Back to Mrak, 11/24—An Assessment

One might have imagined that “negotiations” and “continued constructive dialogue” were merely a means of deferring, defusing, displacing the university struggle. They are certainly that. But it was clear last night in Mrak Hall that these are also a direct extension of police intimidation, of the immediately repressive apparatus of the administration.

This was the case, first, because our negotiations focused primarily upon the role of the police in last week’s occupation, thus turning our attention away from our collective bond in the present, and away from the future of the university, toward a retroactive struggle against an injustice done to our friends and comrades. That struggle is, of course, a crucial aspect of our solidarity, and it is no small thing that it was at least partially won last night. But as one impassioned student pointed out as the negotiations were concluding, she didn’t get fucking arrested in order for her fucking charges to be dropped. Presumably, she got arrested due to the immediate urgency of a total demand: an end to the destruction of our lives and our universities by the neoliberal agenda of state legislators and opportunistic administrators.

But the directly repressive role of dialogue was perhaps most evident in the fact that negotiations could not proceed without the presence of the police. It was during our first encounter with Vice Chancellor Janet Gong that the cops arrived on campus, called in before the negotiations began and establishing their positions under their cover. These were not riot cops, the Chief of Police informed us, but “police with tactical equipment.” While we were talking, these police with tactical equipment began closing down the doors of Mrak Hall, as they had on Thursday 19. We should note the simple structural fact that students were able to guard those doorsbecause they stopped talking to the administration. They rushed away from an endlessly circular conversation and into tactical positions; they had to remove themselves from the essentially performative scenario of dialogue in order to carry out the concrete task of defending their preferred configuration of the building against the police. Successfully defending those doors against closure last night was perhaps a greater victory than any eventual concession to our demands.

Unable to close the doors, the cops then closed off access to the washrooms. And this, too, occurred in a breach of good faith with the spirit of “negotiations”—one which only served to confirm their true function. Having expressed their emotional distress at the police presence—after having seen their friend violently arrested last week and videos of police brutality on the Berkeley campus—students demanded that the cops be sent off campus. Agreeing to “consider” this possibility for three to five minutes, administrators and the chief of police left the building—only to send in two columns of armed and helmeted officers while they were gone, striding through the crowd in order to check doors and to establish positions in a side hallway and at the top of the steps. Thereafter, all access to the washrooms was prohibited: an obvious tactic to both disperse occupiers from the building and to pressure negotiations toward a favorable outcome for the administration. The Vice Chancellor, the Chief of Police, and an armed police guard then returned to the building no sooner than thirty minutes later to resume the “conversation.”

It should be a clear and unyielding principle of any future occupations at UC Davis that there can be no discussion with the administration whatsoever while tactical police forces are on the campus. As long as the administration has already called the cops to arrest us whenever necessary, negotiations are a total sham, and must be treated as such. There can be no “discussion” with administrators once they have already called in repressive forces to coerce and intimidate their interlocutors. What happened at UCLA, UCD, UCB, and UCSC between Nov. 18 – Nov. 22 will not soon be forgotten: police deployments by the administration effectively militarized our campuses; students and faculty were arrested en masse; a UCSC professor fell from a second story patio and was carried from the scene on a stretcher; students at UCLA were tasered; a student at UC Davis was repeatedly slammed against the hood of a car; students at UC Berkeley were beaten and maimed by punitive riot cops. The nightstick, the taser, the riot shield became an extension of the bureaucratic violence of the administration. All this because students occupied buildings in order to refuse the privatization of their universities, as do students in Europe for weeks, without any police response whatsoever. The sequence of events that unfolded last week—and the UC administration’s accountability for the brutality that ensued—is a fact that has consequences. We will certainly continue to resist and to struggle collectively; but we should not enter in dialogue with administrators who have proven themselves to have no respect whatsoever for our collective well-being, until they prove otherwise by refusing to deploy police forces that have demonstrated their malice and incompetence.

But there is also a different story to tell about Mrak on Nov. 24, which was, after all, a victory of sorts. There are different modalities of victory. And if there was a victory yesterday afternoon and last night, it was not just that certain demands were met by administrators. It was a victory of the intellect sharpened by praxis. The day was a sequence of remarkably precise articulations from a multiplicity of perspectives and positions. When we spoke amongst ourselves, we showed that in the context of collective struggle we can cut through issues that all-too often confuse and divide the movement. We did so with no facilitator, no stack. When we spoke to the administration and the police, we felt the clear superiority of our goals, our motives, and our collective intelligence over their own. We understood, immediately, the legitimacy and integrity of our action. We felt the power of our being-correct.

There are no “students” “faculty” “staff” any longer, among those who manifest themselves at Mrak. There is collective determination breeding active reason, measuring the strength of its consequences.

