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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Storing Students' Banned Cell Phones is Big Business in New York

Kudos to the New York Post for revealing today that New York City’s ban on cellphones in schools is taking $4.2 million a year out of frequently impoverished childrens' pockets.

The students — who attend the nearly 90 high schools and middle schools in the five boroughs with permanent metal detectors — pay $1 a day to store their phones either in stores or in trucks that park around the buildings. Down the block from The Nation offices on Irving Place, you can see long lines of kids each afternoon from nearby Washington Irving High School waiting to pick up their phones after school from an idling truck.

The cottage industry has become so profitable, it rakes in $22,800 a day from some of the city’s poorest youngsters, whose families choose to shell out the money rather than risk their children’s safety by putting them out of the range of easy communication.

Parents and students quoted by the Post said the robbery highlighted the Department of Education’s indifference to the plight of high-poverty families and Mayor Bloomberg’s unwillingness to compromise. ”He seems totally unconcerned with how his policies negatively affect students, and he seems totally scornful of the concerns of parents,” said Leonie Haimson, whose son is an eighth-grader at the School of the Future in Manhattan.

Students say schools that enforce the ban should offer more options. Bronx high schooler Jonathan Lauriano, 18, told the Post he'd spent $500 on cellphone storage at a truck near campus. “They should set up free lock boxes inside [the school] because we can’t all afford to pay a dollar a day," he said.
But, as the Huffington Post subsequently reported, the NYC Department of Education has opposed efforts to construct on-site storage facilities for students, arguing that the liability for schools storing thousands of phones and gadgets is too high.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (6/13/12)


Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

Exclusive: Adelson's Pro-Romney Donations Will Be 'Limitless,' Could Top $100M,” by Steven Bertoni. Forbes, June 13, 2012.

 I'm firmly against the Citizens United ruling. It seems obvious that the Abramoff-like lobbyists in Washington are a corrosive force in our political system, precisely because money can better engender political change than any passionate plea. And that's just a micro-example of a macro-trend: Every year more money seems to pour into politics than good will. Look no further than what the Koch brother's did in the Wisconsin recall. Now, gearing up to the 2012 presidential election, we have overzealous men like Sheldon Adelson who are willing to funnel hundred of millions of dollars into PACs in order to influence the game.


Marisa  Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Where Will CeCe McDonald Serve Her Time? The Devil is in the Details,” by Akiba Solomon. Colorlines, June 8, 2012.

 Last week, CeCe McDonald—“the 24-year-old black transwoman prosecuted for surviving a white supremacist and transphobic assault”—and her supporters were dealt another disturbing blow, when the state of Minnesota announced that McDonald would be housed in a male corrections facility. At Colorlines, Akiba Solomon breaks down how McDonald's inhumane treatment, including being placed in “administrative containment” (essentially, solitary confinement) for extended periods in the name of protecting her safety, is typical for transpeople in the prison system and analyzes how the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) may influence the McDonald's fate.


Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

 “2 Court Cases at Once for Family of Bronx Man Killed by the Police,” by Russ Buetner. The New York Times, June 12, 2012. 

I chose this piece for two reasons: because I think that the role of police brutality as stifling dissent in communities of color is vastly underreported, and as an exercise in reading between the lines. Considering that this is a department that has been illegally spying on the Muslim community and is well known for blatantly unethical practices, I think it is not difficult to infer (unless, of course, you happen to be an editor at the New York Times) that the trial against Ramarley Graham's half brothers is being used to put added pressure on the Graham family as they contemplate legal action in response to the murder of their son. Note that the term "murder" is only used to refer to the Graham family, not to the actions of the NYPD.


Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

Pay Up! Criminal Justice Debt in Philadelphia,” by students at the Penn Program on Documentaries & the Law.

This short documentary by law students at the University of Pennsylvania provides a critical human perspective on the devastating impacts of criminal justice debt—the result of fees and fines imposed on people convicted of crimes by state governments seeking to cover costs. In Philadelphia and elsewhere, emerging from prison burdened by debt blocks individuals’ access to public benefits, hinders employment options, and diminishes opportunities for successful community reentry. 


Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

China ready to impound EU planes in CO2 dispute,” by Allison Leung and Anurag Kotoky. Reuters, June 12, 2012. 

