On Jan. 6, we all witnessed a horrific event unfold on the news. Thousands of people who “disagreed” with the election results marched to the Capitol with violent intent. Armed with zip ties, nooses, metal batons, firearms, and stun guns, they pushed past the “thin blue line” they held so dear and stormed the Capitol. They wore symbols of extremism, from the Oath Keepers to the Proud Boys to the Confederacy. Their objective was clear: stop the peaceful transition of power at the bedrock of our democracy.
Anyone watching could see the stark contrast between police preparation, presence, and behavior regarding white rioters versus Black Lives Matter protesters. During the Capitol attack, we saw disturbing footage of police taking selfies with rioters and even letting them into the building. On the other hand, over the summer, police barricaded, kettled, clubbed, tazed, pepper sprayed, and shot unarmed protestors.
On our own campus and UCs across the state, we saw police violently suppress labor strikes last winter. UCSC students were beaten with batons and 17 of them were arrested. The incident was picked up by local papers and the Washington Post. Right now, a student is suing the campus police department for police misconduct during the labor strikes.
Police have long been called upon to break strikes, protect private property, quell protests, and suppress dissent on the left. In contrast, police have shown again and again that they are incapable of protecting people against right-wing violence because they believe in and uphold white supremacy every day.
Replacing the campus police chief, increasing diversity on the force, and any other small reforms our administration is considering will never be enough. Activists have long said this and it is time we listen and organize for transformative change.
I’m calling on UC president Michael Drake and Chancellor Cynthia Laverne to defund our campus police department. Defunding is a policy proposal that, at its core, recognizes that policing should not be a response to everything, and accordingly reduces bloated police budgets and revinests in programs that serve the community. I am one student among many other UCSC students and faculty who are calling for police divestment. At a time when our university is facing a budget crisis because of the pandemic, we should cut the budgets of those departments that no longer serve the interests of our community, namely the campus police.
– Janhavi Damerla
Damerla has recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Legal Studies and Literature. Currently, they volunteer with the Grassroots Law Project and the Humane Society. In their free time, they enjoy watching independent films and writing poetry.