Most major U.S. colleges and universities issue emergency guidelines to their traveling students. Often these are based on travel alerts from the U.S. State Department. In some cases, entire travel assistance programs for special ‘SOS’ medical or evacuation services are based around such precautions.
The University of California (full disclosure: I am an alum) has an odd sense of timing, geography, or dark humor. In lieu of alerts warning students from recently bombed or attacked sites in Baghdad and Kandahar or ongoing protests in Kuala Lumpur, the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) just issued students a detailed alert about upcoming U.S.-based May Day general strike actions via its preferred travel management program, Connexxus. Their list of sites to avoid includes a schedule of U.S.-wide actions in major cities, appearing to be copied directly from the New York-based May Day 2012 site. Stay away from May Day protests in the United States, it warned, and the itinerant disruptions in transport, business, and ‘scuffles with police.’
It is unclear where the most wretched irony lies. Is it in a public university—one whose reputation partly rests on the national impact of historic free speech, anti-war, and labor movements—issuing red-flag directives to its students about pre-planned demonstrations? Or in issuing such red flags about ‘scuffles with police’ with the total annihilation of self-awareness required to forget that the scraps of that reputation lie in tatters because of campus responses such as these:
Below is the UCOP email in full.
Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2012
Subject: UCOP Travel News Alert – Protests Across U.S. Tuesday, May 1st.
From: Connexxus Travel Program
The following Travel Alert from University of Ca., Office of the President was sent to all campuses to alert anyone traveling to the following U.S. cities on Tuesday, May 1st. Advice: Confirm business appointments for May 1st. Allow additional time for ground transportation near protest sites. Avoid all demonstrations as a precaution.
Activist groups, including Occupy Wall Street, to protest May 1 across the US. Traffic disruptions, scuffles with police possible. Avoid all protests.
This alert affects United States
This alert began 23 Apr 2012 16:10 GMT and is scheduled to expire 02 May 2012 11:59 GMT.
Event: Protests, general strike
Date: May 1
Location: Major US Cities
Impact: Transport, business disruptions; possible scuffles with police
Various activist groups will stage protests, rallies, and marches across the US on May 1. The Occupy Wall Street movement has called for a general strike, asking participants to abstain from work and economic activity on the same date.
Cities with a large immigrant population and strong labor groups traditionally stage rallies on May 1, and Occupy groups are likely to bolster support for scheduled demonstrations.
Major demonstrations are scheduled for the following cities (listed actions are tentative):
Oakland, Calif.: March from the Fruitvale BART station to downtown beginning at 1500; actions and marches in the downtown area
Los Angeles, Calif.: “4 Winds” marches via cars and bikes with “flashpoints” along routes, to converge at Main and 6th streets at 1430; actions in the financial district at 1500
New York City, N.Y.: 0800-1400 “Pop-up Occupation” at Bryant Park (W 42nd St. and 6th Ave.); march to Union Square at 1400, rally at 1600, march from Union Square to Wall Street at 1730, march to unknown “staging area” at 1900; various other actions in Madison Square Park and likely other areas throughout the city Chicago, Ill.: March from Union Park (1501 W. Randolph St.) to Federal Plaza (230 S. Deerborn St.) at 1200, rally at 1500 Washington,
DC: Festival at Malcolm X Park (16th and Euclid streets) at 1530, march from the park to unknown location at approximately 1800
Portland, Ore.: Rally at South Park (SW Park and Salmon streets) at 1530, march at 1630
San Francisco, Calif.: Occupation of Golden Gate Bridge at 0630
Boston, Mass.: Rally at 1200 at Boston City Hall Plaza/Government Center, located at Cambridge and Court streets
Seattle, Wash.: Rally at Westlake Park (Pine St. and 4th St.) 0900-2200; march at 1700 from Judkins Park (611 20th Ave.) to unconfirmed destination
Philadelphia, Penn.: Rally at Elmwood Park, located at 71st Street and Buist Avenue in southwest Philadelphia, from 1400-1900
Expect localized traffic disruptions. Depending on the level of participation, business disruptions are possible. Expect a heightened security presence near protest sites.
Background and Analysis
Previous demonstrations from Occupy groups have turned violent, particularly in Oakland, Calif., and New York, NY. When Occupy groups from neighboring cities join together in solidarity of a certain action, such as a general strike, disruptions are likely.
In late 2011, protesters from Oakland prompted authorities to temporarily close the Port of Oakland, which disrupted business operations, shipments, and local traffic. May Day has traditionally been an international labor holiday, inviting strikes and protests from various labor groups. However, it is unlikely that a general strike will gain massive union support due to union laws prohibiting such participation. Off-duty union members may participate in marches and protests, but it is unlikely a large number of union workers will abstain from work May 1, unless they are already involved in a specific union action pertaining to their employers.
Confirm business appointments for May 1. Allow additional time for ground transportation near protest sites. Avoid all demonstrations as a precaution.
Meanwhile, students at six Cal State campuses announced a hunger strike on the same day the email was sent out.
Donnie Bessom, 27-year old Cal State Long Beach student:
We’ve tried pretty much everything, and they just ignore us. We’ve talked to state legislators, written petitions, mobilized people on campus. The next step for us is in the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience. They keep raising salaries and have those other luxuries, and we thought the symbolic nature of a hunger strike was appropriate to the crisis.
Cal State spokesman:
It would be a shame if anyone were to do any harm to themselves over the issues they are asking us to review.