44.7 F

Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Solidarity through the storm

I experienced a moment of surprising self-reflexivity Friday while I was protesting the fee hikes outside of the Segundo dining hall.

We were standing outside of the windows beckoning diners to come and march with us: “Join our strike!” we chanted, we screamed, we waved. What did we get in return? Blank stares.

I had to wonder what we, the protestors, looked like at that moment. We were all drenched from the rain, holding an intense conviction that if we somehow gathered enough people to march with us to the ARC ballroom, we would make a statement big enough to … dissuade the fee hikes that have been talked about and considered for months?

Maybe all of our intentions are silly – it is so like us college students to naively think occupying a building can change our budget crises. And that rock ‘n’ roll can save the world.

But the coverage of Thursday’s night rally begs to differ.

Videos on YouTube alone show the fire and intensity that pervaded Mrak Hall Thursday night. The chants were infectious. The anger was infectious. The outrage at the police, even though I pragmatically knew they were only doing their job, was infectious. The cheering every time one of the 52 students got arrested was infectious.

UC Davis’ demonstration alone made it to Fox News, and the collective efforts by other UCs are in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN. On one hand, the mere fact that these protests are making national news shows that we must be making an impact – we must be affecting someone out there.

On the other hand, what would happen if we didn’t protest?

It would seem like the students didn’t care about and could afford the fee hikes, or that fee hikes in the future will somehow be okay with us.

Many of my friends ask why I bother protesting, because it’s not going to make a difference. It’s like asking why I bother voting.

Protesting is necessary now because it is expected. It is so embedded into our college culture that if activists didn’t step up something would seem seriously wrong. We protest despite knowing our actions could be futile. We protest because we have to.

Powerful moments of the three-day protest that you probably will never read about anywhere else:

Seeing about 100 students sleepily waiting for shuttles to UC Berkeley outside the Mondavi Center Wednesday morning. That’s dedication, friends.

Watching hundreds of students and faculty forced to walk around our massive picket line at UC Berkeley. The distraught and disgust on their faces only fueled our chanting.

Temporarily moving Thursday night’s demonstration at Mrak Hall to the floor, where we sat down and sang The National Anthem as our fellow protestors were escorted away by the police.

Eating beans out of a giant pot, prepared for us hungry protestors by a member of the Tri Co-ops.

Marching through campus together in the pouring rain Friday morning, forming a chant circle in the quad and erupting in cheer every time a new student fled class to join our march.

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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