18 Hours Inside Carter-Huggins Hall

by

submitted to us by someone from the UCLA occupation:

At 12:15 Wednesday night, a group of students representing various UC
and CSU campuses decided that enough is enough, and took over Campbell
Hall on the UCLA campus.  Campbell Hall was chosen because of its
historical significance as the site of the murder of two Black Panthers,
Bunchy Carter and John Huggins.  We renamed the building Carter-Huggins
Hall.

We had a brief altercation with two workers who had trouble freeing
themselves from the habit of working, but they soon left and we were
able to secure all entrances to the building.  A large number of
supporters came soon after and camped out in front of the doors.  The
night was largely uneventful, though we made use of our time to
requisition necessary supplies such as a boom box, a coffee maker,
internet access, and a copy machine.  We also took one of the first
actions on the UCLA campus to create the university and society we want
to see, by tearing down all hegemonic bathroom signs, leaving them
gender-neutral.

Thursday morning saw our first opposition, though it was quickly turned
into support.  The director of one of the student services housed in
Campbell Hall came to the door asking to come in.  After explaining to
him that the building would remain open to students and the importance
of action that day, he decided he would stay outside and talk with
students and staff that happened by, and volunteered to mediate with
police if any problems arose.  I think that the interactions he had with
students that day, about the occupation and out in the clear blue sky,
were more productive than anything he could have done in his office.
Other faculty, still trapped in the zombie-like mindset where they try
to continue with their lives, actually tried to break the barricades on
an internal stairwell which still had outside access.  But our
barricades held fast, and entrance to Carter-Huggins Hall remained
entirely under our control for the duration of the occupation.  Perhaps
to my disappointment, our mid-hallway bike rack never any action, though
I hope it took the police a good hour to figure out how to remove it.

We also had a barrage of vultures, especially paparazzi photographers
who filmed us as if we were zoo animals hiding in an exhibit.  We saw
camera flashes coming from every little opening in the barricades.  One
of the high points, which further escalated the euphoria we felt inside
the autonomous education zone, was the peep show Guy Fawkes did for an
LA Times photographer.  We also experienced countless journalists who
felt they had a divine right, as carriers of “truth,” to come inside the
barricades, conduct interviews, or have photo shoots with the
occupiers.  Outside society is embedded in the Spectacle, but to
liberate ourselves we had to keep out those ruthless brokers of Spectacle.

As we followed the news of the protests outside Covel Commons, where the
UC Regents were meeting, what was most striking was the fact that the
most radical action that day was the most safe for undocumented and
queer/trans students.  We had near-absolute control over entrances and
were even able to enter and exit freely, yet those students on the other
side of campus were beaten, tased, tear gassed, and arrested for only
begging for their liberal rights to free expression and reinforcement of
social hierarchy.

We are truly indebted to those supporters who spent the night out in the
cold, who brought us food, and who continue to support our actions even
despite minimal criticism.  Without them, the occupation would not have
been possible, and clearly their role was much more dangerous than our own.

One supporter in particular, a woman named Linda, continues to stand
out.  She came to the doors Thursday in the early afternoon, asking if
we needed anything.  We were already set with food and water.  As she
began thanking us, she began crying.  Whether we were able to inspire
her to act in accordance with her own needs and desires, she inspired
all of us inside the building to keep fighting and struggling for a free
society.

At 7:00pm, after opening the building up to a large crowd of students,
we vacated the building on our own terms, without a single arrest or injury.

There were just as many things which we did right as we did wrong.  For
our first attempt at occupation, working with the circumstances which we
were given, the occupation was beautiful.  But for next time, there is
much to be improved upon.  I offer these friendly criticisms merely as
suggestions for ways we can have an even more successful occupation in
the future.

The location of Campbell Hall was problematic for many reasons.  First,
while we understood the extent of services offered within the building
and sought to further liberate them, that is to put them under further
student control, a simple occurrence prevented this from becoming a
reality: all of the doors were locked, save for just a few which we were
able to unlock due to some fortunate circumstances.  Had we held the
space for another day, we likely could have negotiated with
administrators to open conference rooms up for peer advising and
tutoring, but on Thursday this was impractical.  Second, we did not do a
good enough job of opening the space up to students.  We simply lacked
in our communication with the outside world.  This is partly due to a
lack of activities inside the space, the location of our entrance, and
uneasiness among students about the security of the space.  Keeping the
front glass doors open, rather than a 3rd floor door would have made a
world of difference (although let me say that French-style chair locks
are the greatest thing ever for porous door-locking); this was a
security concern though.  Finally, a few public windows or an open and
controlled balcony are also helpful.  The architecture of the building
made this difficult, as doors were locked and the external stairwell
could have been barricaded though not thoroughly secured.

Some things were unavoidable.  Nothing can be done about the Cynthias,
those blood-sucking student-bureaucrats who feast on the energy of
dissent until they have sucked the life out of every student on every
campus.  These vampires are not constrained by ideology and were found
among moderates, activists, and “socialists” (i.e. dogmatic
state-capitalists of the various Leninist cults).  In the case of this
particular Cynthia, she quickly shot herself in the foot with her rabid
authoritarianism, and if anything pushed more students into supporting
us.  Sometimes we are required to deal with the Cynthias that confront
us, but sometimes they self-implode to our benefit.  In any case, we
know that students hate authority and need autonomous projects.

We saw the past tense of the student movement at Covel Commons,
confronting the fallout of the university crisis; and the future tense
at Carter-Huggins Hall, constructing liberated spaces and communist
community within the shell of the old society.  Now that the votes have
been finalized, it is time for us all to turn our gaze to the future,
and begin to expropriate all that has been taken from us.

One Response to “18 Hours Inside Carter-Huggins Hall”

  1. anonymous Says:

    great analysis.
    get this out there!
    solidarity!

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