Open Library @ UC Irvine: an ilustrated minimalist perspective.

As the night began to set in, people started coming in to the library. Some people came in asking about the action, others went straight to the computer rooms or to the elevators, not really understanding why the library was open so late, but happy about it nonetheless.

Soon, faculty, librarians and students gathered after rearranging the set up of the main room as the library staff just looked on from the loan desk.

A sign was put up and more people started gathering as the students began the action with a series of spoken word performances.

There was a Study-in conducted by students and faculty. Among the topics, there was a history of the Gaza-Palestine conflict, an insiders look at the ETS manipulation of the school system through SATs and AP testing (among other ways), a talk on the situation of AB 540 students and the Dream Act, and an AFCSME update on the situation of the workers at UC Irvine, whose company’s contract is about to expire at the end of the current school year.

As the night kept getting wetter outside, the library staff started to be replaced by police with bullet-proof vests underneath their uniforms, carrying guns and batons. The police then proceeded to videotape the gathering of students from the loan desk. When a student asked them why they were videotaping the gathering, they said it was, “to prevent vandalism.”

At 11:00 p.m. the students had concluded UC Irvine’s first General Assembly and the police indicated to the staff that it was time to tell everybody to move out.

The students remained inside until after the lights were turned off from the main lobby and after several unsuccessful attempts by the librarians to move the crowd outside, finally the students decided as a group to move out.

The library then proceeded to be occupied by the police themselves. The students staged a party outside the library as the rain poured down on them. The occupation was successful; the students managed to cage the police inside the building for a while.

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8 comments

  1. How was this occupation successful?

    “The occupation was successful; the students managed to cage the police inside the building for a while.”

    Was that the goal of the occupation? The point?
    To have police officers get paid extra so that
    they could stand around “caged” in the building you were supposed to occupy for a few hours?

    1. Success is the minimalist perspective. The administration did extend the hours of the library until 11 (from 5pm). Police did get paid overtime. However, the general feeling among the students was of triumph, of having overcome the initial fear that comes with stepping outside the marked lines. Perhaps this action was not an action as radical as others have been, but it was a good step nonetheless.

      1. I really do hope those present throughout the attempted occupation did feel in some way empowered. I also understand that this was to be a temporary occupation and that we have to build the capacity to resist through each action. However, I’ve been routinely disappointed not only by the low number of actions happening on Southern California universities, but in the prevalent amount of reformism involved.

        Personally, I’m not interested in reducing the fee hikes, the budget cuts, or democratizing the university. I see the university as what it is – which is an institution subservient to society and in managing society. I also think others besides students should be participating in actions on and off the campus because students are merely WORKERS in training or WORKERS being trained to MANAGE other WORKERS. I also think if others aren’t joining in or acting in solidarity with the events planned at each university, it’s probably the fault of the students in perceiving themselves as merely students and not part of the bigger picture (which would lead them to organize in the bigger picture).

        I want to live communism and spread anarchy. I want a completely other world and so to me, direct actions, events, and movement building all take a different strategy, perspective, and meaning.

        This is why I am critiquing the way that I am.

    2. Furthermore, how are the students really supposed to stop the police from being paid overtime? It seems like that is something that is not necessarily in their reach, unless, they stop paying taxes of course.

      1. We don’t disagree. However, it seems like by every action you seek revolution, whereas, these “workers”, “students”, or “people”, (it is all semantics really), don’t necessarily know what they are seeking with a relatively small action (in comparison to revolution). Here, the general feeling of impulse was perhaps best described as disgust and then joy.

  2. What do you mean reformist? This action was successful because it worked to politicize students. Here in Southern California, we don’t have a ‘ready to go’ student population well versed in the tenets of Marxism, anarchism, revolutionary struggle, etc. Thus, we have to build this, step by step. This open library action was a successful step in politicizing apathetic, bored students. Once we have a solid revolutionary base, then we can ‘live communism, and spread anarchy’.

    1. I’ll reply to both Rebel 2 and M.

      @ Rebel 2:

      I think it’s the responsibility of those who plan the action and decide the loose structure to have an idea in mind with the action. In my opinion, occupations – particularly temporary or spontaneous ones – should be viewed, at the very least, as a chance for people to revel in their collective power, to find those who share affinity and also want to destroy empire and capitalist relations. I don’t believe the point is to make demands or even “win” anything concrete from the authorities. I think at the very least a “successful” occupation sets up a chance for those of the party of insurgents to find each other, grow their collective power, and (if at all possible and for however reasonably long as possible) defend the occupation. But that’s just my opinion. That’s how I view the tactic and goals of an occupation. Obviously, whoever planned this one had different things in mind. That’s fine.

      @ M:

      I agree that we have to build our capacity to revolt (and in turn the movement) by continual actions that try and push further than the last. What I mean by reformist is by making demands and trying to play their game. I’m not interested in that and I think any attempt at that type of power play is folly and not conducive to the world I want to see. That’s just my opinion. I agree that we don’t have an overtly politicized “student” population in Southern California, but I don’t think that should be too strong an obstacle. I know many people in the “student” age bracket who are alienated, bored, depressed, and see no future in their education system and no future beyond their education system. We all have different ways to cope with this, but to me this shared experience and feeling is enough of a political affinity to resist.

      @ everyone:

      I’d also be wary about deeming the increased library hours for that day a victory. To me it seemed more like a tactical operation to undermine the potential collective feeling of power. Perhaps even a tactical operation to give you the illusion that it is possible to make demands and win them – to actually “make change” within the confines of civil society.

      Somewhat akin to a parent at first setting restrictions on a child, the child rebelling, and then the parent giving the child a few concessions. The goal? To keep the child in line and believing that the parent can be reasonable and plead to.

      1. Again, we don’t disagree. And, in effect, the “occupation” did provide “a chance for people to revel in their collective power, to find those who share affinity and also want to destroy empire and capitalist relations”. However, we believe the merit of “success” is a value judgement that is perhaps not very dependable as a measure of anything in particular. Police would be paid overtime no matter what: if they are outside trying to get in, or inside locking students out. We also highly doubt that “deeming the increased library hours for that day a victory” would have the effect of making the students believe in “the illusion that it is possible to make demands and win them – to actually ‘make change’ within the confines of civil society”. This is not the first, nor the last time the administration at UC Irvine preemptively disassembles the plans of students in protest. They understand exactly what the Administrators sought by increasing the library hours; and, though there was a general frustration with the outcome, they still threw a great fucking party in the rain while having a good laugh at the cops!

        If something was achieved there, it was that: the laughter, the found ability to laugh when the intent was to make them afraid.

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