By Maureen Smith
Posted on July 28, 2015 by the Santa Cruz County Central Committee
On June 29, six students at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) were sentenced to 30 days in jail for their courageous civil disobedience on March 3. The judge tentatively set restitution at $28,000; that amount is subject to revision at a future hearing. As part of statewide student protests against both police brutality and tuition increases, they blocked Highway 17 in Santa Cruz for several hours. The following was originally written on May 7 at the time of a preliminary court hearing.
The six UCSC students who blocked Highway 17 on March 3rd for approximately three hours as part of UC-wide actions against student fees and in solidarity with actions occurring at that time (and continuing) nation-wide against institutional racism and police brutality appeared in court today [May 7] to plead no contest to their charges. Three of the students as well as a representative of Food Not Bombs gave statements at a press conference following their court appearance. We will link to those below.
Their next appearance will be on June 29th for sentencing followed by a June 30th appearance for restitution. They are already expected to be fined $40,000 to pay for police overtime and related expenses. Even thought they are charged with misdemeanors, they could be sentenced to up to a year in jail. These brave students need our help now. They have a fundraiser on Go Fund Me to help pay for their court expenses. Besides contributing to it, we can help expose their dire situation to all those folks with whom we communicate.
The UC system is run by Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security. Accordingly, the UCSC suspended these six students and effectively chilled activism on the campus. Letters to elected California representatives is anther way to help register our opposition to actions taken against the students.
Lori Nixon, one of the courageous students, sent this report on March 7:
Hello friends and supporters,Reproduced below are statements to the press from three of the students.
Today the HWY 6 pleaded "no contest" to our misdemeanor charges related to the March 3rd protest against UC tuition hikes and state sponsored police violence. We are facing 30 days jail time, fines, and nearly $40k worth of state restitution (to be split amongst the 6 of us). Our sentencing hearing will be Monday June 29th followed by a restitution hearing on Tuesday, June 30th. We still have a long battle ahead of us and hope you can help with the enormous burden the State is attempting to place on us.
Here are some ways you can help:
Thank you for all of your support! We are still waiting for a decision from the University on the status of our suspensions, and I will keep you updated on any important dates or events coming up! We have sacrificed many things for this act of non-violent civil disobedience, but we look forward to continuing the fight for justice, and creating a world where future generations can live debt-free and without fear of state violence.
- Donate to, and circulate our Go Fund Me page: gofundme.com/oee2do
- Write a statement of support for the protest or an individual character letter for one of the HWY 6 for the sentencing hearing
- Circulate our media statements [reproduced below]
- Organize or ask us to participate in community events
- Send us any housing leads in the Santa Cruz area
Maureen Smith is a statewide officer at large and chair of the Santa Cruz County Central Committee.
Statement by Lori Nixon
Today's decision to plead 'no contest' was not an easy one to make. Although I do not believe this nonviolent protest warrants the extreme sanctions being proposed by the University and the DA, the District attorney's insistence on taking my liberty away for 18 months encouraged me not to exercise my constitutional right to defend myself through trial. As my fellow community members, friends, coworkers, classmates, former students, former campers, and especially my mom, can all attest to locking me up for 18 months would be a detriment to our community, rather than a positive solution to our social ills.
Since our arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience, many community members have leveled insults at our character, issued calls for violence against us, and had the audacity to suggest they have nothing to do with tuition hikes or police brutality. First and foremost, tuition hikes will negatively affect every person in the greater Santa Cruz area.The UC Regents will continue their plans to expand campus, redirect important natural resources (such as WATER), place even further strain on Santa Cruz's housing market, and the transportation issues faced on the day of my arrest will pale in comparison to the 10s of thousands more students and their families descending on our town. Additionally, police misconduct is a reality in our community, and connecting with local organizations such as Barrios Unidos or Sin Barras can provide you with much more in depth information.
Despite what many internet commentators will have you believe, I am not spoiled or entitled or selfish. Like many of you, I am a working class individual who has struggled significantly throughout my life to make ends meet, and this struggle has only increased in the past few years. From 2007 to 2011 I worked hands on with 6th graders from all over the SDUSD, only for my program to be cut. I was then laid off, my house foreclosed on, and my health care cancelled. Somehow, over the past 40 years the state of CA has reduced its funding for education from 13.4% to 5.9%, and increased spending on prisons from 4% to 9.7%. We are living in a time where our lawmakers have continually driven us out of our homes, driven more people into prisons, and are depriving us all of the benefits that stem from a well-educated society.
The attention focused on the HWY 6 has rarely mentioned the greater context of UCSC's student activism and has been disrespectful to the thousands of students across the state who participated in the multiple protests during the first week of March. For many years, students, faculty, and campus workers have expressed their discontent by writing letters, writing petitions, lobbying in DC & Sacramento. They have staged strikes and rallies, walked out of classes, taken over administrative spaces, and attempted to create dialogue at Regents meetings (despite all the Regents’ attempts to suppress student attendance at these meetings). Just this year alone, my fellow students have organized countless vigils for victims of police violence, multiple vigils and events related to the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, a successful Blackout/shutdown of Quarry Plaza, campaigns for divestment from fossil fuels and the military-industrial complex, advocated for safer spaces for queer and trans students, and are fighting back against sexual assault, which has resulted in a federal investigation into the University's mishandling of Title IX complaints. Students are doing significant work to bring attention to serious issues, yet are largely ignored by the administration and left unknown to the greater community.
