San Francisco police arrested ten UC students who chained themselves to the doors of the UCSF Mission Bay community center Wednesday morning in an attempt to prevent the UC Board of Regents from meeting.
About 100 students from five UC campuses rallied against the undemocratic way regents are selected at “Free the UC Day,” organized by the Coalition to Free the UC, Students Against War, and Direct Action to Stop the War.
The students also spoke against fee hikes, UC’s involvement in nuclear weapons and what they said was the Scholastic Aptitude Test’s role in excluding under-represented minorities from the UC system.
Protesters arrived at the Mission Bay campus at 6 a.m., some driving from Santa Cruz and Davis. Thirteen students looped bicycle locks around their necks and clamped them to doorknobs.
“Nobody stopped us at first,” said Keith Brown, a second-year geography major at UC Berkeley. “Around 7 a.m., the police started to take people out. They used power tools while people were still chained on the doors. Eventually they took out the doorknobs.”
Police and firefighters had to dismantle doors to take down the locks, a UC police officer said.
Calls to the San Francisco Police Department to confirm the arrests were not returned by press time.
The group also appealed to the regents to come out and be part of an “Alternative Regents Meeting.”
“We wanted to show the regents how to hold a meeting,” Brown said. “But they didn’t join us.”
About 20 students spoke at the regents’ meeting during public comment.
“I told the regents that I had withdrawn all cooperation with the University of California until they stopped production of nuclear weapons,” said Pancho Ramos, a fourth-year Ph.D. student.
“I don’t want to receive a title from an institution which is putting at risk our survival. I am not against science, but I am against the unethical application of science. Clearly, the university’s ethical prestige has been used to build nuclear weapons and atomic bombs ... It is the most unethical thing to do. We want to take part in the decision of the university. We don’t want to be used.”
Free the UC member and UC Berkeley peace and conflict studies student Matthew Taylor criticized what he said was the regent’s lack of response to complaints against UC’s involvement in nuclear weapons.
“For over 50 years, students, faculty, and community members have tried to persuade the regents to stop building nuclear weapons,” he told the Planet.
“We’ve used normal means such as petitions. At one point, student governments from every UC campus passed a resolution asking the regents to sever ties from the nuclear weapons labs, to no avail. The regents’ lack of response has left us little choice but to escalate our dissent. We believe that the regents should be prevented from meeting and conducting the business of managing the nuclear weapons lab.”
Taylor—one of the ten students arrested—added that Free the UC wanted to start a mass movement to empower students and raise awareness about the need for fundamental, structural change in UC.
Students also spoke before the regents against rising tuition costs.
“Some students have to work multiple jobs to sustain themselves,” UC Berkeley sophomore Monika Roy told the Planet. “I think that we are paying a lot of money for public education ... Those who cannot afford to pay are usually minorities or from ethnic backgrounds. In comparison, Stanford University recently announced that it would eliminate tuition for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year.”
Students also asked the regents to release the skeletal remains of 13,000 Native Americans held in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
“People were speaking from their hearts, but I think they went unheard,” said Maya Kelmelis, a UC Berkeley senior who listened to the public comments. “One or two of the regents were taking notes, but the majority were not listening. Some were talking and laughing with each other. There was no dialogue or discussion.”
Zachary RunningWolf—who was also protesting against UC Berkeley’s plan to raze the Oak Grove and build a student athletic center in its place—spoke at the students’ alternate meeting.
“They are making stands that help indigenous issues,” he said of the students. “We want to keep our ancestors in the Oak Grove, we want the 13,000 bones back from the Hearst museum, and we want to stop the corporatization of UC. These kids have a very good sense of direction. They are attracting a lot of attention.”
Taylor told the Planet that the arrested students were charged with disturbing the peace and other misdemeanors and cited and released later the same day.