by Amani Rashid –
A group of students on this campus decided they had something to say; a message to send on behalf of all the students on this campus; turns out we no longer shoot the messenger we just mace him for the hell of it until all the pepper spray is gone and he coughs blood.
“My involvement started March 4th 2010 when the protestors took the freeway after tuition went up. Last year the movement mellowed out, but after the summer fee hikes the movement was re-inspired and we occupied Mrak Hall overnight. We then took the next step and occupied the quad last Thursday and after the events of last Friday, well you know what happened next.”
Eran Zelnik, a history graduate student, is a core member of the organizational force for the movement on campus; he spoke to me very passionately and candidly about the movement and the events of this past week.
When asked if he had expected the movement to garner such support and be as influential as it has come to be, he responded with a laugh and a head shake followed by: “I’m content with the way the movement has evolved but if two weeks ago you told me there would be tents in the quad and a rally of 5,000 people I’d tell you you’re crazy!”
As tragic yet inspiring as these past 2 weeks have been, some students remain skeptical of the protests and rallies. “So I get how we the students of Davis are tied into this whole notion of the 99% vs. the 1%, but I don’t understand why the movement on campus is linked to the occupy movement that started in New York especially at this point in time. I think it makes our actions on this campus less special.”
These concerns were raised by Kelly Adams, a fourth year psychology major, as her friends nodded their heads in agreement; When this opinion was brought to Zelnik’s attention he responded:
“This campus and its movement are a part of it [the occupy movement] whether you like it or not. From the organizational methods to the new language born from this; we are all a part of this fight against austerity. We all must hold 1% accountable and make them pay for their mistakes.”
Another critic, Kevin Cheng, a third year biomedical engineering major, stated: “In this day and age protest comes in the form of lobbying and change in the form of a ballot measure.” Maria Bauman, a fourth year film studies major agrees: “Why would you sit on the quad when, if you channel all that energy, commitment and man power and write letters to your congressmen or state assembly member you might yield a refreshingly different result.”
Why does it have to be one or the other, why can’t we dress up in suits and meet politicians in the capital and at the same time set up tents on the quad and refuse to move until the Chancellor resigns; which leads us to the most controversial occupation topic of discussion.
Is it right to ask Chancellor Katehi to resign?
In Zelnik’s opinion: “It’s not what she has done, but what she hasn’t done. She is complacent and has allowed the regents to restructure the UC’s as private corporations; she has enabled the rich elites to recreate the UC’s according to their own image. But what I really think is that she should at least be put on leave and under investigation until we really know what happened.”
One of the arguments heard in defense of Katehi is: “Just because the pepper spraying incident happened under her Chancellorship doesn’t exactly make it her fault; she wasn’t the one who ordered it. Plus on the whole she does not have as much power as the protestors give her credit for.”
Maybe she doesn’t have as much power as protestors make her out to have but maybe she needs to step down because the incidents of late have proven to me that she is no longer worth the outrageous half million annual paycheck our lovely chancellor receives.
However, it could be that it really is the likes of Yudof and the regents who need to be targeted; but one thing to consider, as considered by Matt Long, a second year statistics major, is: “I don’t give a rats ass about Katehi, but what I do know is that if we get her to resign we send one hell of a message to the regents; a message they urgently need!”
Another hot “Occupy Davis” topic of choice would be: “Was the atmosphere, generated by the protestors on Friday, unnecessarily hostile with regards to the police?”
Zelnik was there and he said: “We were not hostile they were the ones in riot gear, we were just sitting on the ground, holding hands, circling the encampment and it was only as the police tried to arrest people for sitting down that we began to yell; but not at any time did we threaten the police nor did we block off entry and exit.”
According to an article from the New York Times: “To the American Civil Liberties Union, its [pepper spray] use as a crowd-control device, particularly when those crowds are nonthreatening, is an excessive and unconstitutional use of force and violates the right to peaceably assemble.”
On those grounds it’s no wonder that some Davis students are threatening civil law suits against the University.
No matter what we, the UC Davis student body, can and can’t agree on, what some believe is right while others believe it is wrong; this movement has brought us all closer and makes us proud to hear we matter enough to be the number one story on CNN, makes us proud to hear that what students did on my campus might influence someone in the middle east as they hear the story on Aljazeera.
“I’d like to see us leverage our moral capital to build momentum and I think it’s great that people across the nation can use us as an example,” was Zelnik’s response when I told him my friend in a small town college in Nebraska told me his campus had a day dedicated to “Solidarity with UC Davis”.