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7 Comments

Filed under Campuses, Statements, UC Davis

7 responses to “Back to Mrak, 11/24—An Assessment

  1. TheMadHat

    I think this movement in general needs to reaffirm the importance of praxis. (Not that it isn’t being demonstrated already)

  2. Just wanted to let you know, we showed our viewers some of your blog this morning during our AM show. Video link here:

    http://www.fox40.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=7f536c0c-287f-4609-9944-090cf0cdf33e&src=front

    Also, comprehensive coverage on the UC demonstrations here:

    http://www.fox40.com/news/ucfeehike/

  3. julia l.c.

    i was mostly thinking about bri being exempt from student judicial affairs and allowed to stay here.

    But i think since we are dicked around by bureaucratic processes in the uc system back and forth then simply being in the position where we are deciding on the terms is a powerful one.
    At the same time, the fact that student housing as the ability to declare “no negotiations” on their dissolving of the DSC, or the intentions of which are unclear (to build more student housing offices) means that we have the right to do the same.
    We can continuously alternate between no negotiations, no demands, no minor reforms (where we are a physically symbolic message/demand for a larger radical change) and direct demands of specific figures, such as “commit to sustaining and investing in the co-operative housing option” because both show our voices, presence and power slowly accumulating in the space of the administration!

  4. estudiante en resistencia

    i’m curious about the process through which this piece was created… first it was posted as an “anonymous” “assessment,” and later it was changed to a “press release” with no author(s).
    was this text generated collectively? can the author(s) tell us about its origin and how it has been disseminated as a “press release”? i write with concern about the question of “leadership” and the privileging of certain voices throughout this process… and of course, with great respect, admiration, and love for all those working together to reclaim OUR university.

  5. @estudiante en resistencia – agreed. all posts on this blog represent the individual opinions and viewpoints of those writing and submitting them. it’s unclear how the title got changed on the blog, it’s been returned to its original title. most posts are submitted anonymously unless the authors wish to specify their name(s).

  6. Meredith

    The post above gets at this, but I want to reiterate the point in order to address part of estudiante’s comment: There is no such thing as negotiations when one group is armed and the other group is unarmed. The UC administration and the police that they call on to enforce their beliefs deeply want us to feel that we are having a discussion–they want us to feel that we have some power that does not include sheer numbers, which is to say, they want to produce in us a feeling of agency that narrows the legible field of choices to ones which they can directly control. (“Send some of your representatives to meet with us.” “Come demonstrate with peaceful studying during the hours we would like to allow you to stay in the building we secured partially through your debts.” “Go talk to person ____ or entity ____, who is far more responsible than us.”) This is a manufactured agency–the same type that asks you to buy your way into a kinder form of capitalism–and few things are manufactured without a purpose. Here, of course, control, but also distraction from the power we do have. Which is numbers. They have police and some under-fed German Shepherds, administrators and a handful of wealthy individuals involved in both state government and the UCs. But what, really, is their capacity for expansion? They can appeal to Sacramento, but we can appeal to every person who is, was, or will be a student, a teacher, a worker at a public university. They can tear down the co-ops to build more bureaucracy, but we can call Germany, France, Mexico.

    There are more of us than there are of them.

    This is what we have. While I sympathize with estudiante’s comment about “certain voices” and “leadership” and while I believe passionately in interrogating privilege and attacking hierarchies and being vigilant about the reproduction of the power structures we fight, I want to make two points. 1. It is to the extreme disadvantage of people in power if we understand ourselves to be a WE…if we figure out how to articulate an expansive social imaginary that comes out of, not against, our difference and our particularities, which allows us to speak strategically for each other. We must understand the traces of hegemonic logic in our own calls for individualism, for using “I” statements, and for policing each other through the identity politics that they created in order to accomplish the remarkable feat of a further widening of the gap between haves and have-nots. 2. This is not a “Be a doll and get us some coffee while the men discuss the revolution” comment. This is a call to understand that you cannot check privilege like a coat; it cannot be shed or suppressed through silence, and amorphous calls to “check your privilege” end up policing individuals instead of logic structures. If there is an individual problem, break the discursive cycle that asks us to treat each other like representatives of particular coalitions from within a fragmented, dying Left and speak (or ask someone else to speak) to that person. If there is a substantive problem, point that out instead of questioning authorship (there is a long conservative tradition of questioning “anonymous” comments). The structures of inequality follow us and our thinking into all spaces, but we should take comfort in their mask slipping a little…when they bring guns out to peaceful protests, we should understand that to mean fear of us. You cannot check privilege, but you can use it. You can use the privilege of being a college student or teacher or state worker who is still employed to demand a change in a system that is structurally designed to affect us unequally. Solidarity does not need to mean agreement but instead can be understood as relationships of critical, engaged support.

  7. non-corporate UC actions coverage summation here

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/11/20/18629379.php

    it is an open-publishing website, so feel free to repost your reports and analysis there for a wider audience, where what you publish will be listed in search engine “news” pages. be sure to link back to this website when you publish on indybay

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