Students take back the Quad

The UC Davis Quad has been reoccupied following a rally of around 5,000 people on Monday at noon. The rally was held in solidarity with non-violent student protesters who were pepper sprayed during a protest on Friday.

The East Quad was completely covered in students, alumni and community members listening to speeches made by students and faculty. News vans parked near the fountain, and media outlets rushed to broadcast. Slow internet stifled the KDVS 90.3 live stream. Twitter updates and text messages took minutes to load.

“The whole world is watching Davis,” a speaker said during the General Assembly.

Speeches were followed by a formal consensus-based meeting, in which participants voted in support of holding a general strike on Nov. 28. A second proposal, to “declare campus as an autonomous sanctuary space based on international historic model” and to disband campus police, did not pass.

Monday evening, students joined together to build a 15 foot tall dome and reoccupy the Quad with tents.

Student speakers described their personal feelings on Friday’s police actions and encouraged the audience to continue to be non-violent.

“They started pulling my friends from the circle, and throwing them on the ground and putting them in handcuffs and dragging them away,” said senior mechanical engineering major David Buscho. “At that point, there was no more encampment, there was no more stuff there. We were just kids, sitting down in a circle singing.”

First-hand experiences of being pepper sprayed garnered an emotional response from the crowd.

“My friends buried their faces into their chest and then it happened. At that point I entered a world of pain,” Buscho said. “It felt like hot glass was entering my eyes. I couldn’t see anything, I wanted to open my eyes but every time I did, the pain got worse. I wanted to breathe, but I couldn’t because my face was covered in pepper spray.”

“I want us to take back this university brick by brick, and we will do it with dignity and respect!” Buscho said.

“Should I talk about the fear that I felt when I saw my friends thrown to the ground by brutal police officers for standing, linking arms peacefully?” said Deanna Johnson, a sophomore environmental horticulture and urban forestry major, who was also pepper sprayed by UC Davis police.

“Should I talk about the fear that I felt when I heard the crowd scream before the pepper spray hit my face? But what I decided to speak about today is not the horrible violence that I experienced, but the community that I felt when I stood in solidarity with my fellow students, supporting our university,” Johnson said.

In lulls between speeches, the crowd chanted “Whose university? Our university!” Many held signs that read “Katehi resign.”

The controversy over police action against UC Davis students follows accounts of police brutality on the UC Berkeley campus, in which students were hit by police with batons. Videos of both incidents have gone viral online, reaching people all over the world and causing public outrage.

“I’m from UC Berkeley and I just want to say we stand in solidarity with you. Rise up! We’re all in this together,” said a student speaker who identified himself as Joe Fenton from UC Berkeley.

After his speech, the crowd broke out into the chant “UC, UC, UC solidarity.”

Similar incidents have been reported at McGill University in Montreal. According to the McGill Daily and Le Délit, during a campus demonstration against tuition hikes in early November, students began throwing things at police officers and riot police were called in. The riot police then used pepper spray and tear gas on students.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi followed through with her promise and attended the General Assembly. She was asked to wait in line like the other speakers. The crowd booed as she approached the stage, but many chanted “let her speak.”

“I am here to apologize. I feel horrible for what happened on Friday. If you think you don’t want to be students in a university like we had on Friday, I am just telling you, I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday,” Katehi said, fighting back tears.

“Our university has to be better than it is, and it needs all of the communities to come together to do that. We need to work together,” Katehi said. “And I know that you may not believe anything that I am telling you today and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust.”

After Katehi spoke, UC President Mark Yudof talked with all 10 UC chancellors via teleconference to discuss the rights of student protesters.

The crowd dwindled as the afternoon went on. After Katehi left, many audience members and media followed. By The General Assembly, there were 1,729 people voting. An open mic, to give more students the chance to speak, ended the rally.

By nightfall, 30 tents had been pitched and volunteers worked to build a 15 feet-tall and 30 feet-wide dome structure.

California State Assembly Speaker John Pérez visited the tent occupation to talk to students. Pérez is also an ex officio UC Regent.

