Sunday, February 28, 2010

At UCs, Tumultous Week in Review; Iranian Women Agitate

After sit-in, UCI protesters outside Aldrich Hall with pink citations for "failure to disperse." Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010. UPDATED: To listen to audio of our interview with Irvine activists Ryan Davis (in photo with citations), Russell Curry and Samiyyah Tillman, click here: . To listen to audio of our interview with Iranian activist Sussan, click here: .

Irvine -- On the next edition of Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, we look back at a tumultous week, not just at UC Irvine but also across the UCs. At UC Irvine, the arrest of 17 protesters sitting in at the administration building, seeking "in-sourcing" of service workers accompanied by a large action outside raised the stakes in advance of a state-wide March 4, 2010 movement against the privatization of education in California. A protest blog argues: "Yesterday the dumpsters, Tomorrow the World!".

We'll talk with UC Irvine protesters who give their take on what's happening and their long list of demands. Some protesters believe that with UC Regents and UC Student Association endorsing the March 4 actions, the struggle has been co-opted. We'll discuss that.

In part 2 of the show, we'll talk with an activist who has been trying to organize Iranian women in advance of International Women's Day in Iran. We talk with:

Sussan, who is is part of the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan), living in exile in Europe: In the late 1970s Sussan lived in the US and was part of the Iranian student movement against the brutal US-backed Shah of Iran. She returned to Iran after the Shah’s overthrow and took part in the struggle against the Khomeini regime. She and her family were imprisoned and tortured for their political activity and her husband was executed by the Islamic regime. See a recent statement by the March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan), March in Support of Women Warriors in Streets of Tehran. She was last on Subversity last year.

The International Women's Day Coalition is organizing a march and rally in Westwood on Saturday, March 6th, aiming to break open a spirit of resistance to the horrors committed against women throughout the world, and led by the slogan: Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution.

The shows airs Monday 1 March 2010 at 9 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, Calif., and is simulcast via Show host is Daniel C. Tsang.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UCI Protests Escalate: 17 Activists Arrested Wednesday Morning

Protesters stage sit-in outside Chancellor Drake's Office. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010

Irvine -- In a sign that civil disobedience at University of California, Irvine has reached a new level of direct action, 17 activists, many associated with the Worker-Student Alliance at the Irvine campus, were arrested shortly before noon today (Wednesday, 24, 2010) after several hours of sustained chanting in a hallway outside UCI Chancellor Michael Drake's 5th floor offices in Aldrich Hall, after being warned by UCI Police that they were participating in an illegal assembly.

The protesters, including AFSCME local 3299 union lead organizer Juan Castillo (previous Subversity interview) and WSA leader Dennis Lopez (earlier Subversity interview), were one by one asked if they wanted to leave or would be arrested and then lifted up from the hallway floor (where they had been seated together) and handcuffed before being escorted by UCI police down the stairs. The arrests were observed by local media and UCI faculty members.

Before the arrests, protesters, in disciplined chants, that continued for several hours, called on UCI and Chancellor Drake to "in-source" service workers currently working for ABM. Drake had appeared moved at a recent forum with students when the spouse of a laid-off service worker asked him to settle the labor dispute.

In literature distributed at the event and at a rally outside Aldrich Hall, the protesters described their sit-in as not an "occupation, nor is it unlawful assembly or trespassing." Instead, "we have expropriated Aldrich Hall" the protesters declare. They continue: "As part of the University of California, this building belongs to the students and workers." They attribute their action to the "increasing privatization of our system": "This action is the result of frustration with conventional avenues of participation. The crisis is too extreme for gradualism and the ideals of public education are slipping away; direct confrontation is needed."
Protesters chant outside Chancellor's Drake Office as UCI Police begin arrests. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010

The action comes five days after a few dozen other students took over Langson Library the past Friday evening and held teach-ins in the lobby with faculty until they were evicted after 11 pm by UCI Police who occupied the loan desk. (The library had extended opening hours past the normal 5 p.m. to accommodate the protesters.)

The protesters also made 12 demands on the UCI Administration, and three on the UC Regents, including an end to military and private security contracts. The demands appear online at the blog, Democratize Education: Taking Control of Our Education. We list them here as well:

To UCI Admnistration:

1) We demand that UCI administration implement a comprehensive financial aid system by fall 2010 that apportions grant aid (excluding loans from the equation) and on-campus housing based on family wealth rather than income. Financial aid must be designed to counteract the economic effects of structural and systemic racism in our society.

