By Leah Bartos
In the aftermath of last week’s boisterous demonstration of the UC Regents’ visit to UC Santa Cruz, some protest participants are questioning the effectiveness of their action.
On Wednesday Oct. 18, about 150 students and staff protested outside the new Humanities building, eventually resulting in police arresting three students and using pepper spray to quell the surging crowds. In what became a three-hour face off between police and protestors, the Regents, various administrators, and reporters were consequently trapped inside the building until being escorted out by officers in full riot gear.
But some protestors fear that the Regents never heard their message.
"I don’t think they had any idea what we were there to protest," said Dana Trocker, a fourth-year student who attended the protest. "They heard us on some level, but the fact that they heard us as a violent force is too bad, because we’re not."
Students protested on a range of platforms, including increases in student fees, cuts to academic programs, a lack of diversity on campus, and UC management and development of nuclear arms.
Trocker joined about 20 students gathered at the Quarry Plaza the day after the protest to speak out against violent tactics of both police and protestors, which she says obscured the purpose of the action.
"In my opinion, the violence spoke really loudly," Trocker said. "While most of us were there to be nonviolent, the few that were there to be violent ended up speaking for the rest of us."
Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal says that he supports student protest in spirit, but the violence and verbal abuse was unacceptable.
"I actually don’t have a problem with people expressing their views as long as it’s consistent with safety," Blumenthal said.Steve Stormoen, a student protestor who is being charged for disrupting a public meeting and resisting arrest, said that he was arrested "doing a completely nonviolent thing."
"I did not go to the action to be arrested," Stormoen said. "If my being arrested and my friends getting a face full of pepper spray is what it takes to voice that student protest is being ignored by officials of this campus, then that spells out a sad state of affairs for a university that prides itself on critical thinking, questioning paradigm and free speech."
However, campus officials maintain that the police action was justified.
"The administration believes the police acted with professionalism and a great deal of patience, as some members of the crowd yelled at them, spit on them, and threw fruit at them during the course of the protest," campus spokesperson Jim Burns told City on a Hill Press via email.
But student protestor Allete Kendrick, who is facing three felony charges of battery against a police officer, says that her arrest was illegitimate.
"I’m being charged with battery of a police officer, but as far as I’m concerned, it was the other way around," Kendrick said. "I was targeted because I’m a woman of color. And I got beat up and more charges than everyone else because I’m a woman of color."In response to protestors’ allegations of police brutality and arbitrary arrests, Burns said, "The police acted without prejudice in determining which protesters to arrest. The three individuals were arrested as a result of behaviors that were perceived to be violations of law."
Students have begun to circulate a petition to have the charges against the protestors dropped, which they plan to present to the UCSC administration. Although the District Attorney’s Office, not the Chancellor’s Office, makes decisions about prosecuting individuals arrested in Santa Cruz County, those circulating the petition say that it is an important tool for continuing dialog among the student body about last week’s protest.
This conversation, according to Trocker, is especially important in the context of what she calls "skewed publicity" surrounding the protest.
"I’ve been circulating the petitions because it’s a way to open a forum to talk to students who were not there," she said. "Not only am I trying to help our friends who were arrested, but also it gives me a chance to converse with students."
And while the decision is ultimately that of the District Attorney, Burns said, "Given the behaviors exhibited by the three individuals arrested, the administration has no plans to intercede on their behalf."
Faye Crosby, chair of the Academic Senate, also expressed concern over the protestors’ behavior, which she said made her "grossly uncomfortable" and "embarrassed."
"They’re giving a bad impression of our school," Crosby said as she waited to be escorted out of the locked-down Humanities building during the protest.
Crosby, who is also a psychology professor, says that she encourages students to challenge authority in the classroom, but that the violent tactics of some protestors was an inappropriate way to voice these concerns.
"A strategy that shuts down conversation always seems bad to me," Crosby said.
Trocker, however, maintains that the Regents also did not seem open to receiving dialogue. "All of this could have been stopped if someone started a conversation."