Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"These People Don't Know How Power Works!!"

The title of this post is based on a quote said to me during the disastrous visitation of Occupy Sacramento by the city's mayor a number of weeks ago.

I had to be away from the computer during the opening of the festivities of the Town Hall at UC Davis last night, so I was only treated to the question and answer session with the students. I'm not even sure who exactly was on the stage apart from Katehi. I will have to watch the recording when I get a chance and see if I can winkle out names and titles. I will say, however, that the Vice Chancellor sitting next to Katehi [The Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor of UC Davis Ralph J. Hexter] was one of the well-dressed people I was walking among on my way to the campus rally. I distinctly recall him speaking to his colleagues in defense of Katehi and the police and denouncing one of the unions on campus -- and being remonstrated with by someone defending the union. Hm. Interesting. (Of course, there is a caveat. I do not know these people personally. I recognized the Vice Chancellor as the man I heard while walking to the rally, but the mind and memory do curious things with external stimuli. I realize it may not have been him, but instead was someone of similar appearance and demeanor, and my "recognition" of him may be the recognition of similarity rather than the recognition of actuality.)

[Others on stage included: Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Fred Wood at the far left; Lt. Matt Carmichael, Interim Police Chief; Ralph J. Hexter; Linda Katehi; and eventually Vice Chancellor for Administrative and Resource Management John Meyer, who has actual authority over the UCD Police Department.]

It was clear from the get-go that most of these students "don't know how power works" either.

Not. A. Clue.

Some do, it's true. But under these circumstances, they had little opportunity to make a case. The game was rigged from the outset.

The situation was somewhat analogous to the Town Hall Seattle panel discussion of "Occupy Seattle" referenced in an earlier post. But no one Mic Checked the Davis Town Hall the way some folks did in Seattle, so the actuality of what was going on may not have been recognized by the participants.

By assembling administrators on a higher level, giving them microphones all the time, having them make unchallenged statements (that part is left out of the video above, I am scouting for more), and allowing ASUCD proctors to "moderate" challenges as strictly as they do (I assume they are ASUCD, but again, I'm scouting for more info), the power dynamic is this: "We are in charge here. You may or may not be recognized for a moment or two, but we will always be recognized because the Power is Ours, not yours. Got that? Good."

The other side, the students, quite simply have no power in this dynamic -- unless they seize it -- at all. That's the point of the lesson here. "We control you and everything here. You control nothing."

This is the problem with the power dynamics in the whole country, the whole wide world in fact, and this is why there is -- by necessity -- a global revolution under way.

There is no other way for the People to be heard at all; on the other hand, exposing the actual power dynamic in play -- such as the one at UC Davis last night or in the disruption of it in Seattle a few days ago -- doesn't necessarily register on the first go-round.

People are conditioned to accept this power dynamic as "natural." Challenges to it are deeply discomforting. Most of the time, most people will abide by the rules and the structure of the power dynamic on display last night at Davis and will not challenge it. To do so is not just threatening to Power, it is a threat to ones own comfort and safety. Challenges to this power dynamic will be met with brutality and worse.

Never mind that that was the topic of discussion last night.

Discussing it in the way it was discussed last night does nothing about it. Promises were made by the panel nonetheless on behalf of "changing policies." Yes, well. That's nice and all, but it is also deliberately meaningless. The students couldn't even get the panelists to describe what the current policy is.

Indeed, they were shocked to learn that no one on the stage was responsible for the actions of the UC Police in last Friday's Incident, and that the police do not report to the Chancellor, and that she has no direct control over them at all. "Then who does?" the multitude demanded to know. She couldn't quite say, she didn't really know the title of the person who did have responsibility, some Vice Chancellor of Something Or Other, he was in the room, over there somewhere....

It was a remarkable moment. But typical. Typical. Typical.

"Never reveal your actual lines of Authority, or if you must reveal them, do so in a manner that confuses the masses; be prepared to change those lines of Authority suddenly."

So the Vice Chancellor of Something or Other was found and brought to the stage and spoke briefly from the podium, complaining that his "portfolio" had been expanded a couple of years ago when the number of Vice Chancellors was reduced, and supervision of the UC Police on campus was dropped in his lap, oh poor pitiful me.

Oh, and he'd come to the University from the Bay Area, where he had served as Assistant City Manager (OMG!) somewhere (it's in the video, I'll try to review it later today and clarify) Yes, better to clarify. Having reviewed the video, I'm kind of gobsmacked. This man was City Manager of Davis before taking up his role at UC, and I think there may be an unpleasant connection between him and a relative. I'm not sure, however, so I will say no more about it. His thinking was... or "the University's thinking" was... that they were looking at Oakland, and what happened there, and to a lesser extent at UC Berkeley, and they didn't want that to happen at UC Davis, so some of the decisions that were made about policing the Occupy demonstrations at Davis were based on what had happened in Oakland -- he said "Oakland!" many times. "Maybe it wasn't the right decision."

Ya think?


"Well, it didn't go the way we'd hoped last Friday."