“As I told the students, I’m very impressed by their tenacity, their organization skills and the fact that they kept themselves focused on raising the issues they’ve been talking about,” Pérez said.

STRUMWASSER, PETERSON and SWARTZ can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

11 Comments

  • Paul Panetta
    November 22, 2011

    I attended UCD in the late 80′s and early 90′s and often spoke fondly to my kids about college life and UC Davis. I am outraged by the pepper spraying of peaceful students last week and feel compelled to write this letter. I so strongly recommended UC Davis that we visited their from our home in Virginia with my high school aged daughter last summer.
    She watched this with me tonight and is seriously considering taking UCD off her list. I am hard pressed to convince her otherwise.

    It was useful to view the town hall meeting and hear the very good questions from the audience. It was also educational to hear the university administrators provide vague and ambiguous answers to direct questions. It is clear that they were detached from the student body prior to the police activities and still are. While I was attending UC Davis I was unaware of the Chancellor and all the Vice Chancellors as I am sure they were unaware of me personally. Since they are in their high paying jobs solely because of students this detachment is ironic and unacceptable. The last speaker summed it up perfectly indicating that the administration spends too much time holed up in Mrak Hall having meetings and too little time actually interacting with the students as people. There are many reasons things went so horribly wrong last week. It was interesting that none of the administrators were able to tell us why the students were pepper sprayed and who authorized it. The contradictions from statements made last week to this week shows they were not aware of the access to restroom facilities and made little or no attempt to actually have a dialogue with the students beyond telling them they were violating the rules.

    The question I want to ask them is, “What would you have done if it was your son or daughter peacefully demonstrating? Would you order them to be pepper sprayed?” The University administration needs to look at the students as part of the UCD family rather than a number or statistic. Only then will the students, staff, and alumni feel safe and free to express our views without the fear of unnecessary force.

  • geff_curtis
    November 22, 2011

    What everyone is forgetting is these students violated campus policy ignored police orders and blocked public access. yet they are treated like heroes. i am not saying that pepper spraying was right but these kids broke the rules and i feel that they need to be discipline and suspended from school. i know people will hate me for saying this but there are rules for a reason and people need to obey them.

    • tom_senter
      November 22, 2011

      Two words: Free Speech

      • James Madison
        November 22, 2011

        Ignoring police orders to disperse and free speech are two very different things, tom_senter. Perhaps if they don’t direct their protests at the people that do not affect their situation (i.e. not sitting in front of police, not allowing police vehicles to get through, and chanting obscenities at them), and revert back to the protests in Mrak Hall, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

  • James Madison
    November 22, 2011

    @ninety nine percent aaron
    Not only did most of what you say contradict itself, you also sound like a psychotic anarchist, rather than someone who preaches values of the Constitution. If you understand the Constitution, then you would know that the safety and protection of thousands of students trumps the rights of some to assemble and protest, especially when they disobey authorities. Now I’m not condoning the actions, they should indeed be investigating and likely changed, but they were policy at the time. Anarchy is no way to get what you want in an intelligent, democratic republic. I was amuse that you did, however, consult a thesaurus in your writing which obviously entitles you to much respect and praise.

    You write as if Katehi was the one who pepper-sprayed these students directly. You write as if she knows anything at all about police policies for riot and crowd control – which the UCD police are most likely vastly underprepared for. Blame the police who did this, don’t use Katehi as a scapegoat for this even though you’re most likely bitter about educational grievances. The woman grew up in war torn Greece and experienced the times of political unrest and educational turmoil. To suggest she is naive to this and those interests is ignorant on your part. I invite you to respond with something that actually makes sense.

    JM

  • CraigW
    November 22, 2011

    Linda Katehi was the Provost at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign prior to taking the post at UC Davis and left town in the nick of time. The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and New York Times have reported on 3 scandals that happened on her watch.

    

In one scandal widely reported in Chicago and the NYT, students were admitted due to CLOUT of their wealthy and powerful connections. This scandal took down the Board of Trustees, University President Joe White and Chancellor Richard Herman.

