I laughed when I saw Occupy Harvard. I thought it completely ridiculous. I understand that these undergrads mean well, but actions rooted in good intent don’t really mean anything if there isn’t an effective plan. If anything, I equate it back to 2004, when a bunch of us high schoolers drove to Sacramento to protest Gray Davis’s cuts to Basic Aid. (“Hey Hey, Governor Gray, Basic Aid has got to stay!” – catchy!). Misplaced zeal and passion. We protested; we yelled, waved signs, gave demonstrations. Probably not very effective though- Gov. Gray wasn’t even in the office that day. (Great planning, guys!) It’s true that where there are numbers, people listen. But in the same sense, I felt Occupy Harvard was just a bunch of undergrads who wanted to protest something but didn’t have a united vision or anything like that. Furthermore, I felt like Harvard students have so much going for them in terms of resources that they don’t need to sleep out in tents (which is basically the front yard of their dorms anyway…). If they really wanted to do something, they should rally their PARENTS to send letters of outrage, etc.
With all that said, I’m impressed by the actions of the Harvard administration because they are so careful and correct with everything. They didn’t ban the students’ right to protest but they are restricting access to the Harvard Yard – only students are allowed inside. The policemen are guarding student safety, but they aren’t attacking the students directly. I feel like such actions also diminish the self-righteous “yeah! I’m protesting!” attitude of some of the undergrad too.. because honestly, they’re protesting in such a “cush” environment. It’s almost like Harvard is simply accommodating for their “silly little protest” – a good tactic from their side.
California, on the other hand, is insane! Honestly, no other state is going down the tubes as fast as this one is. In terms of the UC Occupy movements, it seems like their complaints are legitimate (tripling budgets? hello!) These people aren’t expecting to be coddled; they are engaging in civil disobedience to make a statement and they know the consequences of such action (arrest – not physical assault). It’s not like the UCs don’t have the means to respond peacefully or properly. They have their own police force. So, when civil servants then retaliate with violence, there is NO way ANY of this is right. [see: Colbert's Take on Occupy Berkeley]
Even if you disagree with the Occupy movements (and honestly, I don’t think I completely understand them because it’s really disorganized, nobody is defining what exactly they’re occupying, and some people are just “anti-capitalism”… which I don’t think will help anything), you can’t deny the fact that people are getting hurt, and it’s on the grounds of a republic, in a state that prides itself for revolutionary ideas and free speech.
The UC Davis incident is concerning not only because policemen sprayed pepper spray directly at the students, but they forced upon students’ mouths and caused internal damage as well. It’s also suspicious that nobody is coming up to produce the orders from UC Davis Chancellor Katehi. She could solve all this clamor for her resignation if she shows that she didn’t authorize this. She probably did! Which brings me to another point: hello California; haven’t you learned that police force is never the answer? In my short 6 years in the East Bay area, there have been so many “accidental” killings from police. And these aren’t high-risk situations with masses of people. I don’t know. I’m all for individual rights, but it’s hard to argue when the “good guys” lack judgment and act just like the “bad guys” do. I say “lack of judgment” because obviously, who’s dumb enough to act like this when there’s camera’s rolling. I don’t think our police force is insidiously evil – they’re just poorly trained or unprepared or something.
Personally, the reason I began to get curious and think more about this was when I was in Boston waiting for lunch with a few friends. I saw a large group of “Occupy Boston” and at first, I was a little frightened. Then I heard them talk and yell and explain and I just thought “whatever.” However, I looked up from my book and looked at the people in the crowd. They didn’t look like “career protestors” (a la the tree-climbers of Berkeley, 2008) . I read their signs. These were your regular Joes and Janes. Able to work, but jobless. There is a problem, and when people start to take to the streets, it’s not because they have nothing better to do, it’s because they’ve exhausted all other options and are at the end of their rope. I am in grad school. I’ll have a job. Many of you guys probably have jobs. Do you necessarily deserve it? Maybe I’m not the 1%, but I definitely won’t be in the 99%. Isn’t this huge gap an issue?