At UC Davis, in particular, students had spent a week protesting a possible 81 percent tuition increase, from $12,192 per year to $22,200. (Tuition in the UC system, the largest public university system in the country, is already three times what it was a decade ago. “One of the reasons I am involved with OWS and advocating for an occupy movement on the UC campus is to fight privatization and austerity in the UC system, and fight rising tuition costs,” said one victim of the pepper spraying who was interviewed anonymously the following day (and who still had a burning sensation in his throat, lips and nose). “I think that citizens have the right to get an education regardless of economic condition.”
Those tuition rate hikes were the result of a massive budget shortfall in California which, in turn, was the result of the housing collapse and recession, which, in turn, was caused by the same bankers and politicians thousands are protesting against in New York and Washington, D.C., and throughout the rest of the country.
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, vanden Heuvel writes a weekly column for The Post.
UC Davis police pepper spray protesters
And so the protests should continue in the face of the forces that will continue to mobilize against them, whether in the form of police in riot gear or lobbyist-sponsored smear campaigns. That means not just occupying parks and squares; it means occupying Congress, so that it might create jobs again. It means occupying state houses, so that we see more wins like we did in Ohio on behalf of workers’ rights. It means occupying the White House, so that we can replicate the Keystone XL pipeline victory again and again. And it means that the rest of the 99 percenters — not just those who are physically occupying, but the rest of us — should join in wherever we can, however we can.
If the movement can occupy the national debate for long enough, it can change it. And if it channels its passion, anger and hopes into workable strategies, it might actually forge a new politics. That chapter is being written right now by Americans all over this country, including and especially that small group of college students in California who stood up for what they believed in, and then refused to stand down.