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For the week of November 23, 2009

Thousands of students, staff and faculty across the state demonstrated their opposition to tuition increases, layoffs and furloughs last week, beginning on Wednesday as the UCLA regents’ meeting got underway.

At UCLA, demonstrators converged on Covel Commons for the November regents’ meeting, but UC officials locked most out of the room where the meeting was being held. Fourteen protesters were arrested the first day of the meeting after they stood up and refused to leave, singing the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” 

On the second day of the meeting, regents voted to raise tuition 32% while some 2000 demonstrators voiced their objections outside the hall, blocking exiting regents from leaving with an impromptu sit-in (the Daily Bruin published a series of photos of the action). Outside, peaceful demonstrators were subjected to police violence (UCLA police have admitted using tasers in “light stun mode” on students).

Angry UC Davis students and community supporters occupied an administration building on campus, and 52 were arrested after refusing to leave. Hundreds also marched at UC Santa Cruz, occupying two campus buildings in protest.

At Berkeley, a strong alliance of students and workers conducted three days of activities, including a two-day UPTE-CWA unfair labor practice strike. Wednesday included picket lines, a building occupation and a massive noon rally on Sproul Plaza, where thousands listened to analysis about what is wrong with the regents’ plan. A student leader and two faculty members published this statement about what’s at stake, while undergrad and graduate strikers described in concrete terms what the fee hike would mean for them.

On Friday, dozens of protestors (mostly students) entered a main Berkeley classroom building, Wheeler Hall, and began a sit in, demanding a repeal of the fee hike and the reinstatement of 38 janitorial jobs at the campus. Within a few hours, some 2,000 supporters gathered outside the hall, peacefully surrounding it. Several UC faculty members served as negotiators between the students and the chancellor’s office, and two, Shannon Sheen and Ananya Roy, have written up their observations. Eventually, all the demonstrators inside the Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall were allowed to exit and the crowd dispersed.

The chancellor had promised “no violence” from police, but as the situation continued throughout the day, police pushed into the peaceful crowd with batons swinging and firing rubber bullets, injuring several students as seen in this KTVU video. Police broke one student’s hand; an interview with this student was broadcast on KPFA’s Evening News (the story begins about 19 minutes into the newscast.) There are many YouTube postings of the police actions, such as this one. If you can’t stomach these, here’s a single photo of police aiming guns at members of the UC community.

The campus community is appalled by the police violence and is mobilizing for a noon rally on Monday on Sproul Plaza. If you’re a UC alum and would like to sign a letter protesting the violence, please email ucalumniforchange@gmail.com.

Solidarity greetings from around the world have come in to support the demonstrators.

At UC Santa Cruz, dozens of students who had been occupying two campus buildings were threatened with arrest early Sunday morning and voted to end their action. Police there also pushed into the peaceful group of protestors, causing one faculty member to fall from a balcony, sustaining bruises.

The news elsewhere in the nation was more encouraging. Several protests also occurred at California State University campuses, including one at CSU Fresno, where over 100 students occupied the library to demand longer hours. They received strong support from the library’s dean, and with the promise of longer hours, left the library.

A two-day strike by graduate student employees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shut down hundreds of classes, forcing management to tentatively agree to continue the practice of tuition waivers and backed off from threatened furlough days. Union members voted to end the strike, and are celebrating their victory.

The national radio show Democracy Now! discussed UC’s movement to defend public education with a graduate student organizer and three faculty members from Berkeley, while the New York Times described the damage done to the state’s “crown jewel” of public education. An entertaining short video debunking UC’s budget myths has also been released. _____________________________________________________________________________________

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