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East Bay | Education & Student Activism

UC "Student Leaders" Sabotage Occupation of Wheeler Hall
by a disappointed student
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 11:31 AM
Last night, a concerted effort by self-appointed "student leaders," mostly from CalServe, successfully prevented a student occupation of Wheeler Hall.
Last night, a concerted effort by self-appointed "student leaders," mostly from CalServe, successfully prevented a student occupation of Wheeler Hall.

An occupation committee had prepared the logistics for the occupation of Wheeler Hall, and planned to bring a proposal to the so-called "general assembly" planned for 6pm. But moderators representing the official student leadership stepped in to impose a formal procedural structure that would prevent any and all political action following on the heels of the successful walkout.

Bullying from the moderator led to a vote in favor of breakout discussion groups, which divided and weakened the energy that had been brought to the room. The occupation committee managed to move the general assembly to Wheeler Auditorium, but the "leaders" insisted rigidly on a reportback from every single breakout group, hearing every single proposal for letter-writing campaigns, for contacting our elected representatives, etc. When members of breakout groups suggested an occupation, this was placed as a proposal among many to be subjected to an eventual, meaningless vote, long after the time for doing so had come and gone.

At one point, a student managed to convince these "leaders" to allow the reading of the occupation statement issued by students at UC Santa Cruz. The crowd was visibly moved, and roared in support of the UCSC students, before chanting "Occupy! Occupy!" for several minutes. As the occupation committee sought an immediate vote, the self-imposed leadership insisted that the reportback procedure continue for a full hour more (yes, there was a vote, but both options led to the same continuation of procedure). The energy and momentum of the room was not respected, this was not democracy: it was proceduralism in an effort to prevent any strategy or tactic that the leadership disagreed with.

Members of the occupation committee began to secure the building with locks and chains (while leaving doors open for those who wished to leave), while continuing efforts to bring the proposal before the crowd, whose energy was now waning as a result of a thousand reportbacks.

This was when the real ugliness began. Ricardo Gomez of CalServe took the stage and began barking at the crowd, ironically seizing the bully pulpit to denounce the occupation effort as "undemocratic." What was undemocratic was the proceduralism of the leadership which refused to respect the will of the people present. Gomez knew what he was doing: he was consciously destroying the radical energy of the people gathered there. Rather than calling a vote on occupation, he pushed the gullible to tears by insinuating that they had been taken hostage when this was not the case. (These "leaders" were later seen snitching to police).

This was a disgusting and despicable case of the worst form of opportunism, the effects of which are only beginning to be felt.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Eric
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 1:00 PM
You may as well bow down to the police state that has you in check. You Bay Areans don't have what it takes to commit independent acts of sabotage. I thought there was a history or resistance to war, greed and oppression in the Bay Area!

That goes for all you college liberals who helped the police shutdown the UC occupation last night. Your pacifist demands won't change a godamn thing to stop the layoffs and tuition hikes. I got to say that being passive comes with being a privileged college liberal. Rather than unstoppable unbeatable empowered citizens running wild in the streets you have happy apathetic liberals walking passively in the streets.

You talk about revolution but when it comes down to it you really don't have what it takes to stand up. The French and everybody else in the world was right about America. Even under worst circumstances, the harshest state of affairs you will not abandon obedience to authority and for not rising up you deserve what ever treatment you get from the state and your capitalists oppressors.

Thanks a lot!
by ucb_gsi
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 2:56 PM
this is patently untrue. i was in wheeler, and the reason the occupation didn't happen was that some people in attendance decided to chain the doors without telling the crowd inside. the general assembly was still in session, with a long line of people waiting to come to the mic to discuss what actions to take next. the assembly had voted for this structure and procedure. some folks who were in favor of occupying wheeler apparently felt things were moving too slowly and decided to take matters into their own hands and begin locking doors. when the crowd heard that some of the doors were being locked without their consent, a significant number of them voiced their dissent and many left. the folks in favor a walkout totally over-played their hand and turned the crowd against themselves. had they been a little less macho and a little more patient they probably would have had their occupation.
by ucb_gsi
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 3:00 PM
"folks in favor a walkout"
should read:
"folks in favor an occupation"
by also there
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 3:24 PM
this is patently untrue. i was in wheeler, and the reason the occupation didn't happen was that some people in attendance decided to chain the doors without telling the crowd inside. the general assembly was still in session, with a long line of people waiting to come to the mic to discuss what actions to take next.

WRONG: the assembly had voted for this structure and procedure.

the meeting began in the caesar chavez student center, after the self appointed moderators (supposedly professional, but this was clearly not the case) decided that everyone would fit (we didn't).
they proposed the agenda and procedure, but didn't vote on it. the "professional" moderator actually said "this is how its going to be". then they proceeded to demonstrate their ineptitude as moderators until an hour had transpired and we got
kicked out of the building onto lower sproul. on lower sproul, they decide to CHANGE the agenda, that noone had voted on anyway, and move PAST the discussion of the days events and PAST the announcements section (there were several waiting) and INTO a group breakout. so they began the general assembly by breaking it up into 20 person groups. after this breakout session, they decided on their own to move the meeting to wheeler, after having been informed that people were talking about taking it over.

