This year marks the 10th anniversary of the third world Liberation Front Hunger Strike, where seven college students camped outside of California Hall and fasted for what they believed in. I was at a Chicana/o Studies conference in Texas when the strike started. I was there with friends that attended UC Berkeley) and we were spreading the word of the upcoming strike and the struggle to keep the Ethnic Studies Department alive and keep it from getting folded into the Cultural Studies department.
I was a student at SF State where I was in the Raza Studies Department. Sf State is where the Third World College was established in 1969 after its own student struggle won it. I lived in Berkeley and had been a part of MEXA and Layout Editor of La Voz de Berkeley since 1994 and had been making flyers for organizations on campus since. Starting with the the third world College action in 1997 to the Crossing Over Conference in 1999 and the Hunger Strike I made flyers to promote the work that was being done.
I returned from the conference 4 days into the strike and I went to meet up with friends who were camped out in front of California Hall. I was going to leave before it got dark but people started talking about something going down because all the cops were getting together at their Sproul Hall office. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 am that the police came down to the encampment and issued their order for people for protestors to disperse. At that point there were people who had decided to get arrested as a strategy and they gathered in front of California Hall and prepared to have their camp to be ripped apart by the cops. My friend and roommate Sean O’shea was going around taking pictures with his digital camera and we stayed around protesting as the cops started hauling people away.
After the police finished taking people away we headed home and downloaded the pictures and started working on a series of posters about the arrest and the tactics that were used by the University to shut down the Hunger Strike. I worked on 7 posters that morning, gave them to a friend to make copies, and by 8am the campus was covered with the images of protestors being dragged away by cops in the middle of the night. I continued making posters every night to post in the mornings, each day announcing what day of the strike it was, what time the rally was for the day, and to urge the chancellor to deal with the Hunger Strikers. On the eighth day the University finally went into serious talks with the students and came to various agreements.
It’s been ten years since the strike and UC Berkeley still does not have a Third World College after being promised one 40 years ago, but students continue struggling to make sure the Ethnic Studies department is not dismantled. One victory last year was the opening of the Cultural Center that was promised 1999, little by little the students keep making progress.