A clique of privileged U.C. Berkeley students, upset that they’re the top 1% of elite students in the state and thus disqualified from participating in the Occupy movement, could no longer contain their frustration on Wednesday and threw an Occutantrum, attempting to “occupy” a few square yards of the 1,200-acre campus. The police dutifully played their roles in the street theater performance, showing up in riot gear and looking scary so the privileged students could shout at them and feel properly revolutionary, as instructed by their professors. Following the script, the police repeatedly removed the handful of occupation tents so that the students could feel sufficiently wronged by authority figures and thereby earn their “Berkeley protest stripes,” which have been a requirement for graduation since 1964.
The group tantrum also gave the students a chance to test their fluency in Occupese, a new language which they have all been studying since the semester began on September 17.
The students, comprising the top 1% of high school graduates in the state (the top 12.5% are guaranteed admittance to the University of California’s 11 campuses statewide; of those, U.C. Berkeley is the most sought-after and thus the most selective) twice tried to set up tents in front of Sproul Hall on Wednesday, and twice the U.C. police moved in to dismantle them, as they had announced they would do:
Dozens of police in riot gear descended on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza on Wednesday in two violent confrontations with student protesters that prevented them from building an Occupy encampment on the campus.
Campus police arrested seven protesters during an afternoon altercation at the plaza after protesters set up three tents, which police promptly tore down.
By evening, protesters had once again erected tents – this time there were seven. Students joined arms and chanted “hold the line” and “the whole world is watching” while police approached with batons and bean-bag guns. After a brief scuffle, police broke through their line and pulled down the tents. Then officers formed a perimeter on the steps of Sproul Hall.
Our first video shows the U.C. cops dismantling the tents as the students jeer in feigned outrage:
Our second video shows the climactic highlight of the “violence” as cops jab their nightsticks into the encroaching “human chain” of protesters trying to stop the dismantlement of the tents, in direct violation of the cops’ commands to keep back and not interfere:
Since the whole purpose of a protest is to elicit a vigorous response from the police, so the agitators can then scream “Police brutality!”, the whole affair worked out splendidly for both sides; the cops got the tents removed, and the privileged students got some bruises they can show off as proof of their radical bona fides.
I swung by campus a short time afterward, missing the big confrontation, but just in time to witness their very first “General Assembly,” where the fledgling Occupiers could test out their fluency in “Occupese,” the newly emerged language of the Occupy movement that is part vocalization, part sign language, and part bodily gestures and other idioms. It was a satisfying moment for many of them, as until today they had only studied the language online and never had an opportunity to use it in a real-life setting.
Fresh tents had already been re-erected a third time, just one hour after the cops had torn down and removed two previous generations of tents.
Among the tents, two students majoring in Gender Ambivalence demonstrated the prototypical Berkeley experience: publicly combining love and politics, in this case hugging while simultaneously reading revolutionary political tracts.
Another student leader, majoring in “How to Try Dressing Up Like Lenin But Only Succeed in Looking Like an Asshole,” gave an interview to a local radical radio station.
Fashion alert! A new trend was spotted at Occupy UC: Combining the “Black Bloc” anarchist look with the “V for Vendetta” Anonymous look. It’s simple: Just spray-paint your Guy Fawkes mask black, to go with your all-black clothing and ski mask, and unused gas mask. If “Wannanymous” (wannabe Anonymous) is a poser in a Guy Fawkes mask, then let’s dub this new fashion statement “Wannanarchist.”
HA ha! Some loser was still using an original un-spray-painted Guy Fawkes mask, oblivious to the fact that he was now tragically unhip. In the foreground, some suburbanite girls had gone shopping at Safeway with Daddy’s debit card, buying supplies for the brave Occupiers planning to spend the night in the tents, away from the comforts of the futon in their nearby apartments.
Up-twinkles, down-twinkles, clarification, block! You know the drill.
Even though the protest was purported to be a spur-of-the-moment thing, somehow all the unions found out about it instantaneously and were represented in the crowd. Here we see the longshoremen’s union…
…the nurses’ union…
..and even the United Auto Workers, though the 18-year-old bleached-blonde girl holding the sign looked like she had never even been within 300 miles of an actual car factory.
I’ll start defending it once you finally get a passing grade in “Holding Your Sign Right-Side Up 101.”
“Generation 99%. Occupy Our Future.” This is what I’m worried about.
After the General Assembly, the police allowed a few kids to have a playtime camp-out in the tents, but kicked them out Thursday morning:
Occupy Cal protesters were rousted this morning by a single campus police officer who asked them to leave Sproul Plaza, site of a confrontation Wednesday evening in which police shoved clubs into protesters’ abdomens to try to get them to move and 32 people were arrested.
The group of a dozen students and activists did as they were told, taking down their tents and rolling up their sleeping bags. They said they would return in greater numbers at 6 p.m. for a general assembly to discuss the protest and Wednesday’s police response.
One tent remained on the steps of Sproul Hall until 10:30 a.m., when police moved in and took it down. By then, the roughly 60 demonstrators who had arrived were chanting “shame on you” as police dragged away the tent.
Some professors and graduate-student instructors held classes on the lawn near the stairs so students could discuss the Occupy movement.
…And I’m sure the story will continue with more predictable, pointless and ultimately futile pretend-protesting for many days to come.