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Poet Joshua Clover and 11 Students May Face Prison Time and $1 Million in Damages for Shutdown of US Bank
If you haven’t heard: The administration of UC Davis is holding poet and professor Joshua Clover and 11 students accountable for their alleged role in protests that led to the shutdown of a campus US Bank. “District Attorney Jeff Reisig is charging campus protesters with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, the protesters could face up to 11 years each in prison, and $1 million in damages.” According to the Davis Dozen press release:
The charges were brought at the request of the UC Davis administration, which had recently received a termination letter from US Bank holding the university responsible for all costs, claiming they were “constructively evicted” because the university had not responded by arresting the “illegal gathering.” Protesters point out that the charges against them serve to position the university favorably in a potential litigation with US Bank.
[I]t seems that the University administration has successfully evaded scrutiny of the role it played in a series of events that began in January at UC Davis when 12 protesters, some of whom had been pepper-sprayed in November, staged another peaceful sit-in at the campus branch of US Bank. The sit-in was an important political action in defense of public funding of the University and against the replacement of that funding by private contracts with corporations. The protestors won an enormous victory when US Bank closed it University branch on February 28, possibly breaking its agreement with UC Davis…
The protestors’ success in this fight against the privatization agenda of the University should be cause for celebration; however, on March 29, nearly a month after the bank pulled out of UC Davis, the 11 students and 1 professor involved in the sit-in received orders to appear at Yolo County Superior Court…
Unfortunately, this time around there is no graphic youtube video that could potentially go viral and capture the psychological and financial stress the protesters are under as they face the possibility of having to leave school and, even worse, say goodbye to friends, family, partners and children as they go off to serve time in the California penal system. There is no video to elicit gasps of horror at the threat of a lifetime of financial ruin that the protesters face. There is no video to show the unremitting repression of their democratic right to freedom of assembly and political protest.
The pepper spraying of UC Davis students shocked the nation, but the persecution that the Davis Dozen protesters face is far worse. It is life-altering for them. We cannot allow the story of the Davis Dozen to fall through the cracks, even though it might not strike a chord as immediately visceral as the now infamous video of Lieutenant Pike attacking students with a chemical agent. Let us reflect on the tragic irony that the state funding that should be allocated to aiding the intellectual growth and development of the 11 students involved in the sit-in might be funneled towards their incarceration. The modest salary that is paid to a professor, committed enough to advocate for public education might be replaced by state money to keep this highly gifted professional locked up.
And indeed, if we look at where the state money paid by the people of California for services to foster the common good, we can plainly see that this scenario is a sinister microcosm. In 2011, the UC and CSU systems account for $5.6 billion of state funding, while the prisons are receiving $9.6 billion dollars from the state. The state spends about $50,000 per inmate each year. We cannot look the other way and allow the boot of the penal system to fall on these protesters, while corrupt University administrators secure the way to enrich the 1% on California’s dime with impunity and at the expense of public education. We must immediately demand that all charges be dropped against the Davis Dozen.
Their arraignment originally set for April 27th has been postponed until May 10th, according to the California Aggie. You can also find out more on the Davis Dozen website. Read the FAQs about the case here. And more as we know!