What started as a rally on the UC Davis quad evolved into a student occupation of Mrak Hall, the administrative building on the UC Davis campus. Students are currently occupying the building, which the administration has decided to leave open for the time being.
The UC Strike Rally on the UC Davis Quad.
Starting at 12pm noon earlier today, students and faculty gathered around a stage and public address system set up in the East Quad of the UC Davis campus. A crowd that grew to over 500 people listened to various speakers ranging from undergrads to professors who spoke on issues ranging from policy brutality at various occupy movements around the country to austerity measures that have caused increases in student fees and program cuts.
At 2:15pm the organizers of the rally announced that would be marching around campus to try and bolster numbers that had thinned out since peak attendance. Many of the people at the rally marched across campus to Mrak Hall and a little over one hundred of those demonstrators are there now.
Once inside of Mrak Hall, the demonstrators beat drums and chanted slogans including the rallying cry from two years ago, "Who's university? Our university!" The nature of the demonstration has veins of influence from the occupation of Mrak Hall two years ago but with renewed energy and some tactics taken from the occupy movement.
Currently holding a start and stop General Assembly to agree on future actions via "consensus," a method of democratic decision making using gestures, the group has agreed to hold another General Assembly tomorrow morning at the Mondavi Center where many of them will board buses to head to protests in San Francisco. The demonstrators also agreed to hold another day of action on Thursday, November 17th in solidarity with Occupy Wall Streets call for an International Day of Non-Violent Direct Action.
Demonstrators at Mrak Hall.
Some demonstrators from Occupy Davis came to the Mrak protest to coordinate future actions, expressing frustrations that they were not involved in the planning of todays events and were unable to participate until they heard of events later in the day. Their efforts resulted in the scheduling of a joint General Assembly between the University demonstrators and the Occupy Davis protestors, location still to be determined.
Aggies of Color bringing snacks to demonstrators at Mrak Hall.
Whether or not the demonstrators will stay in the building longer is unclear at this point. Several demonstrators have set up tents on the lawn on the North Side of Mrak Hall. Police barred demonstrators from bringing a tent into the building earlier this evening. Several demonstrators have brought food and cooking supplies, signaling a desire to remain in the building long after the 5pm closing time that passed several hours ago.
"We have great students," said Claudia Morain, the University's News Service Director. She continued to say that as long as students remain peaceful and respectful, the building will remain open. When asked what she thought would happen next she said, "who knows?" The uncertainty concerning what will happen next is not limited to the administration, many demonstrators and bystanders continue to speculate what will happen next. Some anticipate another confrontation like that at Mrak Hall in 2009 that ended in the arrests of 52 students and instructors, others think that the demonstrators will withdraw and regroup to prepare for demonstrations across the state throughout the week.
Tents erected on the north lawn of Mrak Hall.
The strike was called after a violent confrontation occured between #occupycal protestors and UC Berkeley Police last wednesday. The strike was endorsed by a number of organizations including the Davis Faculty Association. Teachers and students skipped class or held teach-ins on and off campus. Some instructors set their class in the context of the global movement that some say have spurred this new round of student activism-- a movement that has remained relatively dormant since the first round of fee hikes were announced in 2009.
A class held on the north lawn of Mrak Hall.
While no official demands have been issued by the demonstrators, there has been discussion of more student involvement in decision making on campus and ways to spread the pain imposed by steep budget cuts across the higher education system in California. Despite what happens at Mrak Hall, these demonstrations will continue to occur for days, maybe even weeks to come.
Neil Ruud reporting for KDVS News
All photos and video by Neil Ruud, Creative Commons - Attribution
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