ain’t no power…

Onlookers behind police barricades outside of Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus.

I feel somehow validated as a UC Berkeley student now that I have legimiately run from police violence during a protest. Even though I wasn’t protesting. And in fact it was only a brief moment that I feared for my safety. When SWAT officers charged through a chain of students locking elbows around Wheeler Hall, I was standing a little too close when the batons came out.

Yesterday morning, a group of 40 UC Berkeley students climbed through an open window of the campus’s Wheeler Hall (The English Department) and claimed the building as part of the ongoing protest against 45% (OUCH!) increase in UC tuition that will happen last year. With Wheeler under siege, thousands of students where unable to attend class. In an annoying strategy to force all us disaffected science students out of the classrooms, protesters pulled the fire alarms in several campus buildings, including Leconte and Evans (the physics and math departments, respectively). That didn’t stop some professors, who began to chalk on the sides of the building in order to continue teaching:

Yes. That is some linear algebra on the outside of Evans. Math lives on—rain or shine or protest.

I didn’t protest because I have a hard a time striking against something that I am paying for, like my education. Also, as a journalist my employer forbids me from having any sort of expressed political opinion (neutrality of the press, or something like it, apparently also applies to theater writers). Nonetheless, here are my observations on the ordeal.

1. Mob mentality is a frightening, powerful thing, and is maddeningly easy to be swept up into. It makes people angry, giddy, and easily manipulated. A girl in leggings an UGG boots clasping a freshly ordered latte walking briskly in the crowd rounding the building on her cell phone, smiling: “the SWAT is going around the other side, let’s go!”

2. As police in riot gear marched toward Wheeler, student protesters shouted at them “Shame on You! Shame on you!” and spat in their direction. I couldn’t help but feel that this exchange was unwarranted. After all, the police were just doing what they have been trained to do (their jobs). There were violent actions on both sides, and the occupation of Wheeler was illegal. Where then, does shame lie? On the protesters? On the officers? On the UC Regents? On the entire system?

3. Sometimes, protests ironically make it easy to lose sight of what you are protesting against. It is the same phenomenon as repeating the same word over and over again until it is just a sound, meaningless.

4. Just curious: What gives Ananya Roy the position of all-powerfull mediator/savior/Christ figure? And, if she is Christ, when will she save us?

5. A man with gray hair and bongo drums sits in the middle of the Wheeler crowd, playing passionately. What does he have to do with the fact that student fees are being increased, department resources are being cut, and employees are losing their jobs? Most likely: absolutely nothing. Protests attract the fringe.

6. Student fee increases will suck. For everyone. What can we do, alternatively?

Running from the police

He’s not wearing shoes. Classic.

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One Response to “ain’t no power…”

  1. Shirley Lei Says:

    Well written My dear Arielle.

    Whether I agree with all points is besides the point. The fact that you made any observations and expressed them is what caught my attention. I don’t think many people even gave much thought to the situation. As you said, they were easily caught up in the moment. Joining the crowd. Misplacing some of their anger. Legitimate misplaced anger.

    Hope you are well. I miss you.

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