Thursday, March 4, a group of UC Davis students marching through campus began to approach a freeway on-ramp for the purposes of occupation, and Yolo County Sheriff’s Department officers blocked the route. They shot pepper balls at students’ feet as the marchers continued to approach the on-ramp. Abruptly, the police pulled Laura Mitchell, a student and queer leader at UC Davis, from the front of the crowd, dragging her along the ground, ripping her shirt off, and holding her hostage until protesters agreed to dissipate. Police alleged no injuries were sustained by any in the crowd. The video clearly demonstrates otherwise.
Below is a video account of the afternoon ordeal. **Trigger Warning: Police violence at 6:43**
Additionally, more than 100 Bay Area protesters shut down the 880 and 980 freeways for hours on Thursday afternoon, creating gridlock. All were eventually arrested, including the student journalists among them. Many were beaten (video).
Mainstream portrayals of student activism tend toward stereotyping movements based on their place of origin. Berkeley, still widely known as “Berserkeley,” or “The People’s Republic Of Berkeley,” lacks some agency on the national stage because of assumptions that all students are politically active. Along with Berkeley’s legacy of activism around the Free Speech Movement is the legacy of administrative overreactions to protests. In fact, the administrative building on campus which hosts the offices of Vice Chancellors, California Hall, has “protest-proof” doors with two essential anti-protest features: first, they lack door handles so as to prevent any protester from chaining anything to the doors. Second, a backup pair of doors automatically swing shut and lock in case of protest or political activity outside.
The harder a campus works to shed its stereotype of activism, by repressing protest movements and student voices, the more radically students push back to gain press and attention from an administration. This builds a longer legacy of activism. The campus of UC Davis lacks that legacy of activism– their mascot is the Aggies, short for the “Agriculturalists.” But just as a generation of UC Berkeley students first witnessed police brutality on November 20, 2009, a generation of UC Davis students witnessed police brutality Thursday.