Several University of California (UC) students were once brutally injured at a January 19 peaceful demonstration at UC Riverside.
Close to 800 student activists gathered throughout the day outside the building where Regents board members were meeting behind closed doors to discuss further budgetary cuts and related matters. Police forces already forming a barrier to prevent student access into the building were joined by a legion of armed Sheriff Officers and more police back up toting what looked like guns in hand. They made their way through the hundreds of UC students in order to get to the front line, often brandishing guns or wielding batons while shouting “move.”
As the police and sheriff units finalized their formation at the front line of the protest, seemingly protecting the entrance to the building, they pushed students further back; however in this disorganized attempt to obtain more ground many students lost their footing and either fell or were pushed forward by the dense mob of protesters that stood or were sitting behind them. Among this chaos, as students chanted “Peaceful Protest”, at least one student was pushed forward, seized by police and beaten. Almost simultaneously, officers began to shoot “paint-pellet guns" into the crowd of students in front of them without warning. The officers continued to fire even as the students struggled to move away, in effect using the bullets, which released paint upon impact, as a crowd control mechanism.
A staff member at UC Riverside recounts, "Someone moved toward the police - not aggressively, just like they were pushed - and the police started shoving students with batons, shot a few rounds, and arrested at least one student, who three cops beat on the ground before they dragged him off." UC Riverside organizer Gabriela Vazquez states, “A lecturer, Ken Ehlrich, was dragged away from the front line by his ankles and arrested.”
These events echo now infamous police violence at numerous other UC campuses in recent months. Occupy Colleges denounces the violent force used by police and joins students of all UC campuses and universities and colleges nationwide in calling for a significant nonviolent response to these actions.
Occupy Colleges wants to make it clear that this sort of behavior by police will not be tolerated. It was not acceptable in November at Berkeley, it was not acceptable during the 1960s and it is not acceptable now. Students, many who believed the days of violent police actions were behind them, will continue to protest until officials get it right: students have the right to peacefully communicate their grievances without the fear of being brutally beaten, shot at or otherwise injured, harassed or bullied.
Please check out occupycolleges.org for a list of participating colleges and universities, to register your school or to learn more about how to organize a group or event on your campus. Please note, all registered schools are asked to take a pledge of Non-Violence in order to participate as an Occupy Colleges solidarity group.