It was a revelatory moment but not particularly instructive. Well, it was instructive if you knew how to process it. The UC Police, effectively, are run out of an obscure office, by someone no one knows, on behalf of relatively shadowy interests, essentially independently of the rest of the University's operations, and their actions are based on "fears" of what might-could happen, because something happened somewhere else that they didn't want to repeat.

In other words, it's a DHS-type operation.

If you parse his commentary sufficiently, you see that the police were sent in as a riot squad because that's how the police are "supposed to" address this kind of encampment defiance by students. Policy, in other words. But what happened at Berkeley when the UC Police went berserk backfired, and they didn't want a repeat of that. It looked bad for one thing. Brought discredit to the University. Yadda yadda. So. The decision of how to break up the demonstration was left to the field commander of the operation -- Lt. Pike -- with the understanding that batons were not to be used except defensively, and only if absolutely necessary if the officers were attacked by the demonstrators.

If the demonstration had to be broken up, some other tactic had to be used. Pepper spray? Well, that's always good! Yes! Let's do pepper spray! Yay!

(It has been pointed out that the spray that was actually used was most likely bear repellant -- though some have denied it -- but that in any case it may have been far stronger than "normal" pepper spray.)

Of course the operational details would be left to the field commanders.

The fact that this Vice Chancellor came to the University from the city manager realm rather than the academic realm is vitally important. In California, police forces are mostly under the authority of the appointed City Managers, not the mayors or elected city councils.

This was something Occupy Sacramento learned very late in the game it seemed to me; though I and others had pointed it out numerous times, the notion did not actually click until the Mayor Himself said so at the disastrous GA he attended.

What this Vice Chancellor was afraid of what that the Occupy demonstration would "get out of hand" -- the same fear at UC Berkeley, BTW -- and "become like Oakland."

There's a whole world view involved in the idea of "becoming like Oakland." Ultimately, a statement like that has nothing to do with the Occupy Movement; it has to do with deep and abiding prejudice against the People of Oakland, many of whom aren't exactly white.

Many of those who are white in Oakland are social/political radicals.

Visit almost any UC campus today and you perhaps will notice that a large proportion of the student body... isn't... white.

You will note, too, that most of the administrators... are.

In other words, many UC campuses may look more "like Oakland" than many of the administrators are comfortable with.

And that discomfort with the People is a consistent issue within the City Manager realm. By and large they are not at all comfortable with the demographic changes going on in California.

Enough said about that.

Katehi was challenged on her experience as a student in Athens when the University she was attending was attacked by the fascist military junta -- and on her recent advisory role on behalf of the Greek government's revision of the University's asylum policy. She got very heated. This was one of the only times she became animated. Most of the time, she was just "tired."

She said that the students who rebelled in 1973 were "mainstream" not radicals at all. On the other hand, the University has been burnt to the ground "twice" she said, by "anarchists" since then. All the Universities in Greece have been "taken over" by "anarchists," she said, and the policies she advised the Greek government on recently had to do with restoring control of the Universities to the People and restoring a "safe" academic environment for the students. She did not advise the (Socialist! she pointed out) Greek government to put police forces back on the campuses the way they had been during the dictatorship.

[Note: from what I have been able to find out, her story is... not entirely true. This is a story of what happened in 1973. I won't get into the details here, but you can read some of eyewitness accounts of what was happening in Athens in December, 2008 -- which is when the anarchists took over the Polytechnic briefly -- here, here, here, here, and here.]

Yes. Well.

A whole other realm of interests and ideas opened up with this sequence.

This fear of "anarchists taking over" is perhaps the key to understanding why so much brutality has been unleashed on Occupy demonstrations so consistently in so many places all over the country and all over the world, and why it was so casually unleashed at UC Berkeley and then at UC Davis. (Not to mention all the other campuses that have experienced police assaults lately -- and there have been many.)

"Anarchists" are the New Terrorists.

Make no mistake.

That's the God-forsaken Truth.

We are all so far over the cliff and down the rabbit hole now that it sometimes seems there is no way back to sanity.

Yet the Revolution abides.

It's going to take me much longer than I have this morning to process all of this into any sort of coherent form. But the Bigger Picture of what is going on is becoming clearer.

I'd love to hear how others see the dynamics in the video above.


  1. Interesting that "Anarchist is the New Terrorist." I had posted some information on George Romney, Republican New Dealer and Mitt Romney's Dad on my Facebook page a few weeks back and one of my Tea Party co-workers saw it and accused me of being an Anarchist, even though he was mostly joking.

    As a sort of response, I put Mikhail Bakunin as one of my "Inspirational People" in the section that allows for that.

  2. Eeek! Anarchists! (Or name any "-ist" we're supposed to be afraid of.)

    It really does boil down to that level of conditioned fear...

    Note: I've added some research material about the UC Davis administration, the Greek uprising in 1973, and the anarchist uprisings in Athens in 2008 -- which I had almost forgotten about what with all the New Uprisings in Athens.

    And notice the Center of Energy is back in Cairo and Alexandria now.