2) We demand the immediate direct hiring of all outsourced ABM workers and fair pay for all campus workers. Students and workers do not support discriminatory hiring practices that victimize immigrant, Latina/o working families.

3) We demand that Chancellor Drake publicly commit to seeking out private donations that will specifically fund financial aid to AB540 students or begin providing financial aid for AB540 students directly from his office’s discretionary funding. We want administration to publicly recognize that AB540 students do not share the same economic freedoms and securities as other populations.

4) We demand that UCI administration immediately disarm all police officers of Tasers. This action is supported by the December 2009 ruling of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Taser has replaced the lash of the whip as a device in the service of state sanctioned anti-blackness, evidenced so blatantly at UCLA this past November, and UCI’s administration should lead in the banning of this device.

5) We demand that UCI immediately equip the campus with gender neutral bathrooms. Students and workers who do not fit the illusion of gender normativity suffer routine violence and intimidation. UC should not privilege heteronormativity over the interests of its LGBT community.

6) We demand the recall of the three groundskeepers that were laidoff in October 2009 and the reinstatement of the 5% time reduction of the entire campus of AFSCME 3299 service unit.

7) We demand that no disciplinary action (academic or legal) be taken against the 11 students arrested at Ambassador Oren’s event. UCI and the surrounding community’s repeated attacks against, and hyper-surveillance of, Muslim and Arab students aids in branding legitimate political criticisms against the apartheid state of Israel as ‘uncivil’ and fosters a segregated cultural, social, and intellectual climate for the university. Deploying rhetoric that equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism serves to annihilate rather than engage in dialogue.

8) We demand 100% funding from administration for a recruitment and retention center for underrepresented students. Recruiting and retaining students of color and low-income students should be a campus priority, but UCI has neglected to support these important efforts.

9) We demand that until state-funding has been restored to the UC system in full, that all budget cuts imposed in the fall be redistributed by imposing an equal percentage cut to each of UCI’s schools.

10) We demand that UCI administration immediately reinvest in the ethnic, queer, and women’s studies departments/programs. UCI should foster an environment that is supportive of students who are considered outside of the “mythical norms” of our society. As evidenced so blatantly at UCSD this past week, Black subjects are in an antagonistic position against the institution, this sentiment is reinforced by administration and creates a safe space for anti-blackness. UCI administration should lead in creating a campus that engages in academic, political, and social reeducation which challenges structural and individual racism, sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia.

11) We demand that Chancellor Drake publicly disclose all of UCI’s military and private security contracts. Furthermore, we demand that Chancellor Drake shut down the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs and discontinue all military and Homeland Security contracts that aid in both the mass murder of people around the world by U.S. imperialism (particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and Pakistan) or the violent police repression of students and workers within the U.S. In solidarity with workers and students around the world, we demand an end to genocidal imperialist wars for profit and empire: U.S. imperialism out of Iraq and Afghanistan!

12) We demand that UCI not feed the prison-industrial complex. We demand that UCI end its contract with Motorola by fall 2010. Furthermore, we demand the removal of all Dell, IBM, and Texas Instrument products by fall 2010 as well.

Demands to the UC Regents:

1. We demand amnesty for all previous and current participants in protest on UC campuses. The Regents must restore all penalized students to good academic standing, recall all fired workers, and issue a public statement demanding that any and all criminal charges be dropped.

2. We demand the UC Regents and the Office of the President terminate ALL military and private security contracts currently in place at UC campuses and research facilities. In solidarity with workers and students around the world, we demand an end to genocidal imperialist wars for profit and empire: U.S. imperialism out of Iraq and Afghanistan!

3. We demand that the Regents revisit the November 2009 decision to increase student fees by 32% and address student and faculty objections to this decision. We demand that this public discussion of the 32% fee increase include three agenda items:

(a) A period for public comment;

(b) A vote, in full view of the public, reconsidering the 32% fee increase;

(c) A vote, in full view of the public, to ban all outsourcing of workers.

UPDATED 1:40PM: University Communications (Cathy Lawhon) has just sent out a statement; of course no one was at risk, it was a totally peaceful and disciplined sit-in as a faculty member noted. And the whole sit-in was over by noon. Anyway, here's what the PR folks sent out at 1:30 pm:

A group of students and labor organizers occupied the fifth floor of
Aldrich Hall at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, disrupting business and
presenting a wide-ranging list of demands.