While Tuesday's Reuters article frames the conflict around the European Union's new cap-and-trade scheme in terms of China's recent threats, this piece illuminates a much larger struggle. What we see here, and definitely not for the first time, is that global warming's truly global nature makes it both an urgent danger, but also makes finding a solution seemingly impossible. With no overarching entity to dictate policy for all, different nations with centuries of tension now try to each create and implement their own worldwide plans to cut carbon emissions but continually proves unsuccessful, all while climate change worsens in the background. 


Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

If Europe is 'a culture of peace', why NATO?” by Richard Falk. Al Jazeera, June 11, 2012.

 I chose this piece because, for me, Falk's work functions as a welcomed antidote to mainstream writing on international affairs, which is usually teeming with hawkish platitudes and stark examples of American exceptionalism. This article provides an insightful analysis of controversial issues such as Iran's nuclear program, Islamophobia in Europe, liberal humanitarian intervention, and the contrast between the EU's seeming dismissal of war as a foreign policy strategy and the role of NATO as a Western instrument for military intervention.


Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

Students Lose Path to Grants,” by Amelia Harris. The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2012.

 This article, from the Wall Street Journal, is about the elimination of a particular path, mostly utilized by minorities, to obtain grants and financial aid to go to college. I chose it because this is certainly not an issue that'll make national headlines—even if it is in WSJ—and yet it should, because it's yet another setback for poor and minority prospective students trying to go back to school to make a better life for themselves. It also demonstrates how cuts to federal programs like the Pell Grant adversely affect our nation's students.


Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

 Voter suppression theory: If only Republicans vote, only Republicans can win,” by Maryann Tobin. Allvoices, June 10, 2012. 

The latest in voter suppression: Republican Governor of Florida Rick Perry's targeting of specific voting groups through ID laws and other restricting measures based on bogus assertions of voter fraud. It is no coincidence that one group he attempts to silence—disenfranchised former-felons, in the context of recent decades' mass incarceration of Black and Hispanic Americans—tends to vote Democratic.


Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

11 of the Best Documentaries About Cities Streaming on Netflix,” by Nate Berg. The Atlantic, June 11, 2012.

 I haven't seen every film on this list, but from the few I have seen I can assure you that by simply sitting down and watching these documentaries you will learn an incredible amount about the forces of runaway development, greed and neglect that bring about the unsustainable and unequal condition of most major cities. Much cooler than that depressing insight however, is how these films capture communities who are willing to fight for what they consider important, necessary and just. In one of my favorite films, The Parking Lot Movie, an attendant wisely remarks, “It's not just a parking lot, it's a battle with humanity.”


Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

North Dakota’s Oil Boom Brings Damage Along With Prosperity,” by Nicholas Kusnetz. ProPublica, June 7, 2012.

We've heard a lot about the perils of hydraulic fracturing, but ProPublica's report this week sheds light on its unsettling byproduct: waste water. Millions of gallons of salty, carcinogenic fracking "brine" was spilled or sloppily dumped in North Dakota last year, wiping out aquatic ecosystems and sterilizing farmland. And no one wants to clean it up.


Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Afghans say former warlord meddling in China oil deal,” by Hamid Shalizi. RAWA News, June 11, 2012.

Imperialism in Afghanistan is no new event but understanding who influences Afghanistan in the years ahead is uncertain.  China?  Pakistan?  America?  Are these imperialisms equivalent?  I'm interested in how America superintends Afghanistan's slow transition to independence and the role of other world powers.


Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

Autocrats together.” The Economist, June 9, 2012.

This article from The Economist is characteristic of some of the bad analysis coming out on the ongoing uprising in Syria. The writer banally paints the Kremlin as a cold and unwavering adherent of realpolitik, and 'the West' as an anguished and impotent sideline observer—when in fact we have the means to play, at least, a somewhat constructive role in Syria. 


NYPD’s Monitoring Of Muslim Students Sparks Indignation At NYU

This report was originally published on February 28, 2012, by the independent campus blog NYU Local. It was written just after NYPD surveillance of Muslim NYU students was reported by the AP. Sadly still relevant, we have republished this post in conjunction with the Nation's Islamophobia special issue.

The recent AP report disclosing that the NYPD’s counter-terrorism scheme includes Muslim Students Associations in colleges across New York City and the Northeast has prompted indignant backlashes from a slew of Muslim communities and civil liberty unions alike. The AP report was the first to reveal that the Muslim Community at NYU has also come under NYPD’s surveillance.

