[Thoughts on the day of action at Berkeley, November 20th, 2009 – Ed.]
Wow. What a day! Andy Stern and I were scrambled at five a.m. by a phone call that Wheeler Hall had been occupied and we were the first media on campus. We watched the supporters outside the occupied hall grow from a handful to a couple of thousand, sitting through a rainstorm at picket lines, determined not to let the police drag the occupiers away to jail. Self-organized groups of people, students and others, raced around dragging heavy ceramic planters to blockade doorways, while others posted themselves around the Alameda County sheriff’s buses parked nearby waiting to ferry arrestees to Santa Rita.
And above all, the crowd did not back down. Numerous videos on the internet attest to this. Faced with the possibility of a large-scale riot the cops were forced to stand down and release the occupiers with only misdemeanor charges. The occupiers had given a face to people’s anger, and before the students at UC went home for the holidays to figure out where they were going to come up with another few thousand dollars of fees, they were ready to vent at the authorities. I’m just glad we were all there to help them. Thanks to all who came out, great work, see you at the next one.
This proves yet again that the naysayers who claim that one must first build the movement and then push the boundaries are wrong: under the right circumstances, escalation of tactics actually gets people involved, and does indeed help build a movement. It isn’t the alpha and omega of political organizing, but direct actions sure can bring people together and when people get together they can move mountains. Or at least block police trucks.
Brandon Jourdan and I made a short film about that day in a very short time, he having been inside Wheeler Hall with the student militants and myself outside with the supporters. We may continue to edit and add footage but the current version gives a taste of the events.
And here is an excellent article about the statewide actions by George Ciccariello-Maher.