Calpoly Humboldt reporting

by Kelley Lincoln for KMUD News

On Monday April 22nd, Humboldt landed in the middle of national history as anti-war, anti-genocide protests erupted on CalPoly Humboldt’s Campus, and KMUD News was networking on and off the campus throughout  through reporting and networking led by News Director Lauren Schmitt, working closely with the student journalists with El Leñador, KRFH Radio, and The Lumberjack. 

On Sunday April 28th, KMUD News received an annonomys tip from a trusted source that 200+ law effacement officers from out of the area would be mobilizing to end the occupation on the Cal Poly quad Monday night. And on Monday, social media and the local ‘coconut wireless’ were buzzing with reports of police streaming in to Humboldt County from the south and the east.

Lauren met me at the University that night after producing the 6pm newscast. It was a crazy long wait through most of the night. Lauren spent her time networking with students, protestors, and the large number of other media outlets on the campus. She quickly had an enterage. I focused on trying to understand the mindset of the students that remained and the faculty, all who had been had been threatened with disciplinary action if they were found on campus. 

A hard closure was in place on campus, however, in response to the looming response from law enforcement, members of the community  organized at the Arcata plaza, marching to the cement ‘barricades’ at the border of the campus to stand, drum, and chant in solidarity. The small amount of CHP and Campus Police Officers that were present were approachable and friendly, however, they also stated they didnt know if a large numbers of officers were staging to arrive later… were they kept in the dark or was it a blatant lie? 

Despite K-rails and the ‘blockade’ access to campus was not shut off. Up at the quad, there were tents set up for medical needs, community kitchens, and sleeping.  Inside Neilson Hall, students had a cleaning schedule organized in the bathroom, and even set up a regenerate media room for press to charge devices.  Everything generally looked like the end of an old fashioned pigout.  There were a lot of signs, banners and chalk paintings alongside the graffiti and hanging crystals.  The only vandalism was the painted graffiti and the creation of rather hopeless barricades from chairs, tables, and dumpsters. There were no broken windows or other maliciousness that I witnessed.  Certainly there were no burning tires.                                                                                                                                                      

For the most part the students were disinclined to believe this threat of police action would be much different than the ones they had been hearing all week because there had been so many false alarms. It had been a long week of “dont make me get up from this chair” coming from the University. The kitchen was up, the med tent was staffed. And the Earthfirst! contingency had arrived and put up a tree sit, but it was anchored poorly and the girl was up there alone and only intended to stay to the next day. 

Around 10pm, a single University Police Department officer began driving his car to all the entrances to the quad one by one and playing a recorded dispersal order in English and then in Spanish.  The order said that those who remained were subject to arrest and that pepper spray and plastic bullets might be deployed. This went on at entrance after entrance for several hours. It was startling at first, but became irritating after about the fifth time, and the students seemed to feel that it was in fact another empty threat.     

Sometime after this, Lauren and I called into KMUD and Jordan Jumpshot put us on the air. We gave an update on what we were observing. I just want to say, that update seems to have meant a lot to KMUD listeners. And Lauren alerted people through social media that it was coming, and had built a network with the student journalists to where all these outlets were working in tandem. So that little 10 minutes of , completely unscripted on the scene reporting has received more response than almost anything we do was an important moment in community presence that is the essence of what KMUD is about. And shout out to Tank Girl, aka Lauren Schmitt who produced the news from her content unassisted the next day after just a few hours of sleep because we didnt get off site until 5am.                                                                                 

Anyway, most people had disappeared by midnight. Finally, at 2:50 am approximately 100 officers entered the quad area from the southeast aisle immediately below the retaining wall along the eastern or back side of Reese Bullen and Music B building where Food not Bombs had set up a kitchen and others had set up a medical tent at the foot of the stairs up to Founders Hall in what KMUD News reports was dubbed by the CSU as ‘Operation Oink Boink’ after the initial film, by South Fork High alumni, Ryan Hutson, of protesters hitting a riot officer with a 5 gallon water bottle as police tried to storm Siemen’s Hall on April 22nd,  went viral. 

Tuesday morning, April 30th, about 15 minutes after Operation Oink Boink made entry to the quad, police forces sent a loosely organized group of approximately 40 through the quad, past where protesters had sat in a circle singing waiting to be arrested, to the northern side of the campus where the residence halls are located.  More officers could be heard in the distance using power tools to cut away barricades that had been erected at every entrance to the quad and also to every entrance of Siemen’s Hall. 

A second group of approximately 30 officers descended into the lowest section of the quad where the group of approximately 15 or 16 remaining protesters were seated in a tight circle with their arms linked. They chanted an incantation as the officers entered their area.  Four or five officers pulled protesters out of the circle one by one while the remaining officers stood with their backs to the Activity building armed and ready with batons. From this point, it took approximately 15 minutes for the protesters to be pulled out of the circle and cuffed with plastic wristbands.

As the arrests were made, about 10 or more officers remained on the south side of the quad. Approximately 1 minute into the arrest activity, an officer who remained on that southern side could be seen giving an order to clear the press on the upper level of the Activity building behind the clock tower to be cleared. The power had been cut to the elevator, and there was a significant barricade on the steps. Law enforcement seemed to wait to have cleared. Eight minutes later, three officers were on the 3rd floor balcony where 4 members of the press were filming the activity below. 

The person from American Interviews stated clearly at least 5 times that he was using his first amendment rights as a member of the press. The members of the press were told they could be on the quad, but the entire quad had been cleared with everyone being pushed 100 yards west down to the Library circle leaving the protesters without witnesses. One officer at the quad stated that the arrests were being filmed due to the fact that every officer wore a body camera. The American Interviews camera man stated once again his right as a member of the press to report on the police action. There were no other protesters in the area other than those sitting near the clock tower. The press was at least 50 feet from them. 

Myself and the American Interviews man were allowed to film the remainder of the seated protesters be arrested when John Harper, another local writer, used a jedi mind trick and got the officer pushing us out to “go ask his superior.” The officer must have gotten a funny look or something because he came back and put Harper in handcuffs, and we started getting pushed out with the other media down at library circle.  But as that was happening, officers were up on the third floor terrace where we had been evicted, and they opened the top floor of the activities building and a young man stepped out, turned around, kneeled and was handcuffed.

Approximately 15 protesters had been sat in that circle to be arrested, but there were over 30 arrests in total, so many of those arrests may have gone unwitnessed. None of the witnessed arrests were unduly violent, and none of the subsequent arrests have been reported to be out of line.                                             

With regard to its investments, on Friday, April 26th Cal Poly Humboldt released a statement on its investments that reads in part, “In 2014, with extensive student involvement, an investment strategy focused on reducing investments in the fossil fuel industry and in tracking investments in socially concerning sectors was adopted…..

“So any holdings of the securities in question would represent indirect investment. Our estimates put the potential indirect investment in the areas that are asked about at less than 1% of the investment portfolio of more than $51 million. Of this, our estimate of potential defense investment is less than 0.5% of the entire portfolio, though that can fluctuate over time. ….We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the investment policies in the future.”

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Kelley Lincoln

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