Offices on the fifth floor were locked down and protestors were
informed that they should leave or they would be arrested. By noon,
police arrested 17 protestors inside Aldrich Hall who refused to leave
and cited them with unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse.
Students arrested will also be cited with violations of university
conduct policy.

Demonstrators outside the building blocked several exits impeding the
ability of those inside to leave. Police surrounded the perimeter of
the building and exits were cleared.

By afternoon, staff inside Aldrich Hall were evacuated to ensure their

UPDATED 3:43 PM: Here is the OC Register coverage.

Monday, February 22, 2010

UCI Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez on the First Amendment

Manuel Gomez in his plush office. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang, 2010. UPDATED: To listen to audio, click here: .

Irvine -- In a broad look back at his student activism days (when he hung the Black Flag of anarchism in his apartment), UCI Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, in the wake of growing controversy over the student disruption of the talk earlier this month of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, and the arrests of 12 students, discusses the First Amendment on campus, and states that UCI's Muslim Student Union will not be kicked off campus. He also states that images on student protest blogs of UCI Police taking down leaflets announcing protest events is "disturbing," but he is waiting for students to file formal complaints with his office.

Gomez says he grew up in a poverty-stricken "barrio" in Santa Ana and was active in various struggles in his student days, including fighting police abuse. He says he understands the passion and quest among young people for opposing oppression: "I understand it in my bone." His verdict on his protesting past: It was wrong to distrust people over 30. We also discuss cooptation.

In "Imagining the Future: Cultivating Civility in a Field of Discontent," Gomez focuses on the situation at UCI as tensions were addressed in the wake of the Zionist Organization of America's initial complaint to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights over the alleged mistreatment of Jewish students. ZOA has since also claimed UCI students solicited donations for Hamas during a talk at UCI of British Member of Parliament George Galloway.

In the article, written for Change Magazine, as well as on Subversity, Gomez argues that hate speech has been upheld by the courts as allowed under the First Amendment. The ZOA more recently has called for a boycott of UCI in terms of donations and enrollment.

UCI has also sent disciplinary letters to the 8 UCI students arrested, including MSU President Mohamed Abdelgany, a first step in campus administrative proceedings.

In response, the various Muslim activist groups, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have called on UCI allow "free speech" for protesters.

Gomez's interview is being aired this morning on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, at 9 am (simulcast via He is interviewed by Subversity host Daniel C. Tsang.

Monday, February 15, 2010

UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinksy on the First Amendment

Erwin Chemerinsky, left, with students after his talk. Photograph © Daniel C. Tsang 2010. UPDATED with audio link: To listen to audio, click here: .

Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the new UCI School of Law, February 11, 2010 talked at UC Irvine about the First Amendment in the wake of the shouting down of the recent lecture at UCI by the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren and the arrests of the students involved.

Chemerinksy's talk, previously scheduled, happened several days after the Oren lecture, in a larger lecture hall to accommodate the crowd of mostly students who packed the room.

As a public service, KUCI's Subversity program airs Chemerinsky's entire talk and the subsequent Q and A session. The show airs today (15 February 2010), airing 9-10 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and simulcast via

Meanwhile, student activists have rallied to urge support for the 11 students (3 from UC Riverside, 8 from UCI) arrested by UCI Police, asking why they had to be arrested. One statement circulating among activists suggests making these points to UCI Chancellor Michael Drake and to the UCI Dean of Students, who would be imposing any administrative sanctions on the UCI students, including potential expulsion:

· It was unjust to arrest students for simply having the courage to
stand up and speak out against a man responsible for propagating the
deaths of thousands of innocent people.
· Civil disobedience has historically played an instrumental role in
the civil rights movement in America the eventually ensured equality
and human rights for all minorities.
· Michael Oren is a representative of a state that is condemned by
more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in
the world, and he should not be honored at UC Irvine.

The statement said "we will not support an educational
institution that threatens to punish its’ students with suspension and
expulsion for standing up for their principles."

Supporters of the arrested students have started a Facebook page, "Drop All Charges Against the Eleven", which as of this morning has 4,657 members.

Meanwhile the controversy has again enraged the Jewish community, with Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, who heads the Rabbinical Council of Orange Council, even suggesting that Chancellor Drake consider expelling the students. [An earlier version incorrectly attributed a call for ending donations to UCI to Rabbi Elierzrie; but another group has formally called for that.] At the same time, the Muslim Public Affairs Council weighed in, calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trannie Andy Quach Afraid to Meet Real Trans?

