PRESS RELEASE- For Immediate Release
On April 8, plainclothes UW police officer Tanesha Van Leuven infiltrated and participated in a student organization meeting to plan a campus strike on May 3. The action will include all-day picket lines beginning at 8am at 15th & 40th, and an 11am picnic with picketers.
In an interview with KIRO, UW Police Commander Jerome Solomon openly admitted the infiltration, stating, "We saw that they were having an open meeting and we sent an officer in plain clothes." Solomon confirmed that the plainclothes officer did not identify herself as law enforcement. The Student Worker Coalition welcomes the administration's recognition that the UW Police Department's conduct was unacceptable. Associate Vice President Norm Arkans correctly notes, "When something like this happens, it erodes trust among elements in our community."
The administration is incorrect, however, to suggest that the incident represents an isolated "error in judgment." Police intimidation of student and worker activists occurs routinely on campus. Although the administration may oppose police intimidation on paper, the University has condoned the UWPD's ongoing and systematic harassment of campus activists, despite longstanding and well-publicized efforts by ourselves and other activists to hold campus police accountable to the university community.
Coalition members have made it clear to the University administration that police intimidation was unacceptable since the UWPD first began to target us in 2009. The University has failed to act on these complaints, meaningfully hold the UWPD accountable, or implement police accountability structures to receive and investigate complaints about the UWPD.
In September of 2009, two activist journalists, both women of color, were arrested by the UWPD for criminal trespass and spent a night in jail after interviewing custodians in the Health Sciences Building about their working conditions. Real Change News covered the arrests and coalition member group Democracy Insurgent wrote a statement condemning the arrests, but the University failed to take action.
From September 2009 to January 2010, UWPD surveilled and harassed custodians organizing against unsafe and abusive working conditions on an ongoing basis. Campus police officers were regularly present at swingshift workers' clock-in stations in Health Sciences to question custodians about their break meetings. Dayshift workers faced similar conditions. In December, a custodian break meeting in Health Sciences organized by registered student groups International Workers and Students for Justice and UW National Lawyers Guild was disrupted by Officer Russ Sattarov, a uniformed UWPD officer. Democracy Insurgent and UW National Lawyers Guild sent an open letter to UW Custodial Services condemning this police intimidation and subsequently organized a protest when the university did not respond. A story about this action and the police intimidation that precipitated it was covered on the front page of The Daily. Again, the University failed to take action.
Anti-budget cuts organizers are not the only activists who have been targeted by the UWPD. During a May Day rally in Red Square in 2009, Officer Van Leuven--the same officer who infiltrated the SWC meeting-- was amongst UW police officers who threatened activists from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) with arrest while selectively enforcing amplified sound regulations. This incident was also reported in the Daily, yet the administration did not take action.
This is far more than an "error in judgment." Police intimidation of activists is an ongoing policy and practice of the UW police department that is condoned by the UW administration. We demand that this police harassment end immediately.