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Monday, June 13, 2005

UC Santa Cruz Protesters Tell of Riot Police Brutality

UC Santa Cruz Protesters Tell of Riot Police Brutality

UC Santa Cruz Protesters Tell of Riot Police Brutality

By: Matthew Cardinale
Published: Apr 25, 2005 at 09:00
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Over 80 student protesters are reported wounded by Riot Police and 19 students were arrested, according to phone interviews with two "Tent University" organizers at UC Santa Cruz.

"Students had numerous bruises and contusions. And figures I heard were 20 arrested and 80 wounded. My girlfriend caught a baton to the chest unprovoked. And numerous people witnessed a cop go into a frenzy and basically dive forward into the crowd with a baton and that's how my girlfriend caught a baton," Indigo Moonstar, 23, a recent graduate of UCSC, said. Moonstar is not his real name, but this is the name he also gave to the Associated Press.

The seemingly pointless arrests and acts of state violence occurred because of the University's concern the students were violating the "No Camping Ordinance."

The students had set up a Tent University to protest student fee increases as well as the exploitation of AFSCME service workers. The Tent University, which was conducted all this week, April 18-22, included workshops on such topics as environmental sustainability, nonviolent activism, social justice, politics, and even yoga.

The arrests on Monday, April 18, prevented the students from holding Tent University at the base of campus during evening hours for the rest of the week like they had originally planned, but the daytime events proceeded without incident.

"For one, that's the most traumatizing thing I've ever been through in my life," Austin Harless, 21, a student organizer at UCSC, said. "Myself and others have been changed. The effects have been extremely pervasive."

"It's causing a lot of us to question our lives," Harless said.

"You have your assumed notions you hold about freedom and the safety of the community and you see the police choking your friends, you think, Who can I call? But the police are the ones who are supposed to be upholding the peace," Harless explained.

"I think it was atrocious. I think it was pure fascism," Moonstar said.

"It was a completely unnecessary and inappropriate response on the part of the University. There's been a lot of discussion amongst us on what happened and why. And the conclusion we've come to is it appears to be a premeditated show of force on the part of the University administration in response to the recent resurgence of radical activism on our campus," Moonstar said.

"The way it works at UCSC campus is that from 7am to 8pm, those are the hours of free speech. So we were allowed to assemble in the field until 8pm," Harless said.

"We also had two big shade tents in the morning which were allowed because they are open air shade structures. People had their own individual tents, but they didn't put up the tents until after the 4pm vote," Harless said.

"At 8pm we gathered again. Two administration reps came in. Jean Marie Scott (Associate Vice Chancellor of The Colleges and University Housing Services) and Gail Heit (Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs)," Harless described. "They said, look, there will be repercussions. Let's talk about [relocating to] the quarry or camping someplace else. And people were like, no, we decided earlier," Harless said.

"People started taking out individual tents and putting up tents. People were playing drums," Harless said.

"At that point they gathered in a group of Administrators, and they started gathering and giving the official order to disperse," Harless said.

"I was standing back and watching Administration going through the crowd and giving the official order to disperse, and they'd only talked to about 25% of the people when a line of police cars rolled up in the street, at least 8 to 10 of them, vans and stuff too," Harless said.

"It's interesting to note the Berkeley Police were brought in to deal with us," Harless said.

"And there was a Paddy Wagon sitting on our campus that said Berkeley Police on it, and so they'd been preparing all day with riot police," Harless said.

"Some of us had police whistles. I ran into the big tent and said POLICE ARE HERE, and people started blowing their whistles," Harless recalled.

"In the fervor we said INTO THE NOME, which was our Big White Tent Structure," Harless said. "Everyone ran into the Nome. We had held Nonviolent Direct Action Training. There were those prepared to civilly disobey, or lock down, and the rest were to observe on the side of the tent," Harless said.

"At this point there were maybe 150 of observing protesters total, plus 80 ready to lock down," Harless said.

"There were 8 circles in the Nome that were locked down to each other," Harless said. "We created circles where you're gonna sit down and link arms between people to your right and left and you take your hands and clasp underneath your legs," he described.

"At that point, the Riot Police moved in and made a circle around the Nome, about 30 of them. They all had Plexiglas helmets, shades, and they all had batons," Harless said.

"There were 150 protesters surrounding the police. Those police were facing outwards towards the protester with their backs towards us," Harless said.

"At this point they proceeded to bring in groups of 4 to 5 police. Including one guy who video filmed everything," Harless said.

"And 3-4 police with thick gloves on. They would come in, everyone would be shirking. And the police with the gloves on would come in and start applying pressure at people's throats and pressure points around their jaw and started trying to pull people upward. So they would do that to get you out of the circle," Harless said.

"So they would do that and another would try to break the clasping of your hands. All this, the pain treatment, is an effort to break you from the circle," Harless said.

"A lot of people at that point went limp and basically laid down on the floor not to be taken out of the tent. Police would push your hand down trying to fold it on yourself and twist it behind your back," Harless said.

"Our video of this [online at Santa Cruz Indymedia] has had 60,000 hits in the last 12 hours. It's 6 minutes long and shows you everything I'm talking about," Harless said.

To learn more about Tent University, readers may also visit the activists' official website at

Matthew Cardinale is a freelance writer, activist, and MA candidate at UC Irvine in Sociology. He may be reached at

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