University of California, Santa Cruz
11:00 a.m., November 22, 2009
UCSC student occupiers of Kerr Hall successfully escape arrest during confrontation with police
Earlier this morning, UCSC administrators called riot police to the campus to forcibly end the students’ peaceful occupation of Kerr Hall, the central administration building on campus. The students had been occupying the building to express their anger over the UC Regents’ recent vote to raise tuition by an unprecedented 32%. The escalation and resort to police intervention was a surprise to many, including some faculty members who had attended an Academic Senate meeting on Thursday with Chancellor Blumenthal and Provost Kliger.
Student negotiators appealed for nearly eight hours on Saturday to Blumenthal and Kliger to concede to a single demand of the occupiers, to no avail—the campus leaders refused to take seriously the concerns of students who face incredible financial stress as the cost of their public education will make it impossible for some to continue their studies and graduate. It was after discussions ended on Saturday evening that administrators decided to resort to the blunt use of violence to clear the occupiers from Kerr Hall. In what can only be interpreted as an attempt to secure the element of surprise, the administration created an atmosphere of terror inside Kerr Hall and amongst concerned students, faculty, and workers gathered outside all night long by informing the students that the police could arrive at any moment.
Early Sunday morning, Chancellor Blumenthal and Provost Kliger turned the campus into an effective police state by stationing riot police at all entrances to refuse entry to everyone. In a blatant attempt to create a media blackout as they prepared for the police attack, even a Santa Cruz Sentinel photographer was refused access to the campus for some time. (They had already cut cruznet service, the campus wifi system, in the Kerr Hall area.)
At one point during the confrontation, students and neutral faculty observers were cornered by riot police on an outdoor balcony. As the police advanced towards the students and faculty, one faculty member fell from the balcony, injuring his back. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The student occupiers are very concerned about the well-being of the faculty member and denounce the administration’s use of force that caused his injury.
The police cleared the entry leading to Kerr Hall by pushing through the outdoor crowd, at times striking students in the chest with their clubs. Upon entering the lobby of Kerr Hall, they issued an ultimatum to students that they could leave peacefully and be arrested one-by-one outside. The students refused this outright. The police backed-off and offered to let the students leave without arrest through a rear entry to Kerr Hall; this offer was accepted immediately by the occupiers, who cleared out of the building at this moment.
Over 75 students have already volunteered to help clean the space in Kerr Hall that was occupied; there are concerns, however, that the University will refuse this offer in order to exaggerate costs associated with the occupation.