Thursday, March 12, 2015

96 Hours of Action Concludes at UCSC with Successful Campus Shut Down

Students at UC Santa Cruz concluded four days of protests against tuition and fee increases with a campus-wide strike and shut down. Dubbed "96 Hours of Action," the series of demonstrations were also organized to address issues of mass incarceration and the expanding police state. At 4:30am on March 5, picket lines were established at the West Entrance and at the corner of Hagar and Coolidge, and a majority of the cars attempting to enter the school were turned away. At around 7am, the UCSC administration announced that faculty, staff, and students should not attempt to enter campus. The strike triggered the shut down of both main libraries on campus, as well as the book store, the express store, and most of the dining halls. Students reported their classes had been canceled by professors, and the school appeared as it does on the weekend, with only a few cafes open.

Students link arms as they block the West Entrance of UC Santa Cruz.

The very first students to arrive at the West Entrance were not exactly sure how to proceed. Some were carrying protest signs. They arrived in small groups, and after a short discussion, they decided to stand in the crosswalk, link arms, and block the entrance while waiting for more people. There were more than enough students to fill up the physical space that stretches across the road. A few minutes later, several student organizers arrived with food and beverages, more protest signs, megaphones, and the larger banners that students held all day.

There were some categories of drivers who were allowed to enter campus. When approaching the picket line in their cars, Health Services staff members presented their work identification cards and showed flyers printed up with large crosses and the statement "PLEASE ALLOW TO PASS." Likewise, those living in student family housing were admitted to campus quickly when presenting their identification.

Many requests to enter campus were put to a vote by those on the picket line. Some of those who were allowed to enter after a vote included a student bringing their friend medication for pneumonia, a man who was over 90 who couldn't walk inside, a student who rented a Zipcar who said he would be charged an additional $50 dollars if he didn't get on campus to return the vehicle, and the wife and children of the Crown Provost.

Students eventually voted to concluded the shut down at 5pm and march to the base of campus. Those blocking the West side of the school were met by those blocking the East side, and together they stood across High Street to watch a performance by the cast of "The Congressladies," who had canceled their performance scheduled on campus for that evening to honor the strike.

After the performance concluded, and evening fell, the group of demonstrators dispersed with some encouragement from Sgt. Bush of the Santa Cruz Police Department.

There were about a dozen various police officers, including UCSC Chief of Police Nader Oweis, on scene at the base of campus near the end of the shut down. Although there were literally scores of University of California riot police ready and waiting who had been brought in from the Bay Area for the week, they were never deployed, and all day there was only a minimal police presence anywhere near the picket lines.

Student protests have been held continuously at UCSC since November of 2014, when the University of California Regents voted to increase tuition by more than 25% over the next five years.

Organizers described the purpose of the 96 Hours of Action in an event announcement:

"This is a call to action for students of all Universities, Community Colleges, High Schools, Middle Schools past, present, and future to stand up for free public education and shut down the racist, classist, corporate, militarized police state. The same people benefiting from racial oppression are the same people benefiting from education debts. The state of California is failing its people by investing in police and prisons instead of public education. It's time to reject this assault on our communities and stand together for education and the end of police violence.

"Stand with your California's students to demand a free, non-oppressive, non-corporate education. We call upon your collective voices and bodies to end this state-sponsored violence against black and brown individuals, end this war against low-income communities, shut down the school-to-prison pipeline, and prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS! STUDENTS OVER SUITS!"

The West Entrance at sunrise.

Blocking Coolidge Dr. on the East Side of campus.

Blocking the corner of Coolidge and Heller.

A Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) student distributes vegan food.

Marching from the West Entrance to the base of campus at 5pm.

Blocking High Street at the base of campus.

The cast of "The Congressladies."

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