My friends need your help.
Most of you are undoubtedly familiar with the indelible images of Lt. Pike pepper-spraying nonviolent, seated students protesting on the Quad at University of California, Davis last fall. The Reynoso report on that attack has just come out, and is indeed damning at all levels, from the criminally brutal behavior of the UCD police department, to the illegal orders of Chancellor Katehi, Vice Chancellor Meyer, and other senior administrators to clear the quad of tents and people (for absurdly uninformed fever dreams about outside agitators, sex and drugs), to the way that noone listened to Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro when she cautioned against hasty or uninformed police action. But events did not stop on that day, neither in terms of student activism nor administration attacks on student protesters. I am writing to ask you for your attention, and your help in defending my friends and classmates - the Davis "Banker's Dozen" - from another attack, this time legal and financial instead of physical.
Sometimes it is easy to forget why the protests began, with all of the attention their repression has gotten. The original campus occupations at Berkeley and UCD were a continuation of an earlier round of protests in 2009 against the privatization of the UC system and public higher education in the state of California, which was similarly put down with police violence, and which was similarly buried with a drawn-out "investigation" that ran out the clock until summer break. The police violence, then and now, was meant to change the discussion away from the privatization of the UC, and to scare students away from direct action, from resistance to the betrayal of the California Dream, spelled out in the 1960 master plan on education, which guaranteed that any California high school graduate with the grades should be able to get a free world-class education.
While the media focus moved on, the same students who were pepper-sprayed on the Quad resolved to continue protesting privatization, this time by nonviolently protesting the US Bank branch on campus. US Bank had swung a deal with the UCD administration to get space in the student union building, plus the right to issue student ID cards, in exchange for paying money to the administration for every new student account opened. It is a symbol of the creeping privatization of public space, and so students decided to protest it. For months, they protested, and campus police stopped by and took notes on who was there, and who were the leaders, but did nothing. Not a person was harmed, not a window was broken; as with other UCD protests, it was a remarkably well organized affair. Eventually, US Bank decided to shut the branch, and threatened to sue UCD for not guaranteeing it better business, and for not using the UCDPD to prevent protests.
Then out of nowhere, the University asked Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig (a rare elected conservative Republican in generally Democratic Yolo County) to throw the book at twelve protesters - undergrads, graduate students, and a professor, several of them victims of the pepper spray attack - retroactively charging them with up to 11 years in prison and a collective fine over a million dollars, for 20 counts of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy to commit misdemeanors. These charges are intended to punish students for protesting, they are intended to scare off other students from risking similar punishment, and I suspect they are being used as leverage to get pepper spray victims from continuing with their ACLU suit against the university for police brutality. These charges come with restraining orders preventing these students from being on campus except to attend class (but not go to the library, for example), and if they stick the jail time, fines, and disruption of their studies will be ruinous to their education and lives.
This is violence by other means, different from the illegal pepper spraying only in terms of tactics, and if we stand by and watch, the university will be rewarded for its violence. The good news is, there are things you can do to help:
1. Sign the davis dozen petition calling upon DA Reisig to drop the charges.
2. Call, write or text the DA and Chancellor Katehi, urging them to drop the charges.
3. Support them at their arraignment on Friday 27 April, 2012 8:30 a.m.
Yolo County Superior Court, Dept. 9
213 Third Street
Woodland, CA 95695
4. Go to a reading/dance party/raffle/fundraiser this Friday in Davis at 239 3rd Street, from 7:30-late. Readings by Anna Joy Springer (author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love: a Fabulist Memoir & The Birdwisher; former singer for Blatz; former member of Sister Spit; professor at UC San Diego), Tisa Bryant (author of Unexplained Presence) and Doug Rice (author of The Blood of Mugwump, Skin Prayer, and more!) from fig+axle, music by DJs Art, Mr. Glass and Straight Nasty, plus selling used clothing and raffling lots of fun stuff.
5. If you're not in town but want to help defray the legal fees, they have a legal fund as well.
This has not gotten anywhere the attention or public outrage that the pepper spraying has, but it stands to devastate these students far more in the long run if we do not all stand with them in solidarity. Political protest should not be criminalized, and the UCD administration must stop using threats and force on the student body. Please do what you can, the DA's decision will be Friday after next, so time is of the essence.