My Heroic Action at the Barricades (Or: Was I Keeping Watch on the Barricades or Were the Barricades Keeping Watch Over Me?)
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was supposed to be in my neck of the woods today—the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. So I decided to uphold a sacred campus tradition---I joined a rally. The more dignified members of our group would call it a protest. Personally, I just wanted to razz the woman. Call it my version of a protracted struggle. Someday she will be brought to justice. In the meantime, let's just try to irritate her as much as she irritates us.
I was determined to enjoy myself, and so I did. Speaker after speaker cursed her. I did my creative best to add to the general grouchiness.
We warmed up at the lawn of the building nearest the one she was supposed to inaugurate then attempted to move closer. We made it only to the curb across the street from the site she would have inaugurated. Initially we were face-to-face with unarmed cops. It was not too pleasant looking at them, but it was ok. We had some more great speeches to listen to. The Student Regent was a revelation. Big explosive rhetoric from such a petite youth. When I grow up, I wanna be like her.
Unfortunately, the unarmed cops soon got replaced by men with batons and riot shields. Bummer! We had some serious pushing and shoving. Really bad stuff. For one thing, the riot police were not our local UP police. We have fought long and hard to keep our campus free from that kind of interference. For another thing they were pushing at my friend, the Faculty Regent; my other friend, our former Dean; and some other friends from the College of Science and College of Arts and Letters. Normally unconvinced about the need to push-and-shove, I felt I had to at least talk to one of the policemen doing the shoving. As a scholar, I felt I must rise to the defense of our multidisciplinary act of expressing sentiments of deep disgust.
The cops then brought in metal barricades. This for me was the highlight moment. The minute the police tried to put the barricades in place, some brilliant and strong kids pulled them away towards the lawn we had just left. This is was the opportunity for my most heroic moment. I decided to leave the frontlines and command the rear. I watched the discarded barricades.
Those barricades are dangerous things. When they give way during stampedes, the people on one side get pinned down and the people on the other side get hurt by the stampede too. So I was pleased as an anarchist in a free-for-all, when the kids managed to frustrate the attempt to place them.
So there I was, manning (womanning?) the barricades by lying along one of them. Expressing my heroism, by cooling it in the shade. The police tried to make me give up my post by pretending they were going to take the barricades back to their station. BUT I STOOD UPON THE BARRICADES by lying down on them all the more. NO PASARAN, fascists!
As I always say, when your position is righteous (and kinda comfy and shady), you will have many allies. Soon, most of my colleagues in the College of Social Work and Community Development joined me on the barricades.
Having frustrated the policeman who, because he was from the campus police force, did not want to argue about barricades with Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, Director of the University Center for Women's Studies (he did ask, so I did say), I wandered off every so often. Also of course, the barricades were well-guarded by then.
My wanderings were quite satisfactory. Some intrepid students attempted to get closer by taking a side route. I hear they had with them the tomatoes purchased earlier, so that we could talk about vegetables wit her alleged Excellency. The police caught them, beat some and handcuffed several. The Staff Regent and our UP lawyers led by their Dean, prevented their arrest and led them to safety.
I came upon the President of our workers union, a former Dean of the College of Social Science and Philosophy and a few others, razzing a policeman who had stepped out of his car with an armalite. The armalite was back in his car by the time I came. Having missed the main issue, I decided to become incensed to make up for my bad timing. I had barely started to lecture when the police car drove off to to a spot 2 meters away. It was a very good lecture on human rights actually, and they should have stayed to hear it all. Pearls after FASCIST swine.
And so it was. Them cats were trying to have their way, but us mice would not let them. The fascist pigs could not wallow in the mud of their authoritarian ways. (I know, I know, my metaphors are all over the place, but I think they sound nice.)
We broke up when it was announced that her alleged Excellency would not come after all.
I could give a lot of advice to our UP Diliman officials and our local police about how to best deal with the preservation of the sacred UP tradition of protest actions. For one thing, they could have negotiated the conduct of the affair with the 3 sectoral Regents. They could have deployed only our pussycat UP police to be in our faces. They should have kept the tigers of the Quezon City Police Force back, only to intervene if we broke the negotiated space. They should have also ensured that, having decided to invite the Quezon City police into the campus, that no weapons of deadly force like an armalite be part of their gear. (Good heavens what were they thinking?) Some of the better rallies I have attended in my long years of rallying have been like that.
But I digress. Far be it for me to give unsolicited advice. This morning I had great fun. On a cool December morning, at the dawn of UP's second century, in the Diliman campus where I grew up and now teach.
It said in the news that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only managed to come to UP Diliman once in her 9 years as alleged President. Shucks. I hope she comes before her term ends. I had hoped that we could have stayed at that corner for a week and begin a new, improved, Diliman Commune for the 21st Century. I can see it all now...