Approximately 200 Stanford and University of California-Berkeley students gathered on Sat., Nov. 19 at the Arrillaga Alumni Center to march in opposition to police action against Occupy Cal student protesters.
Occupy Cal students protesting in support of the national Occupy Wall Street movement and against tuition hikes clashed with Berkeley on campus police on Nov. 9 when they refused to remove their encampment in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.
Police used batons against protesters, who linked arms and formed a wall around the tents. The day’s events resulted in 39 arrests, with an additional arrest the next morning, and injuries to protesters’ arms, heads and stomachs.
Stanford organizers publicized Saturday’s march, which took place a few hours before this year’s Big Game, with the message “civil liberties have no rivalries.”
“This is a rally that will speak to the character of students at both schools,” read a publicity email circulated by Stanford students before the march. “It will send a message that even the strongest rivals have the capacity to come together.”
Protesters marched the streets surrounding the alumni center with signs, including one that read, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” referencing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from Birmingham Jail. Group chants included, “It’s our reality. Stop police brutality!”
The march ended at Cobb Track and Angell Field, where the crowd heard a few prepared speeches before an open-mic session.
“I see a bunch of smart, young people who want to fight for a better world,” said Zachary Aslanian-Williams, a Berkeley transfer student, in his speech.
Robert Slaughter, a senior at St. Mary’s College, described the events of the Nov. 9 protest. He recalled witnessing police using a baton against a woman to “stab her in the stomach five, six times.”
“The police department is doing this to defenseless young people who are the future,” Slaughter said.
“At this I’m wondering, what the hell is going to happen to me?” he said. Slaughter was arrested Nov. 9 and has been charged with three misdemeanors. He said he was held the longest of those who were arrested and described the nights he spent in the Oakland County Jail and Santa Rita Jail, where he was subjected to a strip search. He is awaiting a Dec. 12 arraignment.
Shawn Dye ’14, ASSU senator and political action co-chair of the Stanford NAACP, said in an interview with The Daily that he, “was wondering if people would attack me like that.”
This, along with a personal interest in the Occupy movement, prompted him to take a lead role in organizing Saturday’s march.
“The police brutality I felt was uncalled for,” Dye said. “Looking at the video evidence alone, we didn’t see any of the students provoking the police. As students, we have so much power that police see that as a threat.”
“The goal here is change and seeking justice,” said Milton Achelpohl ’13, vice president of the Stanford NAACP.
The Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) saw the march as an opportunity for outreach. SUDPS Chief Laura Wilson was present and stood on the side, listening to the student speeches.
“I appreciate the way in which all of the participants have handled themselves today,” Wilson said, calling the protest “peaceful and productive.”
“Some of the videos I have seen certainly were disturbing,” she said of the events in Sproul Plaza, though she added that she was not there in person.
“It looks like us versus them,” Wilson said of what she sees as an unfortunate situation in which people “feel the police are not part of their community.”
“My message would be that we do need to come together,” she said, noting opportunities such as police ride-alongs for Stanford community members to become more connected to SUDPS.
Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Sally Dickson also commented positively on the march, which she helped students including Dye organize.
“I’m very proud of our students,” Dickson said. “What happened at Cal from what I saw from the videos was tragic.”
Some protesters were clear to draw a line between the Occupy movement as a whole and Saturday’s march against police brutality.
“It’s not a matter of the Occupy situation but more about caring when people get hurt and motivating Stanford students to stand up for what is right,” said Rafael Vazquez ’12, chair of the ASSU Senate. “I’m really happy to see so many people who do care.”
Student groups that helped organize Saturday’s march included the ASSU Executive and ASSU senators, MEChA de Stanford, the Stanford Asian American Students Association, the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee, the Stanford Black Student Union, the Stanford Muslim Student Awareness Network, the Stanford National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Stanford Pilipino American Students Association, the Stanford Vietnamese Student Association and the Stanford Students of Color Coalition.
Kelsei Wharton ’12, political action co-chair of Stanford NAACP and former ASSU vice president, described the march as an effort in “raising our collective consciousness.”
“When people hear Occupy on this campus now, they’re not feeling it,” he said of Stanford’s perception. He described the issue as one of “trying to connect the dots together.”
“You have to meet people where they are and be inclusive,” Wharton said of attracting students with a wide set of beliefs to the march. “You can’t have Stanford students tuned out.”
“The way in which Occupy Cal has specific aims adds credence to the movement,” said ASSU Senate Deputy Chair Dan Ashton ’14, who also participated in the protest. “Hopefully, moving forward, the conversation at Stanford can be rooted in actionable change.”
Maria Rohani, a senior at Berkeley, commented on the issue at the heart of Occupy Cal–concern that tuition may increase up to 81 percent over the next four years.
“Occupy is about working against the system that takes advantage of those under it,” Rohani said, who was present at the Nov. 9 protest. “The UC system has been taking advantage of students for years now.”
Rohani compared the concerns of protesters at Stanford and Berkeley.
“You cannot have an Occupy movement at Cal without [tuition increases] being a focus,” she said. “When you go somewhere like Stanford, it may not be as tangible, but it’s still part of your world.”