Monday, November 21, 2011

UC Davis, Political Violence on Campus and the Occupy Movement

Universities are not places for police actions, and the intimidation used by police on peaceful protests. Universities are no violence zones. Period. End of story. I'm sorry, but call me old-fashioned. Weapons do not belong where the mind should have free reign. This means that violence of any sort is intolerable and wrong. Universities are about seeking out the truth and asking questions. The point of a university is never to be a place that condones violence. When the Chancellor Linda Zatehi condoned and ordered the removal of peaceful protesters at UC Davis, she violated the sanctity of the university. I am not surprised at the least, however. The Administrators of our universities are often scholars that couldn't hack it.

Now let's not be fooled. The Occupy Movement is so named since it is a form of civil disobedience that disrupts the cohesiveness of a public space's meaning. It seeks to appropriate that space, to re-invent its original function and re-integrate that space into an interrogation of the de facto meaning the space originally held. In this way, the Occupy movement seeks a transformation of a space as part of its protest. It is a disruption of the original status-quo, and calls attention to the specific problems and challenges facing America. As such, it is a new form of civil disobedience. It is a call to self-interrogation inasmuch as it might highlight or specify its claims.

Within the occupation, there is no violence. It plays on the ambiguity by calling for transformation by occupying, but occupying with irony. Usually, the term occupying is completely disruptive in that occupiers are the leftover of some invading force--"the boots on the ground" keeping steady the peace after some war. Here, they are occupying not through violence, but by locking arms, holding working groups and sharing ideas so that something may foment, come to the surface and radiate outward. It is a call for social transformation without much design; it is an organic dialogue that moves about in its own way like an infant learning to take its first step. Eventually, it will take form, mature and make demands. But part of its inability to be co-opted by the larger discourses is an enactment of political refusal. The Occupying movement is a movement actual commitment since so many times before the partisan discourses seek to integrate populist movements into itself and play off that political energy. Here, the political refusal is a resistance, a civil disobedient form itself. In that regard, it is very clever; it is neither Democratic or Republican. Though, I wonder how long before the possibility of the Occupy Movement becomes a New Left and integrates itself into the populist movement to reelect President Obama. Time will only tell, though I digress.

As a form of peaceful resistance, the system will lash back. There will be arrests, perhaps violence as we saw, and the integrity of the university will be far from the police officer's mind. However, it should never be far from the mind of a Chancellor that calls for the intolerance of peaceful protesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have two sad examples of this happening here in Brazil: 1) the occupation of the rectory of USP (Univ. of São Paulo) and 2) occupation of the rectory of UNIR (Univ. of Rondônia); the first one major and well known, the second almost totally forgotten (even by local media).

In both cases, the police removed the protesters with violence, caring little with what they were saying, what they where protesting for. Teachers who got involved were arrested simply because they want to talk with the officers and maintain the peaceful debate. Each occupation was motiveted by the request for justification regarding investments sent to the universities that have never appeared (both are federal universities, and recently were receiving lots of money from the goverment).

Unfortunately, the great-media portrayed the case only listening to the police, which spread through the public the idea that they were only bums and complainers students who did not want to study... and, as usual over here, the fascist behaviour predominates.