Members of Occupy UC Riverside have disbanded their tent encampment within a week of Chancellor White’s call for the removal of the tents. The tents, which were initially located next to the Bell Tower but then moved to the lawns in front of the Humanities Building, had maintained their presence on campus for nearly a month after the UC regents meetings. Although the encampment of approximately 10 tents (the original encampment near the Bell Tower had over 15 tents) was removed on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the number of tents had begun to dwindle in the days beforehand. Occupy UCR representatives did not return email inquiries regarding their departure.Occupy UCR’s sudden departure, however, did not signal an end to their activity on campus. Organization representatives (via Occupy UCR’s Facebook page) recently promoted a series of “Teach the Budget” workshops held by the Librarians Association of UC Riverside. During an interview held prior to the encampment’s removal, representatives of the encampment indicated that they would continue to be involved in advocating their goals on campus regardless of the encampment’s future.
The encampment’s removal also coincided with the release of Occupy UCR’s formal list of demands and a response letter to Chancellor White’s notification. The disbandment of the Occupy encampment has drawn a mixed reaction from the campus community. “I’m all for Occupy Wall Street…but I don’t think what [Occupy UCR] is doing is effective at all…they’re not handling it in any professional way and they think they’re making a change by getting together in large groups and complaining,” stated UC Riverside alumnus Nicholas Shih. “You have to dress like you are serious and have educated talks with people. [Society] doesn’t care how smart you are; if you’re not organized, you’ll appear like a flock of sheep,” concluded Shih, who criticized the manner in which Occupy members acted during the series of UC regents meetings last month.
Interviews with UC Riverside students produced words of praise regarding Occupy’s presence on campus. “I’m glad that there’s someone out there standing up for students’ issues. The tents, to me, represented opposition to problems such as rising tuition and ridiculous executive salaries,” stated public policy major Cesar Perez. “I have never seen protesters at UCR who have been so committed that they would stay overnight. Now that they’re gone, I think that they need to continue doing activities on our campus or else they will have no lasting-impact,” concluded Perez in an interview with the Highlander. A second year biochemistry major shared this sentiment and applauded the organization’s willingness to defy expectations by staying on campus for so long. “They definitely showed their dedication and I am glad that our campus was able to show its political activist side,” stated the student.
Others have taken their message directly to Occupy UCR by posting their thoughts on the group’s Facebook page. Some individuals have denounced the Occupy members for taking advantage of campus property and overstaying their visit. Other individuals, however, have defended the encampment and made arguments that the price of the encampment—measured in terms of the trash created by the tents and lawn damage—are outweighed by the need to express one’s freedom of speech.
Supporters have countered these claims and arguments by emphasizing the larger scheme—namely, Occupy’s direct opposition to pressing national problems. “The damage by protesters and the total incurring costs associated with Occupy may very well be in the millions nationwide. However, the cost of corporations and Wall Street bankers on the average American citizen amount to the trillions…Honestly, how can you focus on the petty grass when people’s lives have been devastated,” declared an Occupy UCR supporter.