Intimidation tactics at SFSU

February 11, 2010

Alex Fu describes police attempts to infiltrate the student movement against budget cuts at San Francisco State University.

IT HAS been suggested that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to restore $305 million to California State universities' 2010-2011 budget is a response to months of militant action on the campuses and the continued growth of the student movement. The fact that our tactics are working has, inevitably, caught the attention of the police.

At San Francisco State University (SFSU), the cops have already attempted to infiltrate, harass and threaten organizers. Our response must be to expose them.

On February 4, SFSU police showed up at the home of an activist at the behest of Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen. Whalen targeted this particular activist after she warned the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) that if they did not listen to the students, "militant action" would be inevitable.

After the meeting, Whalen invited her to speak privately, hoping to better "understand" student concerns. He used this to tip off the police, describing her as "more reasonable" and possibly helpful in identifying the so-called "troublemakers." To his disappointment, he was wrong.

After failing to reach her on February 4, SFSU police Inspector Ronald Lam returned the following the morning. Hearing from her roommates that the police were looking for her, she was prepared and recorded the entire conversation.

Inspector Lam arrived in plainclothes at an address this activist had not given out. Mr. Lam proceeded to intimidate her by disclosing a disturbing amount of her personal information. She was then approached to inform on the "violent" militant types.

After she refused to cooperate, Lam played "good cop," asking to "appeal to [her] conscience." "If something bad were to happen and you knew about it," he asked, "wouldn't you be guilty?" Stripped of its soft wording, the content is a threat. Translated: "If something illegal/violent happens, and we find out you knew about it, we can come after you too."

This is harassment and intimidation, and SFSU President Robert Corrigan shares responsibility. He is the one who brought the cops into the movement, unleashing their violence on December student occupation. Now, he's sending police to break up, infiltrate and divide the movement to defend public education--exposing his two-faced claim to support student activism.

The violent breakup of the activist fundraiser by the SFPD must be seen as a coordinated attempt to dismantle our movement. Activists today should get familiar with the lessons of COINTELPRO and the rule of thumb: never talk to the police.

As our movement grows, the other side will attempt to discredit, divert and divide us. But ultimately, our strength is in our numbers, our trust and the relationships we activists build with each other. We must continue building our militancy, resolve and broad support for the March 4 Day of Action and afterwards.

Call Shawn Whalen at 415-338-1097 or [email protected] and Inspector Ron Lam at 415-338-6103 and demand that they back off of the movement.

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