FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/1/2014
Coalition Unites to Victory in Enduring Struggle of FSM
Press contact: Maggie Downey, Email: email@example.com, Phone: (717) 471-0459
Facebook: www.facebook.com/calprogressivecoalition Twitter: @CalProgressives
A & E Building, UC Berkeley Campus: Cal Progressive Coalition (CPC) demonstrates the power of unity and civil disobedience.
Uniting students, workers, community members, and veterans of the Free Speech Movement, CPC led a surprise sit-in at Capital Projects following the rally for the 50th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Capital Projects is the real estate arm of the University of California Berkeley that is actively privatizing public resources, such as in their proposed commercial development of the historic Gill Tract Farm. The CPC action sparked dialogue across campus on how the UC continues to silence students through the privatization of the public university and increasingly militarized police violence.
The sit-in lasted through 6 hours of negotiation amidst speeches and chants that could be heard across central campus. Students, community members, and FSM veterans emerged from Capital Projects around 7pm calling victory on their first two short-term demands: a meeting with Chancellor Dirks and a signed commitment for documents that Capital Projects promised to share in May. The coalition came forward to the cheers of supporters who had gathered outside in solidarity. However, the UC continued to stonewall on any of the main demands, which include a halt to the development of the Gill Tract and a community process for an alternative design for a Food Initiative on all 20 acres of this historic farmland (more about the demands and the Gill Tract, below).
As one student said, as she was emerging from Capital Projects: “This struggle is far from over. This is just the beginning.”
CPC highlights that this is just one emblematic example of the root issues that many students, workers, and community members are experiencing. The demands called attention to the extent of actions that students need to take in order to speak and have dialogue with their own Chancellor. They also highlighted the lack of transparency in the University’s financial decisions and how the administration does not fulfill its promises. This silencing through neglect is a common experience for many student, worker, and community groups (more about Coalition speeches outside sit-in, below).
The action cut through the facade of the University’s nostalgic memorialization of the Free Speech Movement’s anniversary, with coalition members holding signs and chanting “The Struggle Continues”.
Coalition celebrates after victory of short-term demands.
The Architects & Engineers Building, home of Capital Projects.
More on concerns in coalition speeches:
Students spoke to the ever-increasing student tuition and fees, and residents of the UC Village student family housing complex spoke to their rent hikes. Members of Fossil Free Cal and Students for Justice in Palestine spoke to their protracted campaigns for divestment and student voice in the decisions making about where public money is invested. Arnold Meza, a Richmond resident and campus worker spoke about UC Berkeley’s new development in Richmond and the need for UCB to respect the Union, by ensuring that all jobs are UC employed union jobs, and to respect the community by ensuring that all private corporations with which they partner respect the environment, affordable housing and promote fair public education. The community in Richmond has been devastated by notorious corporate players, like Chevron, and an institution such as UC Berkeley should be held to a higher standard. Members from the UAW 2865 Student Worker union highlighted how corporate funding of research negatively impacts academic freedom to develop innovative solutions to climate change and social injustices.
Many student and community groups spoke out for a “Just Transition”.
A recent publication by the Coalition to the University’s Student Environmental Resource Center, highlights the importance of a “Just Transition” from corporate-dominated fossil fuel-based economy, to a people-powered alternative economy:
Students led the sit-in inside Capital Projects, with 5 demands. 1) They demand that Capital Projects provide them with the documents about the proposed commercial development of the Gill Tract Farm that Vice Chancellor of Real Estate, Robert LaLanne, promised them in May, and 2) demand a meeting with Chancellor Dirks, who backed out of a meeting with the group he promised in May. 3) The students also demand a halt to the commercial development of the Gill Tract Farm to allow for alternatives that better reflect student and community needs for the land (more about the Gill Tract, below). 4) They demand that Capital Projects work with other branches of the University to respect the wishes of the community of Richmond in their plans for the new Richmond Bay Campus. 5) Finally, they demand that all of Capital Projects’ documents be made transparent and accessible.
Students received an email from David Surratt, the Associate Dean of Students, promising a good faith effort on providing the requested documents on the commercial development of the historic Gill Tract Farm. Students were also promised a meeting with Chancellor Dirks on November 14th at 1pm, in the form of a written statement signed by Dan Mogulof, the UC Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs. There was an agreement that Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) will be able to have weekly check-ins with Capital Projects leading up to the meeting. The requested documents on development were promised to be sent 3 weeks before the meeting with the Chancellor.
More on the Gill Tract Farm:
Students, faculty and neighbors to the land have petitioned the Administration with alternatives to the commercial development as far back as 1997, pointing out that the big box-grocery store, large parking lot, and high-end housing complex are an irresponsible use of an undeveloped greenfield, that will have devastating health impacts for the local community. Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) has teamed up with these long-time community residents to advocated for a “Food Initiative” on the Gill Tract that would provide hands-on learning opportunities for students and community-driven research in urban agriculture and other solutions to climate change and food insecurity.
Capital Projects refers to the site of the proposed development as an “empty lot”, but the land is directly on the historic 100 acre Gill Tract Farm parcel that once stretched from San Pablo to the Bay. The Coalition, acknowledging the land’s legacy as a historic farm and research site, refer to it as the Gill Tract Farm.
Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) interviews available upon request: