Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011-11-29 "Protesters disrupt University of California regents, but peaceful mood rules" by Laurel Rosenhall, Kim Minugh and Hudson Sangree from "Sacramento Bee" newspaper
Shouting protesters interrupted the University of California regents' meeting on Monday, but the mood was generally peaceful as students criticized officials' response to the use of police force and implored regents to back raising taxes on the wealthy to fund higher education.
Officials and members of the public were connected by teleconference from four UC campuses – in Davis, San Francisco, Merced and Los Angeles. After more than an hour and a half of public comment, regents began to move on with their agenda when they were interrupted by protesters in multiple locations.
Regents were discussing UC's 2012-13 budget request to the state when about a dozen protesters at UC Davis rose to their feet and, shouting in unison, declared the need for a "people's regents meeting." They moved from their chairs in the audience to the area in front of the dais, where they formed a circle and began their own discussion.
 There was no response by campus police – who were stationed outside the meeting room in very small numbers – and Chancellor Linda Katehi briefly joined the group in the circle.
Around the same time, protesters in San Francisco and Los Angeles also disrupted the meeting with loud chants. Unable to hear, regents eventually disconnected from the teleconference and relocated to other rooms on the campuses. UC officials invited media to listen as regents reconvened the meeting by telephone.
Many participants decried the use of police force – pepper spraying in Davis and the use of batons in Berkeley – and criticized the investigation that UC is planning for not being independent.

Also on Monday:
• The union representing UC Berkeley police wrote a letter saying the video showing officers jabbing protesters with batons on Nov. 9 is misleading because it doesn't show officers being hit, pushed and threatened. The letter criticizes UC officials, saying they asked police to enforce their policies and then refused to stand by officers when they did so.
• Gov. Jerry Brown wrote a letter to the head of the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, asking that the agency review its crowd management and civil disobedience guidelines.
"I am seriously concerned that the rules governing the use of force, in particular the use of pepper spray, are not well understood in the context of civil disobedience and various forms of public protest," Brown wrote in the letter to Paul Cappitelli.
• UC President Mark Yudof announced he has appointed former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso to chair the task force investigating the UC Davis police department's use of pepper spray. Reynoso is a professor emeritus at the UC Davis law school.
The big theme of the day was money – how UC could get more of it without asking students to pay higher tuition. The board approved an initial budget that asks the state for $2.78 billion in 2012-13, a 17 percent increase from the $2.37 billion it received this year.
Nathan Brostrom, UC's executive vice president, said regents would have to consider whether to raise tuition after seeing how much money is allotted to UC in Brown's January budget proposal.
Regents also approved several compensation items, including raises ranging from 6.4 percent to 21.9 percent for the head lawyers of six UC campuses. Steven Drown, chief counsel for UC Davis, received the largest raise, bringing his salary to $250,000.
Many students and union leaders who spoke pushed a five-point plan created by a union-backed group called Refund California. They asked regents to sign a pledge to support increasing income taxes on California's wealthiest, changing Proposition 13 to increase corporate property taxes, enacting a federal sales tax on large-scale financial transactions, reducing underwater mortgage debt, and reversing tuition increases, layoffs, and cuts to public education and other services.
"You said here today you're going to go and ask the state for more money, but you have no concrete proposal for where that money will come from or how it will get to UC," said Cheryl Deutsch, a UCLA grad student and leader of the United Auto Workers union that represents student employees. "The Refund California pledge offers concrete alternatives."
UC officials deflected the requests to sign onto the pledge but promised to work with students to petition the state for more money. Sherry Lansing, chair of the regents, asked students to organize a protest at the Capitol in January at which regents and students could march side by side.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, a Democrat who sits on the board by virtue of his office, suggested that UC representatives target their message to Republican lawmakers, who oppose tax increases.
"It is not enough to come to Sacramento and talk to those of us who agree," Pérez said.
Outside on the UC Davis quad, about 80 tents were set up with Tibetan prayer flags strung between lampposts. Teach-ins were being held on the sidewalk and under a tarp-covered geodesic dome.
Students and other Occupy protesters marched to the student financial aid office in Dutton Hall. They filled the lobby and a second-story mezzanine chanting, "No cuts, no fees, education must be free."
"The way we guarantee victory is stay here and don't leave," said Monica Smith, a lawyer with a group called By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. "If the police try to drag us out, we win because the whole world will be watching."
About 200 students sat or stood and listened to Nathan Brown, assistant professor of English, lecture on the socialist dialectic, quoting from Karl Marx's "The Communist Manifesto." University officials stood back and observed the proceedings, and a bicycle officer rode up and listened. Protesters said they planned to stay all night.
But most people at UC Davis appeared to have ignored the protesters' call for everyone on campus to strike Monday. Students biked to class, packed into Starbucks and hit the gym.
Melanie Lopez showed up at a small protest outside the regents meeting because her professor asked the class to meet there. But the 22-year-old senior from Fremont debated leaving to study elsewhere. She said she shares concerns about rising tuition but doesn't believe skipping class was the answer.
"We're paying money to go to class," she said. "And I don't want to waste that money."

BRYAN PATRICK / bpatrick@sacbee.com
UC Davis students occupying Dutton Hall listen as Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English, lectures from the stairs Monday about socialism and Marxism. Protesters there and elsewhere also interrupted the UC regents’ long-distance meeting.

BRYAN PATRICK / bpatrick@sacbee.com
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi listens as a dozen protesters declare a need for a “people’s regents meeting” at UC Davis. Protesters in San Francisco and Los Angeles also interrupted the regents, who then relocated to other rooms on the campuses.

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