IRVINE, CA– AF3IRM firmly supports students dubbed the “ASUCI Six” and in the face of threats made to them, we condemn the lack of action from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and its administration and we demand that UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman make the safety of students a priority! We will not accept the intimidation of and violence towards students, specifically students of color!
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Associated Students at the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI), passed Resolution Legislation Number 50-70 (R50-70) with a final vote of 6 yeses, 4 nos, and 2 abstentions, resolving that the Associated Students main lobby should be inclusive of all students, that flags of any nation should not be hanged in the main lobby, and lastly, that any decorative piece that is present in the main lobby could possibly be removed if there is discomfort with the piece. This was in response to the American flag being hung in the main lobby space for the first time during a fraternity’s event.
The over-zealous reaction to the resolution’s passing was swift – as it was overturned on Saturday, March 7th, 2015 by ASUCI due to the pressures of UCI administration and the media. Now throughout the nation, news of this resolution has sparked xenophobic and racialized hate speech and exaggerated patriotism.
Within the resolution, the American flag is identified as triggering because of its direct association with this nation’s history of colonialism and imperialism and ethnic/cultural exclusion. Indeed, this triggering cannot be ignored given the colonization of Turtle Island (the First Nation territorial name for the United States (U.S.) and Canada), given the imperialism that the United States government has been involved in and has initiated, given the ongoing violent deportations of people of color, and given the state-sanctioned violence inflicted upon all marginalized bodies, disproportionately against black folks.
As transnational feminists, we in AF3IRM, know all too well the effects of imperialism and colonialism on bodies of color, specifically women of color, and the reach of state violence. The American flag has been and continues to be imposed on us whilst the U.S. occupies our homelands and colonizes our families’ countries of origin. Now that we have immigrated here or have been put into reservation camps, in large part because of U.S. imperialism and colonialism, and despite the U.S government claims that we have freedoms of speech and expression, why are we, people of color, being punished for refusing to impose the flag on peoples again? This is state violence and it is being unjustly inflicted against the six students and council members who voted in favor of R50-70.
Despite the resolution being overturned on Saturday afternoon, ASUCI Six continue to receive death threats and racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant remarks.
In a New University article by Phuc Pham, students from ASUCI leadership shared the ways in which they have been threatened:
“‘I’ve got a lot of emails. A lot of death threats. A lot of people telling me to go back across the border, that I don’t belong. A lot of my friends, or people who I thought were my friends, have been calling me un-American and that I don’t belong here,’ [stated Matthew Guevara, a co-author of the resolution].
Khaalidah Sidney [a co-author of the resolution] has received threats of a lynch mob as well as being called the n-word.
Despite not having a say in the final vote of the legislation, Sanaa Khan [ASUCI Vice President] has also been the recipient of Islamophobic comments.”
A UCI student and AF3IRM member has expressed grave concern over the safety of the ASUCI Six, stating that these students have been explicitly threatened with deportation, lynching, and detailed outlines of how these students should be killed. This is unacceptable.
The safety of the ASUCI Six is crucial and should be of paramount concern over anything else. However, UCI’s administration, specifically UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, has yet to denounce the threats students have received and has perpetuated the targeting of the ASUCI Six by singling them out in a statement. It is evident that the administration’s priority is not to support students, but to only be cautious of the reputation of the institution and keep its loyalty to power structures in tact. The administration is also undermining and condescending of ASUCI, the governing student body that is for and run by students.
State officials have also sided with those in power: State Senator Janet Nguyen, who is an alumna of UCI, said late Friday, March 6th that she and other legislators, including Senate Republican leader Robert Huff, may introduce a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit “state-funded universities and college campuses from banning the United States flag.” These state officials have not uttered a word on the violent threats targeting the ASUCI Six.
The overreaction to this situation is absurd – the resolution sought to maintain one single inclusive space on the second largest campus in the UC system and does not prohibit the display of the American flag or any other flag elsewhere at UCI. Dramatizing the situation by inaccurately expanding the applicability of the resolution to the entire campus and by focusing on American nationalism and patriotism is unwarranted and irresponsible. It only feeds into the intimidation, silencing, and violence towards students.
The overturning of R50-70 and the lack of protection for students at UCI has been telling of what kind of world we live in: how students are patronized and unprotected within multiple institutions, the disposability of people of color, and the inaccuracy and irresponsibility of journalism and the powers that be.
AF3IRM SUPPORTS THE ASUCI SIX!
WE DEMAND AN END TO INTIMIDATION OF STUDENTS!
WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THE CONTINUATION OF VIOLENCE TOWARDS STUDENTS OF COLOR!
WE WILL DEFEAT IGNORANT AND TOXIC PATRIOTISM, NATIONALISM, AND IMPERIALISM!
Join us in supporting the ASUCI Six — please sign the petition: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1t1ZhPZN2ohzgARuXwQUCwbB3YXNPgXGZQMI8heUYZnQ/viewform