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Students and Workers Stood Up for Education Rights!
Administration responded with police repression

Over 250 Students, Faculty, and Workers joined in on the largest Education Rights action in University of Wisconsin Milwaukee history on March 4th, 2010. After a rally bringing attention to massive tuition hikes and pay cuts facing the university, students chanted “Education is a Right!” and marched towards Chancellor Santiago’s office. This was part of a National Day of Action for Education Rights, where over 200 cities protested cuts to education.

University Students, Faculty, and Workers marched side by side towards Chapman Hall to demand a meeting with the Chancellor, where police had surrounded the building. The Chancellor has continuously refused to meet with the Education Rights Campaign, Students, or Teacher’s Unions to discuss the budget crisis. The rally, organized by the Education Rights Campaign at UWM, a coalition of over 20 groups, demanded the Chancellor take a significant pay cut from his $307,000 salary before cutting staff pay by 5%, and laying off workers.

About 200-250 people gathered at the Chancellor’s front office door, where 3 police officers refused to let anyone inside. Protestors chanted “Who’s school? Our school!” Police allowed one member of the Campaign to deliver almost 1000 signatures to the Chancellor’s secretary. The petition demanded the Chancellor take a pay cut, involve students in decision making, freeze tuition, notify the public of what is being cut, and allow groups to demonstrate for education rights.

Police told students that the Chancellor was “not around today” when some members at the back of the crowd saw the Chancellor sneaking in the back door. The rally quickly circled the building, picking up more interested students along the way. Having failed to enter the front door, students went to the back door chanting “Student rights are under attack! What are we gonna’ do, stand up fight back!” With no luck at the back door, the rally kept circling to the main entrance, growing increasingly frustrated that nobody from the administration would address the massive group.

As police stood in front of the door to the building, students continued chanting “Let us in!” for twenty minutes outside the Chancellor’s office. The crowd addressed the police, yelling “We’re on your side!” Several students moved to the front of the crowd and attempted to open the doors to the building, demanding a meeting with Chancellor Santiago. Police stood against the doors, and responded with kicks, punches, headlocks, and arm twisting. After those students were beat down, other protesters helped them out of the crowd. Protesters took turns addressing the crowd about the lack of democracy and student involvement in decision making at the university for another twenty minutes.

As students continued to speak out, and chant, police quickly snatched two protestors off the back of the crowd, hoping nobody would notice. The crowd turned around and followed the arrest yelling “Let them go!” Several police dragged two students 300 feet across the parking lot. Protesters were shocked and outraged, as a growing number of police became more aggressive with the two students. Protesters locked arms around the arrest scene and demanded that police stop brutalizing students.
solidarity forever, before the first attempt to enter Chapman Hall

The struggle continued all the way to the back door of the building, where police opened the door and threw the two students inside. As the door opened, police unleashed a barrage of pepper spray directly into the eyes and mouths of dozens of students and members of the press. Protesters screamed to the chancellor through the open door “Come meet with us, whoever you are,” hoping they could see, or speak to him. The chancellor did not respond. Members of the administration peered out the windows as police continued to attack students, throwing them to the ground, kicking, elbowing, punching, and arresting them. Some students threw snow balls at the building upon seeing the smug faces of the administration looking down from the towers of Chapman Hall.

Several Milwaukee Police Department vehicles swarmed the adjacent parking lot. Officers jumped out and pushed through students, threatening anyone around with arrest. Officers lined up and shook zip-tie handcuffs at students, grabbing at them, throwing them around, and tackling them. Police began chasing and tackling people randomly and arresting them. Police declared the protest an “unlawful assembly” and pushed the students across the parking lot, then across the street. Having scattered most of the protest, some students tried to reform in a picket line on the sidewalk, organizing students to march in circles. When one woman began leading chants, police crossed the street to arrest her, saying “you need to learn your lesson.”

Someone passed around an email list to provide legal support, when police attacked 3 students without warning for signing the list. 16 people were detained inside Chapman Hall including the Student Government President, members of the press, union representatives, and students. The administration released the Student Government President upon realizing the possibility for bad press. 15 others were charged with “unlawful assembly” and other ridiculous charges. The administration quickly held a press conference where they defended the disgusting actions of themselves and police. The media reported the administrations outright lie that students “thew ice chunks” and “punched police.”

Instead of meeting with students, and workers, the administration sent police to lock them out of the building. The Chancellor barricaded himself inside, and let police brutalize students at his own university. The Chancellor showed no respect for the already struggling students, in this time of economic and educational crisis. Students have a right to be heard by the administration.

Our own university administration will not allow students to speak freely to the people who make the decisions. Students and faculty have no decision making power in the university. Our only voice is through our organization, and through these struggles, we are stronger than ever! The administration WILL hear us!

We Demand:
1) A Public hearing with Chancellor Santiago about the economic crisis, its effects upon our university, and a discussion of our demands.
2) Drop all charges against the Milwaukee 16
3) Amnesty for the organizers of this event
4) An apology from the chief of the UW-Milwaukee police

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