PERHAPS CORRECT: some folks who were in favor of occupying wheeler apparently felt things were moving too slowly and decided to take matters into their own hands and begin locking doors. when the crowd heard that some of the doors were being locked without their consent, a significant number of them voiced their dissent and many left. the folks in favor a walkout totally over-played their hand and turned the crowd against themselves. had they been a little less macho and a little more patient they probably would have had their occupation.

EXCEPT THAT: the crowd was stirred up by alarmist bullshit and denunciation from the podium. these same moderators 1) led the march off campus, engaged in sitins and traffic blocades, and marched into wheeler (intentionally, without a room reservation) declaring "its ours, were taking this shit". so technically the meeting was already an occupation. the moderators they did all of this undemocratically, very intentionally. for example, someone on lower sproul said to the "moderators" before they moved to wheeler should they put it to a quick vote. this suggestion was immediately contradicted, and they had a brief discussion to discuss where we would move to, and then announced the result to the crowd. but then when someone else tried to do something else a little undemocratically, they flipped out, proving that their problem was their lack of control over the process, and not the content.
by Student not part of Calserve
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 4:11 PM
An occupation is not locking the doors without the democratic consent of the people on the inside. I am not against occupations in principle as a tactic but when the decision is made by a small group of people (whomever just happened to carrying around chains that night) on behalf of everyone, it is probably the worst strategy to get support from people and its just not cool. Granted, they left one door open but by this point, most people were too hysterical to carry on any rational discussion and many of independent people not connected to any group just left. By virtue of this, a small group of people were able to sabotage any attempt to have a general assembly to figure out the next steps beyond the 24th.

Thanks guys.

An occupation is not locking the doors without the democratic consent of the people on the inside.

True enough. But the problem is that the moderators prevented any attempt to get the consent, or indeed dissent, of the assembly. At no time was anyone locked inside the building, or forced to take part in an occupation, without their consent. Some people did make preparations for a possible occupation by locking some (not all) of the doors. They did so, I think, in the belief that a) there was significant support for occupation in the assembly, and b) that the assembly would be able to make a collective decision as to whether to procede or not with an occupation.

The students who acted in favor of occupation can, perhaps, be faulted for failing to explain their positions, and actions, sufficiently to the rest of the assembly. But we shouldn't forget that the reason they weren't able to do so was because the moderators specifically prevented any discussion of moving to an occupation.

by disappointed
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 4:55 PM
1. we didn't have permission to be there, and the moderators had made a conscious decision to go there, despite having reserved another large room (in dwinelle). the moderators said as much when they took the stage. technically, the general assembly WAS occupying wheeler at the time the doors were locked.

2. the moderators had been notified previous to moving the assembly to wheeler that folks had been talking about occupying it. they had also been informed that people who were talking occupation wanted it to come up as an issue at the general assembly before any announcements were made so that people could have an opportunity to discuss the matter and decide.
by UCSC occupation support
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 5:27 PM
this whole thing sounds completely ridiculous. Everyone involved, though clearly intelligent and committed to their little micro-groups, should be called out for allowing such an inept process.
At UCSC there was no need for any of this bullshit: the folks that wanted to occupy the building went and did it, the folks that didn't want to occupy the building stood outside as support...
Then we started a dance party that went till 3 am. And the building is still occupied and the dance party starts up again at 9pm, right after a teach in that will fill the plaza with groups discussing what to do next.
by ucb student
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 5:51 PM
what was attempted at UCB was much more ambitious, a huge building with many doors, and many more people involved than at UCSC.

perhaps this was part of the problem, but you can't compare the two efforts
by capt. pugnacious
Friday Sep 25th, 2009 6:25 PM
Isn't that the beauty of direct action? Those that want to, do. Hopefully, some meaningful energy can be built up over the weekend and before Monday comes, have secured a building or two. We have everyone's attention, what are going to do with it? It only takes one to get the ball rolling. Just like it only takes one shot to make Athens burn.

The message should be made clear: what we demand is transparency; without it lies corruption. This is only the beginning, the most immediate threats to us as students come from the university... but we're not stopping there. This fight will go all the way to Sacramento, and hopefully like a million little fires burning down the forest, campuses from around the country will see the same direct actions–bringing the fight to the doorsteps of the White House and the Pentagon.

Our generation has inherited this shit-state from the generation before us. That generation has become the very problem their flowers and drugs tried to stop. Putting a daisy in the barrel of a gun does not make it benign–it still shoots and does. Smoking a joint doesn't stop corruption.

Bring out the heavy machinery. Don the black, cover your face, chain the doors, and send these mother fuckers a message in a bottle!



by @
Monday Sep 28th, 2009 11:22 AM
I wasn't there, so I cant comment on the general assembly, but, if you want to organize an occupation you need to actually ORGANIZE. You can't show up to a large meeting with just a handful of people expecting everyone to follow your lead. You must organize beforehand with the goal of occupation.

