By Ankur Patel
Some of you may have seen the video of me barking down two police officers on May 2 in front of the CSUN Oviatt Library. The YouTube video has over 2,000 views since and I have received both positive and negative feedback for what I said and did.
What I succeeded in doing was getting people to pay attention. The 15 minutes before the interaction with the police is what really should have been taped, but unfortunately people pay more attention when there is confrontation brewing – be it theatrical or real. I am sure some of the students watching were waiting to see if I got beat.
This interaction with the police happened after I had drawn a crowd by talking about the overall state of our society; we need to question the power structures and how they came to be. I was reiterating simple points like, “You are not alone in thinking that tuition is too high! You are not alone in thinking we spend too much money on bombs than on books! You are not alone in thinking that authority should be in the hands of the people!”
Drawing a crowd then leads police to question why have people gathered, which is not necessarily a bad thing; but when so called “authority” thinks they have the right to control people expressing free speech, I have the right, in this country, to be enraged.
I was brash, but I don’t think privileged people understand what the relationship between police and poor-black-and-brown communities really is. I know I don’t understand it being a Northridge-Hospital-born Indian living in Chatsworth for most of my life, while going through the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Magnet programs. However, I do know people support standing up to authority. I am not sure of the size of the crowd that had gathered, but I would dare say that those who were listening to me before the police came, were in support.
It is about challenging authority. Where does authority come from? What is authority used for? Keeping tuition high? Bombing people in other countries?
Last Monday we had a debate for California’s 30th Congressional race. The race for the 30 is going to be the most expensive in U.S. history as both Howard Berman and Brad Sherman have millions of dollars pouring into their respective campaigns. There are actually seven candidates on the ballot, but only four were invited to debate on our campus. Most heinous is the fact that Mike Powelson, former professor at CSUN, wasn’t invited to debate. It might be because his campaign has raised under $3,000 or because he is a third party candidate, but the fact of the matter is that a CSUN professor was excluded from a debate on this campus, even though he will be on the ballot for the June 5 primary.
There were more than a few of us who literally heckled two U.S. Congressmen during the entire debate on April 30 in the Valley Performing Arts Center. If we have the power and ability to criticize sitting U.S. congressmen, why do we cower in fear when police puff out their chest and ask, “What’s the problem here?”
On Tuesday, May Day, I was in Downtown causing a ruckus and pushing the envelope with police in a similar way to what I did on campus in the video that I am now referencing.
On Saturday I was waiting for the bus on Balboa and Nordhoff and saw two LAPD officers giving someone a ticket. They had pulled into the gas station right next to the Matador Bowl and the police car was parked onto the sidewalk. As I was walking passed, I yelled, “Can you please move your vehicle? It is blocking public space.”
That led to a situation. One of the officers put his hands on me, grabbed my neck and put me against a wall after I had said that I did not need to show him my identification or answer any of his questions. He suggested that I might be drunk to justify his actions and assert his monopoly on the use of violence. I stared him down and let the other officer know that the aggression that his partner showed was wrong.
I do believe that there are good cops. In fact, I believe there are more good cops than bad. However, the current relationship between authority and the public needs to be questioned; it is unfortunate that the police have to serve as proxies for the one percent.
The different tactics that we use–be they making noise in the streets, voting, or hunger striking – each has its role in the movement. Some will prove to be more effective than others, but we have got to be trying something. That is why I was yelling on the steps of the Oviatt.