Four Stories: Cassie

The following is a work of fiction. While based on actual events, none of these characters are real and the interactions mostly invented. One exchange of words, beginning with “Police! Open the door!” was taken from a Democracy Now! segment, found here and originally viewed at Feministing; All other dialogue and characterizations are entirely of my own creation.


“They’ll get through eventually,” Alan said, bracing himself next to Cassie, “but we’re not going to  make it easy for them.”

Cassie hung onto the door handles with all her might. The cops were coming. Well, UCLA campus police, technically, but still: cops. People in uniforms with badges who were allowed to carry weapons and make arrests.

Right now Cassie’s only weapon was her own dead weight, holding the doors to Wheeler Hall shut fast. She and her friends had occupied Wheeler to challenge the decision by the University of California Regents to raise tuition in the UC system by by a third. That kind of price hike would make it impossible for a lot of low-income students to attend the UC. This wasn’t about the budget crisis, as the organizers had said: this was about what the elites valued. The UC system gave a world-class education, and it was open to all — unless the poor got priced out. Again.

I can’t believe they’re trying to do this, Cassie thought. Don’t they know the value of an education?

So here Cassie was, taking direct action. They would occupy Wheeler Hall until the Regents heard their demands, which were simple: rehiring laid-off workers, maintaining one dorm building for low-income students, and keeping a fair contract for the only immigrant-owned business on UCLA campus.

“Anyone can do well in this country if they work hard,” Alan had said in the meeting the night before. “Well, that’s kind of true. Anyone can do well if they have access to education. Right now the Regents are proposing to deny access to thousands of hard-working people, people who will be trapped in the cycle of poverty as a result.”

The doors shook, bringing Cassie back to the present. “Police! Open the door!” a voice shouted.

“We have demands!” Cassie shouted back.

“Open the door!” came the answering bellow, a voice that brooked no discussion at all.

“They’re really not listening,” Cassie said, despairingly.

“Why should they?” Alan said. “They have guns.”

She held on tighter.

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