It is crucial the media attention and community focus shift from this one action of civil disobedience and onto the more important matters at hand. Public education is failing all across the state, police have killed almost 400 people in 2015 alone, our tax dollars are very blatantly being spent to incarcerate instead of educate.
It is absolutely vital that you ask yourself how many more students need to be homeless, without food, and locked into a lifetime of debt before you are outraged? How many more people need to die at the hands of police or are unjustly incarcerated before we say enough is enough? What will it take for the blindfold to be lifted ? We cannot continue to pretend that everything will be ok, and I call on you to pressure your lawmakers to fund education, question the money being spent on incarceration, and call for a university ran by students, faculty, workers, and community members. We may just be individuals, but collectively our voices are strong. If there is anything I have learned from my years working with the youth of our state, it's that even small streams move mountains. Thank you.
Statement by Sophia DiMatteo
My name is Sophia DiMatteo. I am a second year art and politics double major student at UCSC, I am on full financial aid and am already nearly $10,000 in debt with at least 2 more years left at UCSC. Like my fellow students, I am deeply worried about the debt I am incurring to put myself through school. This debt burden is something we shouldn’t have to worry about at a public institution which was designed to be free for California residents. With tuition going up 27% in the next 5 years, by the time my little sister goes to college, school will cost her just under $40,000.
Does $40,000 sound like a public institution to you? The continual privatization of the UC system is a clear form of institutional racism and class warfare, as it makes higher education more and more exclusive to the upper class and converts our education into a flow of money. The Regents and UC administration have attacked our livelihoods as students, and we have taken a clear stand against them in our act of civil disobedience. With the former head of the Department of Homeland Security appointed as the head of the UC system, the interests of the state are clearly prioritizing profit and militarization over a truly functional and accessible education system. When we pay to study here, the Regents profit; they count on our obedience, and threaten free speech and political dissent with riot cops funded by our tuition money. We become criminals in the eyes of the state when we resist this oppression. But the Regents, bankers, and police are the real criminals in this society, upholding white supremacist, racist, classist principles and institutions. The state violence we are up against is not to be taken lightly, and must be actively resisted. We will not stand for the systemic murder of black and brown folks by the state, we will not tolerate the militarization of these racist institutions and the fact that they can exist and continue to violently threaten communities of color, we will not tolerate the fact that marginalized people are targeted and incarcerated, denied access to public education, and we will not tolerate the privatization of our education.
Our action was organized as part of a UC-wide 96 hours of action against tuition hikes and police brutality. We felt the urgent need to raise our voices and take action to expose the injustices the state commits, specifically regarding the skyrocketing cost of “public” education and the epidemic of police murder targeting Black and Brown people regularly across the nation. With the world as it is, we will continue to raise our voices as part of the struggle for change.
Statement by Ethan Pezzolo
My name is Ethan Pezzolo and I am a second year student at UCSC.
The story you have been given portrays me and my fellow students as criminals, as criminals who broke the law, as criminals who sought to hurt the community.
I am standing before you today to tell you that I am not a criminal. But there are real criminals in this world, real acts against our humanity that occur everyday. The real criminals are the police officers who, working under a whitesupremacist,systemically racist umbrella of state sponsored violence, murder countless Black and Brown people as they cry out under the weight of their oppression. The real criminals are the CEOs of private prison systems who enslave our Black and Brown youth under the pretense that they are to blame for the injustices of the system they were shipped into. The real criminals are the government officials who decided that it was a more profitable decision to incarcerate marginalized youth, instead of putting them through school. The real criminals are the 25 UC Regents who decide, year after year, to ignore the homeless students sleeping in cars in campus parking lots, to ignore the students who don’t have enough money for food, to ignore the students failing their classes because they have only one TA in a class with 400 people, to ignore the students banging on their doors and yelling in their meetings to stop treating them like loans and start treating them like full human beings.
Our actions on March 3rd were to raise the public’s awareness around the real criminals, the ones in power. The University and the State chose our fate when they decided to put profit over people.
Today, I plead no contest. But do not think that I am accepting the indicated sentence because I agree with the court. I am accepting the sentence because the State never seeks to provide fairness to people who speak out. The justice we seek can not be found in the courts, but in the hearts and minds of the community.
From Ferguson, to Palestine, to New York, to Baltimore, to Santa Cruz the students and marginalized people all over the world have had enough. We will not stand for a system that was designed to dehumanize and enslave us behind bars and behind lifelong debt.
For more on college and university costs, see
- End Tuition in California (May 23, 2014)
- Solution to UC Tuition Hikes: Oil Extraction Tax to Fund Education Initiative (July 15, 2011)
- Free Quality Education For All (March 5, 2009)
For more on police violence, see