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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Guest opinion

Fourth-year graduate student, entomology
On Nov. 18, 2011, Louise Macabitas and Brian Nguyen shaped history. They took the iconic photographs of Lt. Pike pepper-spraying Davis students, which would become the face of the Occupy movement. Had Louise and Brian not been there taking pictures, the world would not have seen what had happened here.

Fast-forward a year and a day to Monday’s Quad rally allegedly memorializing the event. How times have changed. Rather than discussing campus issues, Occupy UC Davis sponsored a march about Gaza, carrying signs like “Long Live the Intifada” (the term for Palestinian violence against Israel, including suicide bombing).

Speakers like Abdul Amir-Ali — whose past speeches blamed the Jews for 9/11 and claimed the Matthew Shepard Act, named after a murdered gay youth, is a Zionist conspiracy — proudly railed against Israel, Obama, corporations, CNN, etc. Also in attendance were pro-Israel students, of every race and gender, carrying signs like “Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace” and “Save Gaza from Hamas,” standing in silence to let the Occupiers talk without interruption or censorship (which is more than what anti-Israel activists have ever done for them).

At the end, Occupy held a segregated teach-in at Dutton, refusing to let Israel-friendly students attend. The pro-Israel students formed a circle on the Quad and sang “Salaam al kolam” — a Hebrew and Arabic song meaning “Peace for everyone.”

To an outside observer of the event (of which there were few), who seems to embody the original spirit of Occupy?

The predictable event wasn’t as startling as what preceded it. On the Facebook page for the march, a photograph was posted of a smiling young man with a camera. It is the profile picture of Marley Windham-Herman, described by the poster as a “Davis Zionist.” Captions and comments urged those marching to “be aware” of him and “get in his way.” Why?

Because he might take photographs.

Apparently someone was afraid Marley would document the protest, showing the true face of anti-Zionism in Davis … exactly as Louise and Brian showed the face of police brutality last year. This horrifying post is both Orwellian and dangerous: it put Marley’s personal safety at risk, along with his free speech.

The post was eventually deleted, yet the question remains: Why is a group supposedly adamant about protecting freedom of speech actively suppressing it?

Unfortunately for Occupy, multiple photographers were there (including Marley, who would not be threatened). Fortunately for everyone, there wasn’t much to photograph. The general rally, which started at noon, was poorly attended. Only when the Gaza marchers showed up at 12:30 did the event pick up. This brings up another question: On the anniversary of the pepper-spray event, where was everyone?

In the past few months, the same campus administrators, politicians, corporations and citizens Monday’s rally demonized passed Proposition 30, a bill that prevented $6 billion in spending cuts that would have otherwise led to tuition hikes.

In the past year, Occupy evicted a bank, then patted themselves on the back while extracting payouts from the campus. They cared more about themselves and their image than the students they were supposed to represent, and often worked against us.

This combination of self-centeredness, ignorance and impotence has disillusioned many with Occupy, as has its speakers’ stereotypical rhetoric. Events like Monday’s Israel Hate-fest and the Lt. Pike-esque tactics of its organizers alienate many from the Occupy cause, which is not in principle anti-Zionist.

Occupy has lost its way, having become the very monster it once fought against. Whatever Occupy’s members see in a mirror, it’s not what this campus sees.


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