Westminster Councilman Andy Quách grins after DUI last year in mugshot.
"Trannie" Andy Quách may yet get to meet a real transgendered Vietnamese American -- or more -- this Saturday, the eve of Lunar New Year or Tet. The up and down (DUI) politician carefully mentored by state legislator Van Tran (hence a "Trannie") is all agitated about the prospect of lesbian, gay, bisexual -- and transgendered -- members of his Vietnamese American community marching in the annual Tet festival he's helping organize this year! But as a city official (the march is organized by Westminster where he sits on its city council), he can't very well say no to a group that duly paid the city's $100 fee to be able to march.

So earlier this week he sends out a press release, in Vietnamese, to say, sorry folks, while he is personally against these folks marching, he can't do anything about it (he cannot discriminate!) and please celebrate the advent of the Year of the Tiger with him.

But not everyone is pleased he is taking the legalistic way out and not expressing his homophobia more strongly. Stirred by news that sexual minorities plan to march, religious opposition to the gay participation has manifested itself, with Pastor Trần Thanh Vân of Hội Ðồng Liên Tôn (Interfaith Council) calling for a religious boycott of the Tet parade, according to Nguoi Viet. Its editor, Hao-Nhien Vu, echoes the Vietnamese reportage in his sardonic English-language Bolsavik blog.

Following KUCI's Subversity radio program this past Monday on the upcoming march, the Orange County Register has also jumped on the story, but states incorrectly that it is the first time gay Vietnamese would have marched in Orange County. In fact, they marched along Campus Drive in Irvine a few years back, when OC Pride Festival was held at UC Irvine.

Andy Quách's move to stand on legalities is laudable but may not win him kudos from the more conservative religious right elements of his community. The first Vietnamese American elected to public office (also to city council in Westminster), Tony Lam suffered a huge backlash from anti-communist elements in Little Saigon when he, on the advice of the city attorney, did not attend rallies protesting the display of Uncle Ho's photo and the flag of Vietnam during the HiTek protests a decade or more earlier, even though OC District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas himself showed up in a clearly partisan (Republican) move to rally the anti-commie crowd, as I wrote about in the OC Weekly in 1999. Andy Quách's religiously fundamentalist supporters may be just as unforgiving.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sexual Minorities to March in Tet Parade in Little Saigon

Gina Masequesmay. Photo from CSUN web-site. UPDATED with audio link: To listen to audio, click here: .

In a historic first, Vietnamese American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered [LGBT] plan to march as part of Little Saigon's Tet parade this coming Saturday, Lunar New Year Eve. While they have marched in Orange County before (at the OC Pride march in Irvine) and in San Jose and San Francisco, this is the first time they plan a march in the heartland of the overseas Vietnamese community in the U.S.

On KUCI's Subversity show Monday 8 February 2010, at 9 a.m., we talk with CSU Northridge scholar Gina Masequesmay
about queer life within the Vietnamese American communities. The CSU sociologist did her Ph.D dissertation at UCLA in 2001 on one of the groups marching, Ô-Môi, which came out with a zine in 2005. She is the lead co-editor of a new collection of essays, Embodying Asian/American Sexualities (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009).

Four groups plan to join together in this march, according to march organizers, embracing "marriage equality" in the context of the Prop. 8 controversy.

Song That Radio is a grass-root organization which has the dual task of operating a radio program to focus on enhancing community awareness of LGBT issues, with the aim to create social change in attitude towards LGBT people and to organize social and political events that advocate, support and empower the Vietnamese-American LGBT community by increasing LGBT visibility and inclusiveness. Its goal is to improve the quality of life of Vietnamese LGBT people by reducing and eliminating the disparities within the Vietnamese-American community in dealing with LGBT issues.

Ô-Môi is a support group for lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender of Vietnamese descent. Its goal is to provide a support and resource space for queer, female Vietnamese to come out and network.

Gay Vietnamese Alliance provides a safe and supportive environment for gay, bisexual, and transgendered men of Vietnamese descent from all over the world to network, voice issues, promote wellness and foster leadership.

The Vietnamese Lesbian and Bisexual women Network and Friends is a support network of women, young and old alike, who provide support to Vietnamese women who are questioning their identities or simply proud to be lesbians or bisexual women.

The Subversity show airs on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, and is simulcast via Podcasts are available later.

The march is slated to begin after 9:30 a.m. Saturday 13 February 2010 at Bolsa and Magnolia in Westminster, California.