This is an interview with Occupy California student movement by Tasos Sagris and Sissy Doutsiou from Void Network for the antiauthoritarian Greek newspaper Babylonia. People from the Occupy California / Occupy Everything! student movement visited Greece during May/June 2010 and they talked in BFest and in the Occupied Self-Organized Park of Exarchia about the student struggles in California, New York and all other states of U.S.A.
1. What is the Occupy California movement & when did it start?
The Education Crisis Movement in California emerged in the summer of 2009 when it became clear that the University of California (UC) system, which encompasses 10 campuses across the state, would be introducing massive austerity measures in the upcoming semesters. These massive tuition increases of 32%, layoffs of unionized workers and cuts in classes and services can all be understood as steps towards the privatization of public education in California. Administrators and state politicians have used the current economic crisis as a cover for implementing these plans for structural adjustment and the further financialization of the university. In this supposed ‘crisis’ they continue to sell bonds to finance massive university construction projects and these bonds are pledged against future tuition increases. This neoliberal scheme of privatization is being implemented on the backs of ever more indebted students and the destruction of organized labor in the education sector.
The movement exploded across the UC system as school began in Fall of 2009 with walkouts, marches and occupations of school buildings. Workers, faculty and students joined together in exciting yet fragile alliances to fight against the various austerity measures being proposed that year. This energy climaxed during the week of November 18 as the UC Regents (the California Governor appointed politicians who oversee the UC system) met at UCLA for three days to vote on the proposed measures. Students attempted to block the meetings and scuffled with police in UCLA while marches and rallies were called at every major campus in the state. The ultra leftist and insurrectionary anarchist tendencies in the movement occupied many buildings, some with barricades and some open, throwing much of the UC system into chaos that week. Riot police from various agencies across the state were eventually forced to storm these campuses and fight with the occupying insurrectionists in order to regain control. By the end of the week and in spite of the massive display of resistance, the regents had voted to implement the whole austerity plan and many students and allies had been arrested.
Some occupations and demonstrations continued over the following months and these climaxed again on March 4, 2010. This date had been set back in Fall 2009 as a national day of action at schools and universities. While the height of conflict in the UC system was definitely during the end of November 2009, a whole new wave of resistance emerged in public K-12 schools, community colleges and state schools in the March 4 mobilizations. There were too many walkouts to count and in some cases, the more radical elements in the mobilizations stormed interstate freeways battling police and bringing traffic to a halt for hours. What began in California as a movement in the university system had expanded to a nation-wide struggle at all levels of education.