That is not to say that the 'leaders' of the walkout didn't undermine your plans (they probably did). Instead, they out organized you. Learn and prepare from it in the future.

¡NO PASARAN!
by A Participant
Monday Sep 28th, 2009 2:40 PM
This article is total BS. But it shows exactly what those who built the general assembly at Cal hope to change. The model of recent activism in the US has for the most part been: Some activists get together, decide everything, then try to get people to do it with them, no discussion, no debate, everything decided by the initiators of the action. People are only allowed to vote with their feet.

This is in fact the model that the "anarchists" who attempted to initiate a building occupation were following. But inside Wheeler hall, 200 people were intently following a discussion of what to do next, and preparing to vote, as a body, on the proposals they were working out.

The power of the General Assembly is to allow the undecided, the curious, the newly activated students and workers to discuss, debate, vote, and feel ownership of their decisions. When people make their own decisions they make a commitment to and become organizers for their own plan of action. This is fundamental to anarchism, no?

Was the General Assembly disorganized? Yes. Did it need better facilitators. Hell yes. Was it stupid to break out into groups and then read every last proposal? Yes, that is the consensus. However, while two hundred people were in the middle of a general assembly, deciding collectively what to do, these "anarchists" began to initiate a building occupation by chaining the doors shut, without consulting anyone except themselves. When this action was announced to the assembly the overwhelming reaction was outrage, disgust, frustration, and even fright.

This sort of putsch by a group of self-selected individuals acting in the name of people without consulting them or winning their consent is authoritarian, sterile, and destructive. This is not the anarchism of Durruti, Bakunin, and Malatesta. This is puerile bullshit reminiscent of the worst actions of the Maoist sects of the 60s and 70s. Our movement will need to occupy buildings, initiate strikes, and take militant actions, but it must be with the participation, consent, and full support of people through democratic discussion debate, and democracy.

Luckily for those who hoped to build a bigger movement beyond the UCs, the students who came to the General Assembly were able to regroup and vote on the most important proposals of the evening: to continue holding mass democratic meetings, and to plan a conference of all who are effected by the budget cuts to be held at UC Berkeley on October 24th. All activists, radicals, revolutionaries, true anarchists, socialists, and concerned individuals who participated in that decision can be proud that people's desire for real self-organization and democracy persevered despite the best attempts of some stupid or malevolent individuals to disrupt it.

For more on October 24th see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/09/25/18623233.php

-A Participant in the General Assembly
by unoccupied
Monday Sep 28th, 2009 9:02 PM
No doubt, locking (most of) the doors was a tactical mistake on the part of those committed to the occupation. But one can hardly think of what occurred at the meeting as the flowering of some sort of virtuous radical democracy. One can understand the frustration of those planning the occupation when, after the statement from Santa Cruz was read to overwhelming support from the audience, the "facilitators" demonstrated their utter unwillingness to let the group decide whether it wanted to occupy or not. That's hardly democracy--and it's difficult to make a convincing case that voting on a conference in one-month and voting on an occupation that night are somehow of equal priority. . .

Finally, it must be said that, as for the idea of the whole assembly voting on the idea of an occupation beforehand and then setting about making the preparations (so as to feel equal participants in the action) during the assembly, well, that's just stupid. The place was crawling with people whose first move would have been to notify the authorities, and this is precisely why not letting the assembly decide on the occupation after the statement was read was, essentially, to force a "no" vote. Hardly democratic.

Nobody was being forced into anything -- many people in the crowd supported an occupation, and nobody would have been asked to stay who didn't want to. . . If you think that occupations are a part of your struggle and you think the details can be worked out in general assembly, then please prepare to find the cops waiting for you.

Oh yeah, btw: Bakunin, Durrutti and Malatesta would have laughed at your bullshit liberalism.

by True
Saturday Oct 10th, 2009 11:28 AM
The last UCB General Assembly was down to about 50 participants. Without direct action, without continuous pressure on the university administration, and without a truly democratic space that reflects the enormous frustration and rage that many students feel, this is nothing short of a total failure of the current death-by-subcommittee strategy to grow the movement.

Fight now.
by Andrew
( astokols [at] gmail.com ) Wednesday Oct 21st, 2009 11:12 PM
Contrary to "disappointed students" criticism, the democratic will of the people present was not coopted or destroyed...those pushing for an immediate occupation were a small but vocal majority. The point here is not that protest or direct action is not a conceivable option, but rather we need to step back and focus on organizing before we make a move that is ill-thought out and impulsive. The whole purpose of the meeting, no matter how effective, was to try to build some consensus, garner new ideas, and get as many people involved in a movement that eventually will have to work on multiple levels at multiple scales (state, UC, campus, PR), not divide and polarize people into groups favoring immediate action and those wanting to develop a more long-range vision for social action.