In a trial going on as this is written, a handful of young people face up to two years for in jail for speaking out from their seats while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin when he spoke at UCLA. And the UCLA administration – far from defending these people or even standing aside – initiated their arrest and has acted in concert, banning some activists from campus and using police to spy on others.
The defendants are members of the Revolution Club and Refuse Fascism. The trial is a major attack on campus free speech, and unless people from around the country act now, there will almost certainly be a legal outrage with ominous implications. They are fighters against the fascism being imposed by the Trump-Pence regime.
Their battle is your battle.
When Mnuchin came to campus in February 2018 he was met with major protest, booing and hissing throughout his speech. When he complained that the hissing lacked substance, the defendants obliged him by exposing the criminal nature of the sanctions his Treasury Dept enforced on North Korea and Iran, as well as the effects of the recently passed tax bill. Those now on trial challenged the audience to take up the call from RefuseFascism.org to drive the fascist regime from power through mass, sustained, non-violent determined protest in the streets.
For this, they were forcibly removed from their seats, manhandled, dragged out and arrested. When Mnuchin tried to suppress video of the footage, and UCLA cooperated, the Society of Professional Journalists filed a public records request (because this was, after all, a public event with a government official speaking in that capacity) – and the video went viral.
Some of the defendants defied this ban to participate in a March 1 student protest, 11 minutes of silence for 11 million undocumented immigrants and again, several days later, to see the heroic whistleblower Chelsea Manning speak. Very legitimate purposes.
A half a year later, LA city prosecutors suddenly charged defendants with a whole range of misdemeanor crimes: trespass, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, and defying a 7-day ban placed on them after the event saying they were not to be on campus without a legitimate purpose (to be defined by the UCLA Administration). These charges together could send some of the defendants to jail for two years if found guilty.
An even uglier story – one of university complicity and conniving – has been dragged into light since the charges were filed. Police reports reveal that university police stalked the Revolution Club, recording their activities – including the recording of someone’s license plate number when they were on campus carrying out what is supposed to be constitutionally protected speech and simply talking to people. This is in addition to the LAPD sending a spy in to infiltrate the meetings of Refuse Fascism in broader LA (a clandestine operation only revealed during discovery process in the trials of yet other peaceful protestors facing jail time for demonstration against the Trump-Pence regime).
As Stephen Rohde, a retired Constitutional lawyer and founder of Interfaith Communities United for Justice said, “Who says when the question and answer period should begin? The question and answer period began when those young, courageous [people] chose to have the question and answer period. Mr. Mnuchin could wait his turn to speak. Why don’t those [people] have an equal right to speak in an open college campus? We should be applauding, not criminalizing that kind of conduct.”
This is taking place while University administrations nationally are spending millions protecting the free speech of fascists who have the bully pulpit of the president, and criminalizing ANTI-fascist protest and speech of people who have no Oval Office and own no airways to amplify their voices.
The #UCLA5 stand trial at a time and in an atmosphere where professors are put on watch lists by student organizations with ties to the highest office and where exaggerated reports from right-wing students are amplified by hysterical fascist media and echoed by a swarm of internet trolls. They stand trial at a time in which federal and state laws are implemented outlawing a movement to boycott Israel for its policies in occupied Palestine, and in which the Middle Eastern studies departments at Duke and University of North Carolina were recently told that their curriculum did not pay sufficient attention to Christian and Jewish “contributions” to the Middle East. They stand trial when critical and evidence-based thinking in general – be it about evolution, climate change, the truth about US history and its role in the world today – are all under assault. These brave young people face jail at a time when universities spend millions of dollars to ensure that fascist speakers suffer no disruption, no dissent. They face jail during an administration when Mike Pompeo can dictate to Harvard that it must disinvite Chelsea Manning from speaking or Pompeo will refuse to speak there – and Harvard meekly complies.
But instead of saying NO and taking this on, the universities are suppressing dissent and facilitating a fascist assault on academia. And at UCLA, this has gone to another level, where the universities spy, ban and now prosecute those the Trump/Pence administration do not like. We cannot allow UCLA to silence and criminalize meaningful protest that is aimed at stopping this regime from bolting fascism into place. Silence is Complicity.
Where will YOU stand?
Get involved – demand the charges be dropped!
And be part of the movement to drive the Trump/Pence Regime from power – NOW! Starting October 19th and week after week. Mobilizing people into the streets – as they have done in Puerto Rico and Hong Kong – growing and not stopping until the power of people refusing to accept a fascist America forces the whole of the regime from power.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Demand UCLA Chancellor Gene Block make a public statement that the charges be dropped, 310.825.2151
- Demand City Attorney Mike Feuer Drop the Charges! Call 213.978.8100
Tweet at him @Mike_Feuer
- Donate to the Refuse Fascism legal defense, including urgently needed travel funds at donate.refusefascism.org
- Pack the courtroom and stay tuned for trial updates: Airport Courthouse Dept 90, 11701 S. La Cienega (Just south of Imperial Hwy/105 Freeway). Stay tuned at @revclub_la or @refusefascismla.
- SIGN THE PETITION Sign and spread all over the country: We stand with the #UCLA5. Drop the charges!
- Spread THIS video on social media.
- Make a public statement on your social media and send to [email protected] or [email protected] Write an op-ed!
- If you’re a professor, send students to court and have us speak in your class.