety when he sprayed the students.

Chief Spicuzza told reporters on Thursday that her officers had been concerned for their safety when they began spraying. But again, multiple videos show this claim to be groundless.

The most widely distributed video of the incident (viewed, as I write this, by nearly 700,000 people on YouTube) begins just moments before Lt. Pike begain spraying, but another video, which starts a few minutes earlier, shows Pike chatting amiably with one activist, even patting him casually on the back.

The pat on the back occurs just two minutes and nineteen seconds before Pike pepper sprayed the student he had just been chatting with and all of his friends.

5. University of California Police are not authorized to use pepper spray except in circumstances in which it is necessary to prevent physical injury to themselves or others.

From the University of California’s Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures: “Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”

6. UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.

Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”

7. The UC Davis Police made no effort to remove the student demonstrators from the walkway peacefully before using pepper spray against them.

One video of the pepper-spray incident shows a group of officers moving in to remove the students from the walkway. Just as one of them reaches down to pick up a female student who was leaning against a friend, however, Lt. Pike waves the group back, clearing a space for him to use pepper spray without risk of accidentally spraying his colleagues.

8. Use of pepper spray and other physical force continued after the students’ minimal obstruction of the area around the police ended.

The line of seated students had begun to break up no more than eight seconds after Lt. Pike began spraying. The spraying continued, however, and officers soon began using batons and other physical force against the now-incapacitated group.

9. Even after police began using unprovoked and unlawful violence against the students, they remained peaceful.

Multiple videos show the aftermath of the initial pepper spraying and the physical violence that followed. In none of them do any of the assaulted students or any of the onlookers strike any of the officers who are attacking them and their friends.

10. The students’ commitment to nonviolence extended to their use of language.

At one point on Thursday afternoon, before the police attack on the demonstration, a few activists started a chant of “From Davis to Greece, fuck the police.” They were quickly hushed by fellow demonstrators who urged them to “keep it nonviolent! Keep it peaceful!”

Their chant was replaced by one of “you use weapons, we use our voice.”

Six and a half minutes later, the entire group was pepper sprayed.

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.
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To the UC Chancellor: Pepper-Spraying, Baton-Wielding Police Do Not Constitute “A Safe Welcoming Environment” November 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Education, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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11.19.11 – 1:00 PM

 

In the wake of the horrific assault by police against UC Davis students protesting “in the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience,” an open outraged letter from faculty member Nathan Brown calling for the resignation of chancellor Linda Katehi, who Brown calls “the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis.” Wow.

 

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.

Sincerely,

Nathan Brown Assistant Professor Department of English Program in Critical Theory University of California at Davis

How Sports Attacks Public Education March 5, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Sports.
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Published on Friday, March 5, 2010 by The Nationby Dave Zirin

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

On Thursday, I was proud to take part in a student walkout at the University of Maryland in defense of public education. It was just one link in a National Day of Action that saw protests in more than 32 states across the country. I am not a student, and haven’t been since those innocent days when Monica Lewinsky mattered, but I was asked to come speak at a post walkout teach-in about the way sports is used to attack public education. It might sound like a bizarre topic, but it’s the world that students see every day.

At the University of Maryland, as tuition has been hiked and classes cut, football coach Ralph Friedgen makes a base salary of 1.75 million bucks, which would be outrageous even if the team weren’t two-steps past terrible. Friedgen also gets perks like a $50,000 bonus if none of his players are arrested during the course of the season.

Ground zero of the student protest movement is the University of California at Berkeley. Over at Berkeley, students are facing 32% tuition hikes, while the school pays football coach Jeff Tedford 2.8 million dollars a year and is finishing more than 400 million in renovations on the football stadium. This is what students see: boosters and alumni come first, while they’ve been instructed to cheer their teams, pay their loans, and mind their business.

The counterargument is that college athletic departments fund themselves and actually put money back into a school’s general fund. This is simply not true. The October Knight Commission report of college presidents stated that the 25 top football schools had revenues on average of $3.9 million in 2008. The other 94 ran deficits averaging $9.9 million. When athletic departments run deficits, it’s not like the football coach takes a pay cut. In other words, if the team is doing well, the entire school benefits. If the football team suffers, the entire school suffers. This, to put it mildly, is financial lunacy. A school would statistically be better off if it took its endowment to Vegas and just bet it all on black.

If state colleges are hurting, your typical urban public school is in a world of pain with budgets slashed to the bone. Politicians act like these are problems beyond their control like the weather. (“50% chance of sun and a 40% chance of losing music programs.”)

In truth, they are the result of a comprehensive attack on public education that has seen the system starved. One way this has been implemented is through stadium construction, the grand substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country. Over the last generation, we’ve seen 30 billion in public funds spent on stadiums. They were presented as photogenic solutions to deindustrialization, declining tax bases, and suburban flight. The results are now in and they don’t look good for the home teams. University of Maryland sports economists Dennis Coates and University of Alberta Brad R. Humphreys studied stadium funding over 30 years and failed to find one solitary example of a sports franchise lifting or even stabilizing a local economy. They concluded the opposite: “a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area….Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy.” These projects achieve so little because the jobs created are low wage, service sector, seasonal employment. Instead of being solutions of urban decay, the stadiums have been tools of organized theft: sporting shock doctrines for our ailing cities.

With crumbling schools, higher tuitions, and an Education Secretary in Arne Duncan who seems more obsessed with providing extra money for schools that break their teachers unions, it’s no wonder that the anger is starting to boil over. It can also bubble up in unpredictable ways. On Wednesday night, after the University of Maryland men’s basketball team beat hated arch-rival Duke, students were arrested after pouring into the streets surrounding the campus. In years past, these sporting riots have been testosterone run amok, frat parties of burning mattresses and excessive inebriation. This year it was different, with police needing to use pepper spray and horses to quell the 1,500 students who filled Route 1. In response, students chanted, “Defense! Defense!” At the Thursday teach in, I said to the students that I didn’t think there was anything particularly political or interesting about a college sports riot. One person shot his hand up and said, “It wasn’t a riot until the cops showed up.” Everyone proceeded to applaud. I was surprised at first that these politically minded students would be defending a post-game melee, but no longer. The anger is real and it isn’t going anywhere. While schools are paying football coaches millions and revamping stadiums, students are choosing between dropping out or living with decades of debt. One thing is certain: it aint a game.

© 2010 The Nation

Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

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