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Police Beaten Back as Tree Sitters and Others Occupy Space against UC Development Plans
by crudo
Thursday Nov 8th, 2007 8:34 PM
Anarchist analysis of protests on the 7th.
Police Beaten Back as Tree Sitters and Others Occupy Space against U.C. Development Plans

by crudo

I attended the demonstration at U.C. Santa Cruz because I don't want the university to destroy the 120 acres of forest and wilderness and bring with it new development in the way of animal testing, weapons research, more rich assholes, etc. But more over, I see universities as part of a class society that needs specialists and bosses in order to manage itself and continue to work. Like the police who were protecting the U.C. system that day, the university isn't neutral, it's purpose is the expansion and management of a system based on capitalism and the state. I do not go to Santa Cruz (can't afford it), so I had an outsiders view in. I have spent time in the woods there and I do feel a certain connection to the land and the physical area.

So, on November 7th, I met up with between 200-300 people who conducted a rally against U.C. Santa Cruz's Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP. The one hour rally featured several speakers who spoke on how the plan will destroy 120 acres of forest and will make way for a biomedical lab on campus, (which will feature research on nanotechnology, biotechnology, weapons research, animal testing, etc. This of course means more grant money for the university). One speaker spoke about the "trailer park" community that exists on campus; their homes and community are threatened by the development plan. Several speakers reminded people that all of the nuclear weapons that the US uses are made through the UC system. Another spoke about how in the 80's, students pushed for divestment from South Africa through radical action. The UC also hires out food service work to companies like Sudexo, which are notorious for exploiting workers with low pay, poor benefits, etc. As one speaker said, "If you want to talk about global capitalism, here it is".

After the rally, a spirited march through the streets of the university (the university at Santa Cruz is very large) took place. The usual chants of "Who' Streets", etc. Many of the signs had an anarchist character/symbols to them. "Green Capitalism: Same Old Shit", "Stop Long Range Destruction (A)", etc. Stickers saying "Eco Defense is Self Defense" as well as flyers were available. Police made no attempt to stop the march. Anarchist marching bands and theater troops lead chants and kept the crowd pumped with music.

The march then headed to a grove of trees that was encased by a parking lot. Several tree sitters had managed to get up in the trees early that morning and several platforms were set up. Now the goal was to get supplies to the tree sitters. Blocking our path was a group of about 25 (maybe more) police. They were from different agencies and had chemical weapons on hand. They had a small bright plastic fence erected as well as metal barricades. The large group milled about and moved along the outside of the area and then circled back around. At this point, parts of the fence were grabbed and started to be taken apart. People grabbed the metal barricades and threw them away. The police called, "Touch the fence and you go to jail". People were seen fighting the police; throwing punches. Police tried to pepper spray people at this point; many people were also wearing masks (heavy police videotaping going on, as well as the chemical weapons). In an ironic move (as well as something that I've never seen before), in the fray, one cop even managed to in part spray another police officer while attempting to attack the crowd.

In about five minutes, large sections of the "fence" were torn down. Now the police were backed up even further into the parking lot. More tension and shouting persists. Police back up even more. Eventually a move is made to take the space next to the trees. Several people are arrested/detained for attempting to get supplies up to the tree sitters, but as more people move in, the police move back. Eventually the police physically leave the area; they march out of the parking lot. According to one article that I read, the university claimed that they did not have enough police to contain the area. The parking lot is ours.

What happened next was in one sense uneventful was in another the most exciting, as mutual aid and communal collective action takes hold. Another tree is tree sitted. Food and water is gotten up to the sitters and collected from the crowd. The rest of the fences are taken down. Help was given to those hit by chemical weapons. People talk and discuss. Copies of "Long Range Resistance", a beautiful looking 10 page newsletter about the campaign are given out; many people read. It includes information about the situation as well as interviews with other eco-defense activists, analysis, etc. Discussion groups break out. Many students and regular folks that were hanging out thought mainly two things from my conversations I gathered with them:
1.) Fighting the police was great. Many were impressed that police were beaten back and protesters were able to occupy the space.
2.) Many felt that the struggle was one they identified with. One young man said to me something to the effect that, "I never thought I'd protest or care about trees, but being here, I don't want to see this place destroyed."

By the time I left, the mood was based around, "Well, we won, now what?" The answer for the rest of us is to head to Santa Cruz if possible and help engage in struggle with our comrades and spread the revolt. More people on the ground means the autonomous zone can expand and the tree sitters can be supported. More support also means more of a buffer force against police repression.

One point of tension that needs to be discussed is the issue of non-violence and violence. When people fought back against the police and attacked the fences, no one really condemned it; the move to help our comrades and push out the police was an organic expression. However, once we had the space, many proclaimed that we had to be non-violent in order to stop 'police brutality'. To which one tree sitter yelled, "If you want to stop police brutality, FUCK THE POLICE!" Several people who looked like they were connected to the university were also milling around (although they could have been activists) who yelled at people rolling up plastic fences to "stop destroying property" (since when is rolling something up destroying property?). When two people attempted to move a barricade, one man also said, "Stop doing violent things!" These idiots show themselves to be what they are: people who will dilute any struggle for freedom for the sake of appealing to the authorities and the current power structure, often because they are a part of it or represent it's values. For them, non-violence means non-confrontation and non-effectiveness. The media has also done a good job to portray the image of "peaceful protest gone violent", which only creates a spectacle that sells papers and pushes a dialog that is devoid of critical analysis. Many people didn't come out on the 7th to simply be passive and "show moral witness" to what is going on, they came to shut this thing down and fight for the forest, the trailer park, and against a global system of destruction and profits.

Many of the posts and stories about the demonstration on November 7th also show that often people are caught up in the role of victim hood when we should be celebrating a victory over the police. This demonstrates the degree in which middle class values are ingrained within a struggle like this. One caption by a picture that I saw on stated how "noble" someone was for standing in the middle of the road waving a peace sign while police were attacking people. If this was in a different context, say, a young white person at a civil rights march where police were attacking and beating people and we saw the lone white person there and their only response was to wave a peace sign and not actually help fight back, most of us would see this action for what it is: liberal stupidity. The police are violent by design, either in the form of their weapons, who commands them, their military style organization, the prison system they are connected with, etc. The police use the constant threat of violence to get there way and this is where their power lies, in violence. Thus, the situation on the 7th was already violent, it did not 'become' violent when the police attacked the protesters, or visa versa. The police also are protecting a system that wants to destroy nature, to violently harm it and destroy it. The context is already violent and by standing in the street waving a peace sign and not actually fighting this reality only helps perpetuate it. Many people of color that were watching the events were not surprised by the police's reaction, because they already had an understanding of what the police represent: violent repression that is sanctioned by the state.

This type of thinking also creates a division between "violent protestors" with "non-violent ones" and is dangerous because it makes the case that those who destroyed fences and stood up to the police were to blame for police terror. Many of the students that were sprayed were the ones that were also took an offensive role. For this, they should be commended and celebrated, not as victims, but as people who stood up and did something. Our power lies not in seeing ourselves as passive victims, but as people with an affinity and a sense of collective agency to act and fight back.

Further interest in the fight against LRDP should be directed towards:
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UC Berkeley Tree Sitters to be Evicted; Solidarity!Tree SitterThursday Nov 8th, 2007 10:04 PM
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