Protesters target UC to demand openness, accountability, and the restoration of cuts

The UC Davis pepper spraying incident and other police abuses have helped galvanize the student movement.

UPDATED BELOW -- Protesters with ReFund California and other groups are gathering today (Mon/28) at UCSF-Mission Bay and three other UC campuses to protest a teleconference of the UC Board of Regents, which will discuss state funding levels and tuition increases, as well as recent incidents of police violence against nonviolent student protesters.

ReFund California, a coalition of student and labor groups, is angry with the UC's decision to abruptly cancel the Nov. 16-17 Regents meeting at UCSF, citing public safety concerns surrounding a meeting that the group had been planning a convergence on for months – as well as a hastily called meeting on the day after Thanksgiving.

The group has created a pledge that it wants the Regents to agree to, which includes calling for higher taxes on the rich, a restoration of cuts to the public university systems, removal of commercial land from Prop. 13 property tax caps, and a fee on Wall Street financial transactions.

ReFund California is also dismissive of independent investigations the UC has initiated to look at aggressive police repression of students protests, including police at UC Berkeley using batons and mass arrests to dismantle an OccupyCal tent city and police at UC Davis dousing passive protesters with pepper spray. Video of both incidents went viral and have helped galvanize the overlapping Occupy and student movements.

“No amount of new 'police protocols' will prevent violence against students and workers, as long California’s corporate and financial elite along with their representatives among the Regents and administrators of the UC rely on police to address the concerns of students and workers,” the ReFund California Coalition wrote in the letter to the UC.

Today's action at UCSF – centered around the meeting site at 1675 Owens Street, where a Guardian reporter is on the scene and will offer her report later today – joins similar protests at UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Merced, the four sites where the Regents will gather.

Meanwhile, ReFund and other groups are also angry that the CSU Board of Trustees went ahead with its Nov. 16 meeting behind closed doors, clearing out student protesters and the public before they approved a 9 percent tuition hike, an action that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (a member of that body) denounced.

"While I understand the CSU leadership's concerns regarding public safety, the spirit of open deliberations has been marred," Newsom wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to Chancellor Charles Reed, calling for the matter to be re-voted at the Dec. 5 meeting to "allow the full board to hold an open debate, with full public comment and members of the media present."

In related news, many students and faculty at UC Davis are on strike today to protest the pepper-spraying incident. And tomorrow (Tues/29) at noon, members of OccupyOakland say they plan to retake Frank Ogawa Plaza (which they renamed Oscar Grant Plaza) and set up another 24/7 encampment.

UPDATE NOON: Guardian reporter Christine Deakers says there is a heavy police presence at the UCSF meeting, where only 50 members of the public are allowed inside and most of those seats have been claimed by ReFund California members. When the Regents decided to limit the time for public testimony, the group held a General Assembly in the meeting, drowning out the Regents and causing the meeting to adjourn until 1:30 pm. You can follow her tweets here or here.

UPDATE 1:50 PM: The UC Board of Regents did not reconvene, instead cancelling the rest of the meeting without taking action. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Newsom as saying he supports the demands of ReFund but that he's not willing to sign its pledge.