Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Protest over grad speaker

    Students picket faculty luncheon near Laney Bistro

    Students, community members, and faculty took to the Laney Quad May 1 to support immigrants’ rights and oppose the appointment of University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano as Laney’s commencement day keynote speaker.

    Graduation is slated to take place May 24 at the football field.

    May 1, also known as May Day, has been historically known as International Workers’ Day, a holiday not wholly dissimilar from Labor Day in the U.S. Since 2006, however, immigrants rights advocates have used the holiday as a date to draw attention to their cause.

    Before marching to a faculty recognition luncheon behind the Laney Bistro, the vociferous group of roughly 30–40 protestors took turns giving speeches at an open-mic rally on the Quad.

    Referring to Napolitano, ASLC Senator Rey Lopez demanded a graduation speaker more in line with his values. Taking to the microphone, Lopez said, “I want a keynote speaker I can relate to.” Lopez also argued for the removal of Napolitano as president of the UC system.

    After wishing listeners a happy International Workers’ Day, current ASLC Treasurer Edward Chavez cited a Student Council resolution which articulated the ASLC’s opposition to Napolitano’s presence at graduation. Before concluding, he said, “Laney says no to Napolitano.”

    Among the faculty members who spoke at the event was English instructor Chris Weidenbach, who argued that Napolitano’s association with controversial Maricopa County Sheriff (Ariz.) Joe Arpaio as particularly troublesome.

    Later, in an interview, Weidenbach discussed his participation in the proceedings. “If people are going to protest, it’s important that we find a dignified way to do it,” he said. “I stand up for things when I feel like it’s right.”

    After approximately 45 minutes of speeches, the group of demonstrators hoisted banners and picket signs before disembarking to march on the faculty luncheon, chanting as they went. Collectively, the group said, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Napolitano has got to go.”

    Protestors passed the gymnasium before moving to the second floor pool deck. Their efforts to move down the stairs and into the grove behind the Bistro were briefly stymied, however. Several members of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office blocked the top of the staircase.

    There, protestors continued chanting. The halt was only temporary and, after brief negotiations between deputies and demonstrators, picketers were allowed to march through the faculty luncheon with the stipulation that they remain quiet while doing so.

    As demonstrators passed, several members of assembled faculty at the lunch applauded.

    Picketers then took up position on the east side of the faculty banquet and 15 taut moments ensued as several protestors and deputies engaged in heated discussions over noise and disruption of the banquet. Eventually, the sheriffs backed away and protestors stood silently holding banners and signs.

    The silence ended a few minutes later, the crowd disbursing back into the main portion of the campus.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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