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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Police State and Prisons
UC Homeland Security: Does Janet Napolitano Dream of Electric Trees?
Janet Napolitano's presidency over the University of California raises concerns. Napolitano has no background in education, and comes to the UC directly from leading the Department of Homeland Security, a department known for bloated budgets, inefficiency, and lack of oversight. Janet Napolitano helped organized the arrest of over 7,000 Americans during the Occupy protests. In Berkeley, protesters suffered broken arms and ribs during the police and DHS attacks on Occupy; citizen reporters were threatened to be shot at point black range. In Oakland, location of UC offices, tear gas and rubber bullets caused numerous injuries to the public. Bay residents suffering from a collective trauma, and a person who helped caused it now runs the UC.
Janet Napolitano, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security runs the UC. Norman Pattiz, a UC Regent, sits on the Region 1 Homeland Security Advisory Council. The University of California is trying to strengthen it's position itself as a major player in surveillance and security, while reducing its commitment to arts, humanities and environmental stewardship.
In this first year of presidency, Napolitano has used police to silence political opposition and campus protest. On February 13th, a protest against Napolitano at the Sutardja Dai Hall was met by UC police, who used threats of violence to keep detractors from the president. For an entire day the entire police force stood at SDH, ignoring their obligation to patrol campus for public safety. Even Chancellor Nick Dirks shielded himself from open debate, hiding behind police protection while erroneously claiming protesters were threatening his life. The heads of the UC have cut themselves off from the public they are meant to serve; they hide behind the guns of the police. As part of the homeland security theater, the UC had a bomb squad unit ready, to create the illusion that student protesters would attempt to detonate an explosive.
During the 2011 Occupy protests, a internal DHS report entitled 'SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street' was released via Wikileaks that revealed Homeland Security wanted to "control protesters" because "growing support for the OWS movement [had] expanded the protests’ impact". The DHS report demanded "heightened and continuous situational awareness for security", noting that "the primary target" of demonstrations was the financial sector. The report that called for a total crack down on Occupy even noted that protesters being arrested were peaceful, and that police were causing injury to protesters.
Napolitano is running the UC with the same principles used during the Occupy protests. The UC president is focusing on social control and suppression of popular protest. In this month of April, UC police shadowed campus strikers, filming strikers as to discourage people from participating. Police pushed people in picket lines, threatened picketers with arrest, and broke the picket lines at certain points to allow campus vehicles through. The police allowed a truck to speed through a picket line, almost hitting pedestrians, catching a banner on one of the truck's wheels.
Currently on campus, the police have been maintaining heavy numbers outside Soda Hall, as to prevent a protest to save redwoods on campus. The are police at the protest wearing bullet proof vests; they have been lying to the public, claiming that the tree protesters are possibly armed. The police have a metal fence blocking off the protest site, and the have spot lights as to monitor the site at night. Police cars park outside are placed outside the Co-Operative Houses near Soda Hall, to intimidate people in the area from participating, and to monitor those who enter and leave the co-ops. Homeland Security considers environmental activism to be a form of economic terrorism, and Napolitano is operating the UC police under this belief.
At a time when campus robberies are increasing, the UC is using the majority of its police force to prevent the public from rallying around a grove of trees. Even though the protest has been non-violent, the police have been threatening physical force against protesters. The police have been intimidating professors and students who have been stopping by the protest to support the trees. The grove of redwood trees is being cut down for a technology design center funded by Qualcomm; Qualcomm's Vice President of Global Business Development is on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. As well, rumors that the company has been assisting the NSA spy programs continue to plague Qualcomm.
Qualcomm is not the only company with ties to Homeland Security that the UC is trying to partner with. Napolitano has been continuing to build a relationship between Palantir and the UC, a relationship started under the former UC President. Palantir has spied on Wikileaks supports, journalists such as Glenn Greenwalk, and protesters from the Occupy movement. Last September 28th, Palantir held recruiting exercises on campus. On March 5th of this year, the corporation held an info session for the UC's Center to Technology Research; the info session compared political protest to natural disasters.
Public debate and civil disobedience on campus is being treated like terrorist activity. Napolitano does not have the skill-set or the mind-set to run a public university; Napolitano is stuck in a belief that people have to be managed through intimidation, and threats of police violence. Napolitano is primarily protecting the interest of the UC's corporate partners, and is not protecting the educational mission of the university.
The UC is trying to court Big Surveillance. Companies like Qualcomm and Palantir are being granted access to the inner workings and infrastructure of the UC. Companies with ties to surveillance and homeland security are setting the campus agenda. New buildings for these tech companies are being built at the loss of open space. The campus culture of Free Speech and Open Protest is being shut down by an increasingly oppressive police force. Napolitano is promoting a culture of social control and corporatization of public educational resources.