Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy UC Davis Rally, Noon On The Quad, November 21, 2011

I had to participate in a workplace conference call in Sacramento at 11 a.m., but it ended earlier than I expected, so I had enough time to catch much of the noontime rally at the Quad on the University of California, Davis (UCD) campus.

Things have been pretty much in an uproar at UCD since Friday, when UC Davis cops casually hosed down protesters with pepper spray in an astonishing display of police violence. Videos went viral worldwide. Calls for UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi's resignation have been resounding since then.

Chancellor Katehi was scheduled to speak at the rally too, which made it even more interesting, since I couldn't figure out how she would resist the resignation calls and still maintain her dignity. Very unlike life in places like the UK, where officials resign all the time for transgressions big and small, and sometimes for no transgressions at all, but for points of honor.

In American public life, officials almost never resign, no matter how odious their conduct. Resignation is akin to annihilation. People never, ever resign willingly, ever! So, what would Katehi do?

As it happened, I was standing not far from the speaker's stand, when Chancellor Katehi quietly sidled up close: not more than twelve feet away. As time passed, and her speaking time approached, more and more photographers from the news media clustered around to take photos. So, I had an unusual vantage point at this rally: able to see her, the speakers, and the crowd virtually simultaneously....

Various speakers who had been either arrested or pepper-sprayed on Friday spoke about their tribulations.

As an introduction to Chancellor Katehi's speech, very popular (and Untenured) Assistant Professor of English Nathan Brown roasted and vigorously-dissected Chancellor Katehi's recent public proclamations, analyzing and disparaging her blame-shifting and flights of fancy. People leaned in to capture pictures of Katehi's reactions. Calls of "Resign!" filled the air.

As it happened, my camera's memory filled to the brim just as Katehi started speaking, so I have no record of that, but it hardly matters. Her speech was so anticlimactic, even pathetic, that it made me wonder if she is just a figurehead for the real power at UCD, which might very well reside in its police forces.

Chancellor Katehi apologized to the students, in a fashion. Quoting from here:
“I am here to apologize,” she said. “I feel horrible. I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday.”
Sounds like an easy-to-remedy problem there! Resign! Just resign! I started shouting "Resign!" along with many others.

But Katehi did not resign. Instead, she declared her willingness to dialog with students, and to get to know the students better, for which there would be more opportunities over the next several weeks. Then she made a feeble effort to assert solidarity with the students. "Do you know that plaque over there?" she asked, while pointing vaguely northwards. "November 17, 1973. I was there!"

I'm not familiar with the history of UCD: presumably the plaque in question honored a past demonstration? So, it was time to check around.

Cloudminder indicates that it was the Athens Polytechnic Uprising: not a UCD demonstration. Which just begs the question, why would UCD students give Katehi 'street cred' for the martyrs of 11/17/73, when there were more-immediate near-martyrs available, standing right in front of everyone, for 11/18/11? The disconnect was painful to witness!

And that was that! Afterwards, more speakers spoke, and the Occupy UCD organizers got down to the more quotidian (but essential) business of passing resolutions, including a demand to disband the UCD Police Force.

How does Katehi recover from this? Respect, once totally lost, is very hard to gain back.

I'm impressed by the organization of the Occupy UC Davis protesters. They are coordinating closely with their counterparts in Oakland and Berkeley, so there is fertile sharing of experience. The emergence of cell phone and Internet technology over the last two decades, and creative use of older methods (e.g., the 'human microphone'), enables much-tighter control over large audiences than protesters in the Sixties were able to manage. Less time wasted too. Even new protest lingo is emerging (e.g., 'stack', for the list of speakers).

The best to them!

Various protesters who were pepper-sprayed on Friday, or arrested, or both, testify about their painful experiences.

Capturing the moment on an i-Pad.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi quietly arrives with her security detail.

A veteran who was pepper-sprayed too.

Pepper-sprayed in Palestine, and pepper-sprayed in Davis too!

More testifying.

This is the Occupy protester who suffered the nerve damage to his left hand (clearly visible). Quoting from Boing-Boing:
They handcuffed the students so tightly. One kid, later on they were unable to cut off his ties, they'd been tied so tight. One of the other students couldn't feel his hands they were so purple, his circulation was cut off so badly for so long. He took himself to the hospital after he was released from the zip-tie restraints. They told him he had nerve damage and not to expect to be able to feel his hands for the next week. He has to come back next week to see if there was permanent nerve damage in his wrists.

And yet more testifying!

As an introduction to Chancellor Katehi's speech, very popular (and Untenured) Assistant Professor of English Nathan Brown excoriated Chancellor Katehi's recent public proclamations, and analyzed her blame-shifting and evasions.

The heat is on.

I was mystified by this balloon. I understand that Occupy UC Berkeley is using balloons to float tents above Sproul Hall, in order to creatively evade anti-camping rules. Is something like that being considered here as well?

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