United States: Student and staff strikes spread

December 2, 2009

Nearly 2000 students from University of California campuses — including Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Irvine and San Diego — converged on UCLA's campus on November 19 to confront the UC Board of Regents as it voted to increase tuition by 32% next school year.

Several hundred students surrounded the regents' meeting, chanting, "UC regents, I see racists!" and "Lay off Yudof", referring to UC President Mark Yudof.

Workers and students disrupted the meeting, and 14 people were arrested, as large numbers of police lined up to defend the regents.

California Highway Patrol officers were even brought on campus for crowd control. Three Black students were reportedly Tasered in altercations with campus police.

After the regents voted for the fee hike, students held a die-in, blocking the busy intersection of Wilshire and Westwood for several minutes.

But protests began earlier in the day, even before the sun came up, when around 30 students occupied Campbell Hall with a banner reading, "In solidarity with university occupations everywhere".

The action came in the middle of a three-day tertiary system-wide protest, anchored around a strike by members of the University Professional and Technical Employees union at UCLA and UC Berkeley.

On November 18, about 500 students, faculty and staff blockaded the main entrances to UC Santa Cruz. More than 150 students occupied Kresge Town Hall in solidarity with the actions in LA.

On November 19, the Clark Kerr administration building was occupied.

At UC Berkeley, two busloads of students from the UC Davis campus joined more than 2000 Berkeley students, staff and faculty at a march to send off a bus caravan to join the protests at UCLA.

Later in the day, about 200 students occupied a building at UC Davis, and police threatened mass arrests late in the night on November 19.

At Berkeley, in an ominous development, police charged a student for "incitement to riot", which could be a felony charge — and they moved aggressively to break up an attempted occupation of the Engineering Library.

Police also threatened students with arrest if they erected a tent city in historic Sproul Plaza, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s.

The police even shut down a planned teach-in in the Bear's Lair — a campus cafe — on the grounds that the students were not authorised to use the cafeteria for the purposes of an educational event.

In response, students on the strike planning committee issued an emergency call for a march to the UC police department on November 20 to oppose police intimidation.

Action also spread beyond the UCs, as around 100 students at San Francisco State University occupied the administration building for the afternoon, disrupting campus business.

Nearby, more than 500 students at City College of San Francisco marched through the campus before confronting the vice chancellor to demand that the administration support the call for a March 4 statewide strike to defend public education.

The regents' vote is certainly a defeat for the movement to defend public education. But the statewide response shows that the movement is growing — and points to a large mobilisation for the March 4 statewide strike and day of action to defend public education.

[Abridged from www.socialistworker.org.]

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