Nearly 1,500 UCSB students, staff, faculty members, and local residents participated in a powerful and transformative strike against war on February 15th. The day culminated with a mass sit-in on Highway 217 -- the main freeway leading to campus -- that blocked traffic for roughly two hours, followed by a lock-down of the campus administration building, Cheadle Hall.
The strike was one of 27 coordinated anti-war actions at high school and college campuses across the country. These included walk-outs, rallies, and die-ins, and also four other strikes: at Columbia University, Columbia College (Illinois), Sonoma State University, and Occidental College (Los Angeles).
The day of action was timed to mark the fourth anniversary of the largest global protest in history, when up to 15 million people demonstrated against the Iraq War on February 15, 2003. The UCSB strike played out over six main acts: a picket line from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pardall Tunnel entrance to campus, a rally in Isla Vista, a march across campus, the H217 blockade, a march to the campus administration building, Cheadle Hall, to issue a handful of impromptu demands to the campus administration; and a rally at Cheadle Hall.
Among the most common messages expressed during the day were: “Troops Home Now,” “Drop Tuition, Not Bombs,” and "Ain't No Power Like the Power of the People 'Cuz the Power of the People Don't Stop!"
The strike heralded a dramatic return of the UCSB anti-war movement. Following are some of the comments students have written regarding the action in the past few days:
"Protest 101 was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. By the end of the strike against war, I gained more knowledge in those three and a half hours than I ever had in an entire quarter-long class."
"today was by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I witnessed peace, organization, and youth voice in action."
"I've never been a part of anything quite like this before.....it was an amazing experience!!!"
To build from the strike, a four-day teach-in and festival called Peace Out University will take place next week, from February 20-23, in Isla Vista's Anisq Oyo Park.
Two people were arrested during the action. CHP officers arrested former UCSB student Jesse Carrieri and UCSB associate professor of Women's Studies Mireille Miller-Young for “crossing law-enforcement lines and failing to disperse when ordered to do so.” Each was released at around 7 p.m. that evening.
The strike began at 7 a.m., when a group of students formed a picket line at the Pardall Tunnell entrance to campus. The crowd gradually swelled as the day progressed. The most frequent chant used by the picketers was: "Get Off Your Bike / And Join The Strike / You Can't Ignore / This Goddamn War"
Not only are Halliburton, Bechtel, and Carlyle profiting off the US wars in the Middle-East, as this student surely knows, but so are several companies with major operations in Santa Barbara: Raytheon, Alliant Technosystems, Toyon Research Corporation, and many others.
Jesse asked the police some pointed questions and was arrested as a result. It's likely that the cops felt threatened and wanted to make an example out of a few of the protesters, so that the others would take their threats of arrest more seriously.
In reality, though, the protesters were much more in control of the outcome of the stand-off than the CHP.
At the end of the action, the rabble stormed Cheadle Hall, the campus administration building. As the crowd approached, the building went on lock-down and many administrators and staff members were sent home early. The protestors\\\' demands included amnesty for the peace strikers who had been arrested earlier in the day.
After roughly 20 minutes of the crowd pounding on the windows of the building, chanting "Peace! Now!" and "Ain't No Power Like the Power of the People / 'Cuz The Power of the People Don't Stop!" over and over again, UCSB Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young emerged to address the crowd.
Young first claimed he was unable to do anything to assist the former student and the faculty members who were in jail, and that he had called Chancellor Henry Yang to notify him of the students' concerns regarding the issue.
When pressed by the students, Young promised to do his best to get ahold of Yang. He also pledged to bring to Yang's attention the students' desire for a public forum regarding the UC's management of the Los Alamos and Livemore nuclear weapons labs and the militarization of scientific research at UCSB.
At the conclusion of the action, one thing was abundantly clear to everyone who was a part of it: This has only just begun...
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