By Julian Navarro
IRVINE – A march and rally near the campus of the University of California Irvine late last week involved more than 100 people who demanded that police get out of their schools and off their streets.
These events were part of a statewide movement across 10 University of California campuses, along with Californian State universities, demanding change by kicking cops off-campus by September 2021.
Demonstrators were met with police reinforcements by both Irvine City and UC Irvine Police once demonstrators arrived at the Target parking lot near the corner of Campus and Stanford. Later, demonstrators matched the UCI police station, where speakers participated from groups such as OC Protests, Mobilize the People, The People’s Coalition, and the Youth Coalition.
There were at two instances where vehicles tried to drive through the crowd, while screaming at the marchers. In addition, when the speeches were going on there was an alleged news reporter who was taking pictures of the members in the crowd.
Organizers requested the individual to not take pictures of them. They insisted the reporter, “to stop photographing people’s faces without their consent, specifically because this is an invasion of privacy that places Black and Brown community members at the highest risk of surveillance and police violence.”
The reporter refused to stop and then became aggressive towards the demonstrators. He would place his camera nearly right in front of the demonstrators’ faces, touching serval demonstrators and even using his camera as a weapon.
Once the demonstrators finished they began to leave, but about 15 police vehicles, from both UCIPD and Irvine PD who began to approach three remaining demonstrators who were still located at the Target parking lot. Police detained the group of individuals for about 30 minutes, two claimed to be assaulted by the officers.
UCIPD issued that one of the demonstrators a misdemeanor citation for assault and battery. According to the detaining officer, for allegedly “stealing the reporter’s employee badge. Another demonstrator received a misdemeanor for a traffic violation by Irvine PD.
According to a press release, heavy police presence, surveillance, false charges, are intimidation tactics that are used commonly and consistently by UCIPD. Throughout 2020 so far they have seen a large presence of police and surveillance at every UCI4COLA-led event.
On February 20, there were about 200 UCI students and supporters who marched and rallied in solidarity with UCSC strikers, where they called for action for an urgent need for the cost of living adjustment and to get rid of police on-campus.
At these events UCI used force on multiple students, even arresting a Black woman who had no part in the march who was just there to pick up a copy of her school transcript. Since that situation, police have been using undercover cops at these demonstrations and even organizational meetings, both open to the public and closed. Both UCIPD and Irvine PD have had constant uniformed officers and patrol cars at these events.
In some instances, helicopters were deployed at some of these marches and faculty have also reported that UCI4COLA organizers’ phones were being wiretapped. Organizers have insisted that they have been followed by UCIPD on a number of instances as they made their trips to the grocery store or while walking their dogs and other daily activities.
UCICOLA organizers from the Student Conduct Board feel like they have been target by UCI police for violations such as failing to follow up with a university official.
This type of police surveillance isn’t only used on student organizers and demonstrators. In the summer of 2020, a Black graduate student’s husband was harassed and racially profiled by UCIPD for just sitting in his car while waiting for his wife to return from her class.
UCIPD also filed criminal charges and issued disciplinary sanctions through the use of the Student Conduct Board to students for perceived inadequacies in their parenting practices, which included a 2-year suspension, be removed from student housing, having their children removed from their custody and criminal sanctions.
According to the press release, policing of intimacy and family life is connected to slavery and has constantly created a racialized society and violence. This has been shown by the criminalization and punishment of student protestors, which includes the partnerships formed between the Student Conduct Board and UCIPD, who have created a system where students feel that their surveillance and discipline is similar to what people experience in a prison complex.
The student community said it has felt racialized police brutality, hyper-surveillance, and repression of students’ rights to assemble and use their freedom of speech.
According to a statement by march organizers, police attacks and suppression that took place on October 1 during the march and rally “only further prove that action needs to be taken in terms of abolishing police organizations. These police brutality events mark the continuous historical oppressive approach they have taken onto the community that is oftentimes coupled with alliances within contemporary broadcasting networks.”
The statement notes that the incidents are “merely a few among recent manifestations of UCIPD’s extensive record of racialized police brutality, hyper-surveillance, and repression of students’ rights to assemble and to free speech. As such, the police violence and repression at our latest march and rally on 10/1 only reaffirm and further demonstrates the urgency of, our commitment to cops off-campus and the complete abolition of all forms of policing– including surveillance, punishment, and suppression by ostensibly non-police entities.
We also see the incidents that unfolded at the demonstration as one example of the historical, and historically racist, partnerships between police and the mainstream media. Moreover, in the midst of historically unprecedented global uprisings and conversations about alternative visions of safety and care, the UCIPD, like all other policing institutions, continues to demonstrate its allegiance to racist systems that function at the expense of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical livelihood of Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer and differently-abled folks.
“We reject the colonial, white supremacist myth that policing and prisons keep us safe, as we continue to envision and embody a world where we keep us safe, including but not exclusively through cop-free schools.”
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