    In scandal #2, the Dean of the College of Business, Avijit Ghosh, retroactively altered admissions standards and procedures for military veterans (but not civilians) and established a quota limiting their access to business school. Ghosh worked for Katehi.

    Just recently reported, the University of Illinois Law School was caught inflating GPA and LSAT scores and reporting them to the ABA and ranking agencies.



    All 3 of these scandals happened during Katehi’s tenure at University of Illinois.

    At best, Katehi is clueless and incompetent. At worst, she turned a blind eye and protected wrongdoers and the privileged from the consequences they deserved. But in any case, I hope someone in the UC system connects the dots and sends Ms. Katehi packing on a long sabbatical.

    • ninety nine percent aaron
      November 22, 2011

      I wrote what I did below exactly because I heard students and others calling for her to resign… wtf is wrong with you people? You have Stockholm syndrome, you’re mental slaves!

      If you can’t see the truth and seriousness of what I wrote then you’re truly blind. Read the law. Learn what constitutes the various felonious assaults on the books. Learn what charges would apply when you hire or direct others to commit violent crimes. Learn what charges should apply if you are the authority figure at a state institution and you allow these things when you had foreknowledge.

      Learn what it means to commit violent crime for political purposes. Do you understand that concept? It’s similar to hate crime where an individual violent crime becomes something much larger when there is a terrorist intent. And when you are the state, you are the authorities charged with upholding the law and protecting the people and you betray that trust in every way and become a bigger law breaker than those you prosecute and jail and when the magnitude of your crimes, because you are the authority committing them with state power, is so great and destructive then you must be prosecuted, not merely lose your job. If break open a head on the street do you get to negotiate and say well I’ll just quit my job and then you the state won’t prosecute me criminally? Of course you don’t get that choice.

      Are we a nation of kings and lords above the law or having a different set of laws? A petty criminal goes to prison but a giant terrifying criminal using violence for intimidation, when you are supposed to be relied on and trusted by the public can get away with crimes against humanity with impunity?

      Please ask yourself whether it’s a greater crime to steal a car or to commit assault with intent to do great bodily harm and to induce fear and terror in order to prevent freedom of political speech as expressly forbidden for government to do in the constitution? The only choices are to release all prisoners because there is in fact no law, or to treat these crimes with proportionate seriousness compared to the crimes we already prosecute. So if the average sentence for a similar type of felonious assault of one person is 2 years, then assaulting a whole nation through violent suppression of democracy, a crime against 300 million people, must at the very least get a 300 million times greater sentence. In this case, at least 600 million years in prison if not death.

      If not then there is no law here other than the law of the jungle and therefore why should anyone follow any laws? Is that what you want?

  • ninety nine percent aaron
    November 22, 2011

    Dear Linda,

    Your apologies, flip flops and firings are disgusting vain attempts at deflecting blame or mitigating the situation. Sorry, the Bush world you come from and the Obama world you live in are over now, you
    no longer get to act with impunity. From now on we do in fact look backward along with looking forward, and that means being held responsible for your actions.

    You have committed felonies by ordering the repression of your students. You have used violent suppression of dissent for political
    purposes. That is the definition of terrorism. Under the Patriot act you’re going to end up at Guantanamo for what you’ve done. You’re going to be tortured at Guantanamo, because thanks to your
    terrorist pal shrub and his acolyte Obama, that’s what we do to suspected or convicted terrorists.

    You have used political violence, terrorism, to chill dissent, to abrogate freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to redress grievances. You, as a government actor, used those methods to do those things in the interest of subverting, destroying, and preventing democracy from existing in the United States and at your campus. But this country, if it in fact is a country, is made up of the laws of the constitution and the bedrock foundational principles of democracy and the freedoms you took from the people.

    So by definition you have committed treason and will, by the time justice has occupied the injustice department, you will be executed for treason as surely as the Rosenbergs were, but with MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more justification!

    Na na na naa, na na na naa, heyayya, GO-OD BYEYE!!

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