‘Imagining a different future’: UC Cops Off Campus to hold day of refusal

Photo of UCPD car
Ariel Hayat/File
In an effort to start off Abolition May and demand the abolition of UCPD, UC Cops Off Campus is planning to hold a day of refusal Monday. Those who participate in the day of refusal will not partake in university-based labor.

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UC Cops Off Campus, a coalition of university students, faculty, community organizations and other workers, is planning to hold a day of refusal to demand the abolition of UCPD on Monday. 

During the day of refusal, participants will stop all work, including attending lectures, responding to emails and other university-based labor.

The day of refusal kicks off Abolition May, a monthlong series of actions demanding the removal of all campus police put forward by the national Cops Off Campus Coalition.

“The continuous murder of Black and Brown people in our communities at the hands of the police is really why I’m doing this work,” said campus doctoral student and UC Cops Off Campus organizer Coleman Rainey.

According to Rainey, while the work stoppage is being held in alignment with the national Cops Off Campus movement, the more pressing impetus is community safety.

Rainey cited a 2019 incident in which two Black minors, the sons of UC Berkeley students, were detained at a playground in University Village in Albany by UCPD officers. One of the minors, an 11-year old child, was handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car.

“It’s just that routine day-to-day violence that is so normalized in our culture,” Rainey said. “When we talk about abolition, it’s really about imagining a different future. It’s about a presence, not an absence.”

Rainey added that rather than just advocating for the destruction of police, abolition movements are attempting to create “life-affirming institutions” and structures and cultures of care.

Campus English associate professor Grace Lavery, speaking in solidarity with the Cops Off Campus movement, noted the importance of community-led avenues of seeking help. She said there is a need to get rid of the notion that police can be used to de-escalate violent situations.

Lavery noted that the work stoppage is not attempting to negotiate a working contract; rather, the withdrawal of labor is meant to direct the community and institution’s focus toward the police, which Lavery alleged make campus a “degree of magnitude more dangerous.”

To address community concerns regarding policing, the UC system held a two-day Campus Safety Symposium in February and March, according to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Stett Holbrook. The feedback from the symposium will be taken into consideration by UCOP in issuing new campus safety guidelines this summer.

Lavery said she has been on campus during times when police are visibly occupying the campus space, with “hundreds and hundreds” of armed officers marching through campus. However, she noted that those “terrifying” moments only account for some of the violence allegedly imposed on the Berkeley community by police.

“What we have to realize, and what Monday is about realizing, is that cops are on campus every day, carrying their guns around and carrying their weaponry around, introducing violence into our spaces,” Lavery alleged. “That’s a lived reality to people at our university.”

Contact Iris Kwok at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @iriskkwok.