Archive for the ‘Human Rights and Undergraduate Research’ Category

UC Davis Human Rights Journal – Making the Case 1:2 2012

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Our undergraduates have produced the second number of the 2012 volume of Making the Case.

It is a tremendous effort and represents the work of some of our best and brightest. Several of the authors are Human Rights Minors. Some are going on the Human Rights graduate programs elsewhere. It was edited by Rachel Pevsner, who did a great job.

It’s a mix of historical works, interviews, art and music. I was impressed with all of the work, but especially essays by three of my students:

Geneva Brooks: Barriers to Resistance in
Rwanda and the Holocaust

Phoebe Bierly: Genocide Denial and the
Stolen Generations

Michael Hoye: Examining the Success of the
International Criminal Court

Link to the journal

Two 11/17s – UC Davis, Athens’ Polytechneion and violence against student protestors

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Two 11/17s

UC Davis Quad, 11/17-11/18/2011

Late yesterday afternoon, UC Davis police, most dressed in riot gear and helmets, bearing truncheons and tear-gas grenade guns descended upon a group of UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students who had set-up an Occupy encampment in the large grassy “quad” at the center of our campus.

I had visited the campers earlier in the day and brought them donuts.  Donuts?  Yes, I know how much my own kids like donuts when we’re camping, plus this being Davis, I figured that most of the other donated food would be “healthy.”

The tents had been set up on both sides of Centennial Walk.  Again, this being Davis they had rolled in multiple trash, recycling and compost cans.  It had rained, but their spirits were good.  The demonstration was peaceful; and the main political statement was the simple and sublime message that this is their campus, their university and their future – and that there is something dreadfully wrong with the way things are.

Later that afternoon the police came and forced the students to remove their tents. The students mounted some resistance but in the end complied.  About a dozen more decided to remain at the site in protest, sitting and locking arms.  For reasons that are still unclear, a member of the UC Davis police then began to spray the students with pepper-spray.  His demeanor was almost nonchalant, with no visible signs of recognition that he was inflicting pain on a group of young people posing no apparent threat to him, the other police officers or “public safety.”

Take a look at the videos.

In the end the police left to sounds of the hundreds of students who had gathered nearby shouting “shame.”  When you can catch a glimpse of the eyes of the police behind their riot gear, there is a kind of embarrassed and slightly humiliated look. In that moment, one sees how the abuse of human rights, how brutality – even in this limited and casual way — diminishes the humanity of not just those beaten or “peppered,” but also of those committing the act under orders.

The images from Davis will become iconic in the Occupy Movement.

11/17/1973  The Polytechneion, Athens

For the student protester who had gathered on the campus of the Greek equivalent of MIT, the stakes were very high.  Since 1967 Greece had been ruled by a brutal military junta, the so-called Regime of Colonels, which had suspended most civil rights and engaged in torture.

Part of the junta’s style of rule was banning student government and protests and rounding up student activists.  One of the junta’s favorite techniques was forcibly drafting students into the military, where they could be subjected to further human rights’ abuse or just “disappear” altogether.

In February of 1973 students at the Athens law school set up barricades and “occupied” their campus in protest of the drafting of 88 of their colleagues.  The junta’s puppet prime minister ordered the police to retake the campus, which they did and with a great deal of brutality.

The brutal nature of the police response further radicalized Athens’ students.  On November 14, 1973 the students of the Polytechneion declared a strike and more importantly, set up a radio station – think pre-Facebook old school media.  The radio station began broadcasting speeches, songs, and poems.  Spurred by the broadcasts, Athenians came to the campus in support.

Fearing a general uprising the puppet government ordered the military to retake the campus.  At 3:00 am on 11/17/1973 a tank crashed through the campus’ front gate and shortly thereafter the radio went silent. 24 civilians would be killed in the violence that ensued.

Tanks at the Polytechneion

But the uprising and its suppression played a critical role in helping bring an end to military rule in Greece and initiating Greece’s reengagement with democracy, a tumultuous and very difficult historical process called the Metapolitefisi.  Greece is having all sorts of problems at the moment, but democracy isn’t one of them and Greece and Greeks are fully integrated into European political structures that protect and extend human rights.

Our chancellor went to the Polytechneion, and I’m sure she remembers the bravery of the Greek students in the face of tanks and guns from her childhood.  It is precisely because of this history and memory that I think she understands better than most in our administration the power of student anger and resilience; she also knows how critical it is to find a way forward that engages students and faculty in a serious and authentic way.

Report from the Field: A FUNA in Santiago, Chile

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011


What is that? At least that was what my English inner monologue was asking myself as I heard the word multiple times in Julio’s Spanish. I was sitting in Londres 38, a once socialist party headquarters during the early 70’s in Santiago Chile, turned detention/torture center. Julio, a presenter speaking to our class was telling me something about a FUNA but Professor Lazzara had yet to translate exactly what it was. A FUNA is a form of social justice. A group, they work pretty anonymously, receives tips about people who could have been involved in any human rights violations during the dictatorship. Extensive research was done on the person and anything they discovered would be typed up and printed on pamphlets that would be later passed around the accused’s neighborhood or place of work. That way everyone would know the actions of the person living or working near them. A form of social justice that was intended to make the individual feel ostracised in their own elements.

Julio told us that the next evening, Friday, there would be a FUNA that he wanted to invite the class to. The next afternoon my roommate and I found ourselves wandering around the Los Hereos park looking for any sign of an organizing FUNA. We had just about given up when we saw a small group of people unrolling signs had gathered near a statue. as we walked over people passed us a pamphlet that told us about the man we were going to visit in his place of business. He was a business owner during the dictatorship and he turned over six men to the DINA, the secret police of Augusto Pinochet. To this day all six of them are still disappeared.

Very soon we started marching around the square and along the business areas near the man’s place of business. The next thing I saw were young, 13 or 14 year olds running along the group plastering the walls with pamphlet print outs with glue from 3 liter (that’s right, 3 liter cokes in Chile) Coke Cola bottles with the tops cut off. The crowd was singing and there was a sense of excitement in the air. And in the best broken Spanish I could, I found myself shouting out the words, though I’m not sure exactly what I was saying. I asked for some papers and joined the others in passing them out to those the group walked by.

Then we were at the man’s office and we shouted and sang loudly. The group littered the floors of the lobby with the remaining pamphlets. There was a silence and Julio read the actions of the man out loud over the mega phone. It was very peaceful, the traffic stopped and the police just drove by, they knew in advance what was going to happen. And then it was over. We marched back and the crow, as quickly as it gathered, dispersed.

Victoria Martin is a graduating senior in RST and is among the first to earn a minor in Human Rights. She is planning to take some time off from school to teach English in another country before returning to graduate school. She hopes to go to UC Santa Barbara to earn her masters in International Relations with an emphasis in Human Rights. She is also excited to take the time off to continue her own research on genocide.