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
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.