The following was written about the student action that held Mrak Hall, the headquarters of the UC Davis administrative apparatus, which began on the afternoon of Tuesday the 15th and lasted until 30+ police officers evicted the student encampment. Part of this document was read at the student rally called on the 17th in response to police violence and the privatization of the university:
When the hopeful, defiant phrase “We are winning” echoed across the quad earlier this week, many of us found these words confusing, even to the point of frustration: “We’re winning”? How can we be winning when the latest proposed tuition hikes would bring student fees to a staggering $22,000 and many millions more in budget cuts? How can we be winning when the efforts of fellow students and activists are met with brutal police violence and repression, authorized by their own administration? And what is to be won here?
The answer to the latter question only begins to become clear when we retrace the events of the last few days, charting the displays of unity and force we have seen at Davis as well as universities, plazas, and occupations across the California. We are winning. The warning shot came this past Tuesday, when as many as 1,500 students, faculty and community members attended a solidarity rally and teach-in called in response to the repression, violence, and arrests that met UC Berkeley students as they tried to attempted to occupy and reclaim their campus.
Among the many vitally important messages from that afternoon was that the university is not “cut off” from the rest of the world and larger political situations, such as the occupations occurring in at Central Park, Oakland, New York, and across the country. Our struggle against police brutality and the destruction and privatization of the public university finds affinities with the larger movement against the social structures built on economic inequality and violence. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the realization that such political situations themselves are not beyond our control, regardless of their scope. The seizing of Mrak Hall, was not a merely symbolic gesture, not an impossible statement tinged by doubt or timidity.
In an act of brazen political resistance, in which We meant us, UC Davis students stormed Mrak Hall—the nucleus of an administration that colludes in the looting of our university, earning more and growing larger on the backs of Us, as it smothers dissent with swift force of police violence. On Tuesday we fought back, emphatically and hoarsely shouting “Enough”! We did not demand anything, knowing that what we came for could be taken but not given, as we flooded into the space where the decisions concerning our collective present and future are made. These are decisions concerning our learning conditions, concerning how much more debt we will put up with, and even concerning the health and safety of our fellow students as we fight to change a system that has grown intolerable and untenable.
And there we stayed: we did not even consider the orders, surveillance, or paternalistic demands of the Davis admin. We formed a GA through which we made our own decisions concerning our future and our safety; we found shelter on our own terms; we fed, supported, and looked after each other. It became clear that the process of affirming we—asserting our collective strength, solidarity, and agency—and winning are in fact two sides of the same coin, digits on the same clenched fist.
And it is precisely in the moments when we are at out strongest that the structures of power and its odious, business-suit clad human form become most anxious, sensing that they themselves are now the ones whose future is threatened. It is this structural insecurity that lead to the administration to send thirty fully armed police officers, several decked out in full riot gear, to evict around twenty peaceful student protestors from an office building. It bears repeating that this parade of deadly force is neither exceptional nor inconsequential: a year ago a panicking UC officer pulled a gun and threatened a group of unarmed students in San Francisco, yesterday an undergraduate student in Berkeley was killed under circumstances that remain unexplained and dubious. Of course, the events themselves began in solidarity with student activists and professors who were brutalized and arrested while linking arms to protect their encampment on Sproul Plaza.
Paradoxically, the closer we get to victory, the more contested the process of “winning” will appear; the more our political opponents will try to dissolve our solidarity through intimidation and divisive tactics that undermine our cause. But the events at Mrak Hall and statewide protests have shown that we know the both the means and the terms of what is to be won: using our bodies we are reclaiming public space, we are resisting the efforts of the admin to assert their power over us through intimidation. We are winning. To reiterate, this victory cannot be demanded, it can only be taken through sustained, collective action on the part of US.
When the existing channels of representation and dissent have failed us, as the actions of the UC regents and local administration have repeatedly shown, we have no alternative but to act in collective solidarity and represent ourselves. This may mean having to confront the unexpected and the unforeseeable, but we will do so on our terms, for our own future, safety, and communities as students. This is “what” we are winning. We hope more of you continue to join us in the ongoing struggle as we continue to take back the university of California in the larger fight against social inequality.