We just realized we’ve been paying money in order to follow rules. Rules that we have no say in. We also realized that soon we will be paying even more money and following even more rules that we still have no control over, and it makes us disheartened, discouraged and frustrated.

Realizing these things and feeling this way led us to the discovery that we can and should be able to commandeer the facilities that we are paying for. We realized that we can stop being subjects ruled by an administration, a bureaucracy and a campus police force. We realized that we are autonomous and free people, capable of anything.

And so, we decided to occupy the Housing Community Center (HCC).
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A summary commissioned by the antioch rebel newspaper from a participant in the ucsc actions

On Sept. 24, thousands of students, faculty, and staff walked out of University of California campuses across the state. The walk-outs and one-day strike were called by a wide coalition of UC unions and activist groups as a largely symbolic protest against the budget cuts, fee hikes and firings associated with the state budget crisis. At two campuses, however, in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, some people then walked back in and began to initiate occupations. Administrators and activists alike were stunned that the logic of symbolic protest had been abandoned for concrete, insurrectionary activity. Occupation, a tactic which is mostly unfamiliar in the U.S., is widely generalized in many social struggles throughout the world, and points towards new dimensions of struggle and autonomous organization that are likely to prove particularly vital as the economic crisis continues and deepens.

WHAT IS AN OCCUPATION?

An occupation is a break in capitalist reality that occurs when people directly take control of a space, suspending its normal functions and animating it as a site of struggle and a weapon for autonomous power.

Occupations are a common part of student struggles in France, where for example in 2006 a massive youth movement against the CPE (a new law that would allow employers to fire first-time workers who had been employed for up to 2 years without cause) occupied high schools and universities and blockaded transit routes. In 1999, the National Autonomous University of Mexico City was occupied for close to a year to prevent tuition from being charged. Both of these struggles were successful. In Greece and Chile, long and determined student struggles have turned campuses into cop-free zones, which has in turn led to their use as vital organizing spaces for social movement involving other groups like undocumented migrants and indigenous people.

Occupations have not been seen much in the U.S. since the 1970s until 2008 when workers at the Republic Windows and Doors Factory in Chicago occupied the building and won back pay from the bank that foreclosed the factory. In following months, university students in New York City staged several occupations in resistance to the corporatization of their schools. It was this activity which inspired the students in Santa Cruz and Berkeley.

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