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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cloyne Court- Excerpts 34 and 35

Photo from ahoy.tk.jk.net
Cloyne Court, Episode 34
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Rated "R" by the Author.
The author lived at Cloyne Court from 1977-79, while attending the University of California, Berkeley.

The waiting line at the financial aid office snaked down the corridor and into the main lobby of Sproul Hall and moved at the celerity of a banana slug on Thorazine. Most students sat on the cold floor against a marbled wall, shifting one body place every five minutes. At that rate, it would be close to an hour before I'd get to the service window.

While waiting to pick up my scholarship check and work-study grant, I did what every conscientious college student does. I did my homework. I pulled out my copy of Virginia Woolf and tried to read while surreptitiously watching the cute women walking by.

After forty minutes, I was optimistic. I had moved close enough to the front of the line to hear the applicants and financial-aid clerk's conversations.

No matter what the applicant's problem was, the answer was still the same. "Fill out this form," the clerk said. "Sign the three places marked with an X and go to Window C with your driver's license and student ID."

"But this stipend check was sent to me in error," said the student. "It's made payable to someone else. I want to return it and get the check that was supposed to be mine."

"No problem," said the clerk. "That happens all the time. Your check was probably sent to this person's address. I hope that she'll catch the error and turn in the check. In the meantime, you'll need to fill out this form, sign an affidavit swearing you didn't get your check, and go to windows C to look up your records, then window D to return the erroneously issued check and window E, with proof from window C and D, to get your check reissued. Once you submit all that, you have to wait two weeks until we send you a letter that your check is ready to pick up at window B. Understand?" The student took the paperwork and left. Everyone in line moved up one-body space.

I heard shouting and chanting coming from outside the building. "HEY, HEY, HO, HO. UC HAS GOT TO GO. OUT OF SOUTH AFRICA NOW."

The chanting became louder before I noticed that the antiapartheid protesters had rushed into the building and filled the entire first-floor hallway. Then, as if on cue, they sat and blocked the entrances and the main hallway. Many protesters were students, but most looked like street vagabonds with their unwashed scraggly hair, filthy T-shirts, torn blue jeans with kneeholes and dirty bare feet.

"THERE CAN BE NO BUSINESS AS USUAL UNTIL UC DIVESTS ITSELF FROM CORPORATIONS THAT DO BUSINESS IN SOUTH AFRICA." A speaker, dressed in the black and red colors of the Revolutionary Student Brigade, shouted through a bullhorn. "WORKERS AND STUDENTS UNITE. JOIN US IN OUR SIT-IN OF SPROUL HALL."

I looked at the other students in line with me. I didn't know any of them, but we had spent the last forty minutes together. I had more of a relationship with them than the protesters, who had mobbed Sproul Hall.

What were the people before me going to do? Were they going to abandon their position and leave? If I left now and the financial-aid office stayed open for business, I would have wasted the morning for nothing and have to wait again later. If any students in front of me left and I stayed, I’d be closer to the front.

The financial aid office remained open. Even with the protesters seated in the main hallway, making it difficult to go anywhere, the university was still in business.

"The only people these protesters are hurting is me," said the guy before me. "They should be protesting outside Standard Oil or the Bank of America, not the financial aid office."

Cloyne Court, Episode 35
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Rated "R" by the Author.

The author lived at Cloyne Court from 1977-79, while attending the University of California, Berkeley.

I nodded. Protest tactics like sit-ins and blocking traffic only inconvenienced the average citizen.

For another twenty minutes, the protesters sat and chanted antiapartheid slogans. I reached the financial aid window and set my book bag down to retrieve my financial aid documents when the clerk said, "We just received word to evacuate. The riot police are coming. You better leave too." She shut the window.

I hit the glass with my fist. Fuck humanitarian principles! These damn protesters didn’t have international solutions to a better world. They only created microproblems, none of which would end apartheid or free Nelson Mandela.

Jail was the last thing I needed. I had to get out of there. I didn't want my head bashed by a police baton. It was this defining moment in my emerging political awareness when I concluded a person's right to protest peacefully ended when it started impinging on my right to collect a financial-aid check.


The mention of arrest unsettled the students whose resolve for social justice was less than their desire for something exciting to do. Several tried to head for the exit, but protesters, determined to be arrested, blocked the doors. Nobody could leave.

Another student, dressed in black and red, spoke to the seated crowd. "Don’t abandon the cause now. When they arrest you, go limp. Make them carry you out."

A student with a bullhorn wearing a shirt with "Legal Observer" printed on it told the crowd what would happen. "The police will inform you that you are under arrest."

The crowd groaned.

The legal observer said, "They will ask you to stand and walk out with them. If you do, you will be issued a citation and let go."

The crowd cheered.

"If you go passive and limp, several cops will lift you and carry you out."

The crowd booed.

"If you are too heavy to be lifted," the legal observer pointed at some fat people, "the police will roll your limp body onto a net, wrap the net around you and drag you out."

The crowd laughed at the thought of the fat people being dragged out.

"If you choose passive resistance, you will be arrested, booked at the jail and released on your own recognizance. If you actively or violently resist, you will be pepper sprayed and charged with felony resisting." The crowd booed again.

"Resist!" A protester yelled. "Become martyrs for the cause!"

The legal observer said, "A felony arrest means you will have to post a high bail, and if you can't afford to pay, you will remain in jail until your court arraignment in forty-eight hours."

The crowd buzzed at the financial implications. Free speech wasn't exactly free if you had to pay a bail bondsman to stay free. The protesters talked among themselves, each trying to determine the best action to take.

A protest organizer in his black and red uniform encouraged the crowd. "We need consensus, people. Only through strength in numbers can we win this battle." However, consensus went only so far.

I saw the back of a woman in black and red carrying a protest sign. She was talking to each seated student and taking a tally of what his or her arrest action would be. She wrote this information on the back of her protest sign. She turned to me. "Derek? What a surprise! I didn't see you as a protester type of guy."

It was Diane, Ms. Revolutionary Student Brigade. The young woman I had met at Sather Gate handing out flyers.

"I'm not," I said. "I was here to pick up my financial aid check."

"Derek, when are you going to stop being a money grubbing whore for the establishment?" she said.

I was still incensed at my predicament. I was trapped because of her. "Don’t point fingers until you stop taking money from your rich daddy!"

She was taken aback, "Gee, I didn't know you'd be so sensitive about taking the Man's blood money."

I looked at her eyes when she apologized. She seemed sincere. She was cute, but this was no time for flirting.

"What's it going to be?" she asked. "Stand and walk, go limp or actively resist?

"Why are you taking a tally?" I asked, thinking, shouldn't one's defiance to authority be a private personal decision?

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