I was one of the nearly 200 students who occupied the administration building, Cheadle Hall, at UCSB on January 15, 1991 to protest the impending first Gulf War. We were dubbed the “Cheadle 200.”
We were arrested that night after a several-hours-long quiet sit-in in the first floor lobby.
When the police finally came, we were handcuffed in pairs and taken out to the prison bus waiting out back. I can still vividly see the face of the girl I was handcuffed to – don’t remember her name, I’ve always been bad with names, but can see her face.
It was dark as we exited the building and walked the few hundred feet to the bus, and what was odd about that night is that there was someone out there photographing each pair of us as we walked passed, I could see the flash of the camera going off near my face.
I remember wondering who that was, and eventually concluded that I must have an FBI file on me now and that this was someone from the government collecting our photos – our names they could get later.
At the prison, we were kept outside, there was no room for 200 inmates!
But it was interesting to watch how they dealt with organized crowds like us. Actually we weren’t organized enough because the second thing they do (the first is to sit us far enough apart so we can’t communicate) is give us disinformation.
They spread rumors that the “leader” of our group told us that we should give up and leave – we had the option of somehow backing down at this point and not getting arrested. But we *wanted* to be arrested – that was the point, we wanted to make a statement against the war. Since we could not communicate with each other, we were each alone in our heads trying to figure if what they were saying was true or not. It was extremely effective.
I stayed, a lot of people didn’t. I was eventually put into holding, and then booked, and then sent home. There was a long court case that followed, requiring me to miss many days of school to go down to the Santa Barbara courthouse (a lovely building!). In the end I did some community service, but somehow the charges were then later dropped.
Another thing I remember about that night is how some of the officers were just so annoyed at us! I think I get it, they were just doing their job, they wanted to go home to their families, and all these kids come in and decide to use the penal system to make a political statement! I was so naive still that I believed that I could make a difference this way…
This political action means I can never get a “security clearance.” Most non-academic physics jobs require “security clearances.”
Here is a link to another Cheadle 200’er commenting on the protest.
Here are newspaper clippings I saved from that time:
Copyright 2012 by Melinda Jane Kellogg; All Rights Reserved