Monday, November 23, 2009

Students occupy UCOP building in Downtown Oakland

The day started at the Oakland courthouse on 7th and Washington.  Students and supporters were there in support of our comrades that occupied Wheeler Hall and had burglary charges filed against them, felonies.  Before long, we heard that those charges had been dropped, for now, someone said.  So they still might be facing misdemeanor charges. There were some speakers from other colleges East LA, Davis, SF state. 

The crowd decided, on hearing the good news, to march from the court to 11th and Franklin, the corporate offices of the UC system, better known as UCOP.  This is where the office of the Chancellor Yudoff is. We marched down 7th stopping at the police station for a minute and demanding an end to police brutality and the dropping of all charges.  One student gave a good speech about how this is not just about education.  He talked of the violence in these very streets and in the poor communities and communities of color and that there is a need to change the nature of the system itself.  

We marched down Broadway, in the street without a permit, about 300 to 400 people perhaps; the mood was defiant.

When we got to the UCOP building, we learned there was a back door from one of the student reconn aisance guys on the bicycle and the leading group made a bee line for it and we all followed.  We got to the back door and a push and shove began between student and security and a cop on the other side.
When we got inside.  The cop was mad because he lost the shoving match(left). Once we were in, the floodgates opened and about 60 or 70 people rushed through.  We shoved past the building  security and in to the lobby. Students were calling for Yudoff and there were many other chants. It was so exciting I cannot remember what they were. The group made our way to the front desk where one of the student leaders pointed out that the sign up sheets didn't have a column for "students" 

  "There are places for business people and contractors" he said.  So they tore some of the sheets of the official sign up and made their own columns where anyone could sign to get an appointment to speak to the chancellor. There were suggestions for columns beggars, the homeless, citizens, people etc. The demand was for Yudoff to come down and speak to them or for the whole group to go up and see him. The group sat down and we prepared for the long haul.Fortunatley, the students were very prepared and the gorup Food Not Bombs were in there with us and whipped out some prepared dishes for us to eat.

By now there were maybe 20 cops in there with us. There were about 60 of us outside I would say and there were cops and riot police out there.  From what I understand, they blocked off Franklin street from 11th to 12 streets.  We were told that Yudoff was not in the building.  Eventually, they agreed to bring down two low level, well paid flunkies.  The youth asked them to give their names and their salaries.  One of them earned about $350,000 a year, the other around a quarter of a million.  They were asked a number of questions and after a while I left.

The most important thing was the occupation of the building itself and the students defiant mood.  They were not going to be stopped by a few cops. Defiance didn't mean that they were not aware of the balance of forces and there was no attempt to go beyond what could clearly be accomplished given the forces on hand.  They had violated the bosses sacred private property laws; they forced the cops hand and physically forced them to allow them in to this building.  There was also the good element of surprise as they caught them off guard rushing that back door.  I am a bit tired as it was a little exhausting for me but the mood was electric and confident.

Many of the youth are entering politics for the first time I think.  They want to fight; they want to join with workers; they want to build a movement. As in so many struggles of the past, it was the students that moved first and paved the way before the working class found its feet.  The audacity and the boldness of the youth was certainly present today. It was an honor to be in such good company.




erin said...

Thanks for this report, Richard. It brings a flavor of this movement, and shows how the student movement is developing more independence and more confidence in itself.

Alejandro Lara-Briseno said...

Thanks for documenting all of this Richard.

Be the Peace,