Students and Staff Protest to Remove Police from Campus

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Animated silhouettes carrying picket signs are projected accross Price Center.
Kristina Stahl / The Triton

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Students, faculty, activists, and community members at UC San Diego organized a series of protests on October 1 as part of a campaign calling for the removal of all police from UC campuses.

Known as the UC Cops Off Campus campaign, this statewide potice abolitionist movement emerged amidst nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The coalition’s main goal is to abolish all police departments across the UC and CSU campuses by Fall 2021.

Protesters with Cops Off Campus at UCSD carried out multiple actions, including a multi-sited banner drop, a virtual protest, and a cacerolazo, a form of protest in which the graduate students banged on pots, pans, and other utensils to draw attention. 

The virtual protest consisted of a live projection at Price Center, where drawn silhouettes walked with picket signs featuring messages submitted from across the UC system in support of demilitarizing the UCPD. The projection was broadcast live on the streaming website Twitch.

Protests also took place on the other nine UC campuses, such as a march at UC Los Angeles, a rally and bike ride at UC Santa Barbara, and a teach-in series on policing and anti-Blackness at UC Riverside. All these events were part of a UC-wide day of action in which the Cops Off Campus announced its presence as a statewide movement.

Many organizers within the newly-formed UC Cops Off Campus coalition were also active in the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) movement, during which graduate students across the UC system pushed for better working conditions and wage increases. According to the UC Cops Off Campus mission statement, the campaign began in solidarity with COLA because of graduate students’ struggles with police during COLA’s wildcat strikes earlier this year, including the arrest of at least 17 demonstrators at UC Santa Cruz in February.

Kerry Keith, a Communication postdoctoral student and organizer with UCSD 4 COLA, said that the coalition of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty which formed last Winter Quarter has become  an important foundation for organizing and building on a network of activists across the UC system.

“[COLA organizing] sort of set a very-recent stage to mobilize those who are invested in, or are allied with, efforts to make a UCPD-free campus,” Keith said in an email to The Triton.

According to financial reports from every UC campus, the UC system spent more than $138 million on policing across all ten campuses during the 2018-2019 school year– UCSD spent approximately $15 million of its budget on police funding alone. 

This past June, Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD) approved a resolution in support of defunding the UCSDPD and abolishing the UCPD. In the resolution, ASUCSD said that they intend to hold the university accountable for preventing and addressing police misconduct on campus, as well as work towards acquiring records of the UCSDPD’s budget to ensure greater transparency.

The Black Student Union (BSU) also called on the university to cut ties with police in a statement of demands released that same month. This list identified concrete actions that university administration should take to improve the safety and wellbeing of Black students on campus. This includes divesting from the UCPD and local municipal forces and replacing current police “with a community-controlled system of safety.” The Triton reached out to the BSU but they declined to comment on this story.

“We are currently in meetings with campus administration to see that our demands are met, but we will feel fully supported once every single demand is fulfilled,” BSU chair Adrian Dymally said in July regarding progress on the BSU’s demands.

Outside of California, others have also expressed their support for the UC Cops Off Campus campaign and similar abolitionist movements. In a signed statement of Black solidarity made in September, various Black faculty, organizers, and activists in the UC system and across the country urged the UC to completely divest from policing. 

According to Keith, Cops Off Campus at UCSD is still in its beginning stages and will continue to establish both its identity and platform throughout the year, while calling on the university to commit to alternatives to policing.

“Building and practicing abolition requires coalition work,” Keith said. “There are models for transformative justice we can tap into, and seek alternatives that instill people power. Responsible alternatives to police necessitate more care and attention to the nuances of harms experienced on campus.”

Julianna Domingo is a staff writer for The Triton. You can follow her here