By Will Norton-Mosher
The Protest Mediation Council (PMC) is the newest anti-war group at UCSC. And on May 9, 100 students, spurred by PMC advertising, gathered at the Baytree Bookstore, filed down Hagar Drive, and stopped traffic for half an hour.
The protest organizers say it was a success, but PMC is not without controversy.
Rumors have circulated about the group’s alleged ties to the administration. Some protestors say that the four students who head PMC asked the administration for permission to hold the protest.
Waleed Salaheldin, one of the four organizers with the PMC, spoke out about the rumors.
“There was a rumor going around before the protest that we were being funded by the administration,” Salaheldin, said. “It wasn’t true.”
Clara Ackerman, a fourth-year student activist, commented on the way the event was organized in comparison to the Oct. 18, 2006 Regents’ visit where violence erupted between demonstrators and police officers, who used pepper spray on a crowd outside of the Humanities building. Three students were arrested after the protest.
“[Police] went so far as to state that they were doing this to prevent a violent protest, thus showing they believe that past campus protests have been violent,” Ackerman wrote in an email to City on a Hill Press.
Salaheldin also commented on the Oct. 18 protest.
He said that he understood why people were reluctant to see communication between protesters and police as a positive move.
“I do understand that if you were beat by the police before, you might not want to form a bond with them,” Salaheldin said.
Janine Carmona, a member of Students Against War, attended the October protest and called police involvement a “kneejerk reaction. She said that there was a lot of concern about allying with the police.
“If there was police brutality, it does not mean that protestors need to change their behavior. It means that police have to change their behavior towards protestors,” she said. “It’s like blaming the victim.”
Carmona said that the PMC approached SAW, and laid out the guidelines for them to follow if they wanted to participate in their protest.
“It’s kind of bad form for an organization [like PMC] to make a plan, execute it, and then expect student organizations to jump on board,” she said. “It’s better for the organizations involved to be included in the planning process.”
One of the unique features of the event were the “protest staff” who were clearly identifiable, wearing fire-orange shirts.
Nathan Ellstrand, one of the event’s organizers, explained that they were there to make sure everyone was safe.
The protest staffers monitored the group in pairs and were given orders to watch students, especially if protestors became unruly.
There were three police sedans present at the event and one officer riding a bicycle when students began to march to Hagar drive. No overtime police officers were present.
Afterwards, the group went to the field at the base of campus and listened to a variety of speakers, including war veteran Dennis Ayke, students from various organizations, and some faculty members.
Third-year Eddie Voss, who sat in the field while watching the speakers during the end of the protest, commented on what he had just witnessed.
“Based on what happened at the Regents’ visit, it’s probably a good idea to have some sort of communication with the Chancellor’s Office,” he said. “I’m impressed with the civility of this.”