Ahmad Raza, a Stern senior and the president of Islamic Students Association (ISA) at NYU, expressed “disappointment” at the fact that the covert monitoring scheme was happening on our own campus. “Reports had surfaced mentioning some of the other schools involved and that surprised me, but even though I had my suspicions, I chose not to believe that they were doing this on our campus,” he said.

Dani Iqbal, a CAS Sophomore and member of ISA's executive board, alluded to a new atmosphere of unease at ISA, about when the NYPD is listening in and what they might be recording.

“A lot of people are concerned about whether to feel safe, not knowing who will be around us, or if what we had said [during ISA meetings] could be twisted in any way,” Iqbal said.

One of the NYPD’s classified cyber intelligence reports from November 2006 revealed that officers were trawling Muslim students’ websites as part of their “daily routine” as far back as six years ago. Included in the scheme was indeed the activities of the Muslim Community at NYU and many other universities across the city. A section of the report titled “Muslims Students Association/ Islamic Center of New York University,” details the speakers, attendees and promoters of events held by the Muslim community at NYU some years ago.

To numerous press inquiries, NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne has answered with the boilerplate defense of the surveillance, which cites 12 individuals—former-members of Muslim associations at college level—arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States.

In legal terms, the 'Federal Handshu accord' allows NYPD to “conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally,” Browne wrote to WSN in an email. And in an email to the AP, Browne said that such surveillance operations were only conducted between 2006 and 2007.

Can Deputy Commissioner Browne Be Trusted?

However on several different occasions, Browne has proven himself to be either unable or unwilling to provide an unvarnished portrayal of NYPD’s surveillance and covert intelligence operations. In August last year, asked by an AP reporter about the Demographics Unit—a team of undercover officers in charge of mapping and monitoring ethnic neighborhoods—Browne denied its existence, only to be debunked later by an AP report on police documents which laid bare the specifications of the Demographics Unit.

Last month, Browne’s trustworthiness was compromised once again, when he asserted that “The Third Jihad”—a highly controversial training video—was “a wacky movie” that was shown “a couple of times” by mistake, and that Commissioner Kelly’s appearance as an interviewee had been transposed in from another source. Our own Brennan Center and NYT, through the Freedom of Information Law request, uncovered that this video had been shown to over a thousand officers in a continuous loop at least for a year, and that Browne himself recommended Commissioner Kelly to make an appearance as an interviewee in the film. Read more about that here.

Indeed, Mr. Browne’s words are not to be taken as gospel in regards to the issue of the Handshu accord.

Established in 1985, this Handshu agreement used to restrict NYPD’s free reign to monitor political groups, stipulating that clear evidence of criminal activity was required before the Department could investigate a political activity. Decades of undercover NYPD infiltrations into activist groups like the NYC chapter of Black Panthers, however, effectively rendered the agreement moot. The accord was relaxed in response to NYPD’s lobbying in the aftermath of September 11, spearheaded by former-CIA officer David Cohen to revamp NYPD’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Talking In The Mosque

Startling details of names and comments of over a dozen Muslims conversing inside mosques and Islamic centers in NYC are included in an NYPD intelligence unit report acquired by the AP. The topic of conversation appeared to be the provocative cartoon images of Prophet Muhammed published by a Danish periodical in September 2005. “The comments that were recorded appear to fall well within the individuals' constitutional rights to free speech," the Guardian remarked of the report. "Again and again the individuals denounce violence and call for peaceful responses.”

Civil Rights attorney Jethro Eisentstein—who is involved in a class action lawsuit against the NYPD in regards to the Handshu accord—told the Guardian the accord presently permits the NYPD to "attend public meetings on the same terms of the public, generally… But they could not maintain records of what they learned at such meetings unless it related to terrorism or criminal activity.” This restriction "is a rule enforceable in court,” he said, condemning the NYPD's report as a "clear violation” of the Handshu accord.

While it appears that NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim students’ online activities was conducted in accordance with the Handshu agreement, AP's report on NYPD's transgressing surveillance of other segments of the Muslim community suggests otherwise. Which begs the question as to whether monitoring online activities was the furthest NYPD went as far as Muslim student organizations are concerned.

Government Response in New York and New Jersey

The revelation of NYPD’s surreptitious surveillance of Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in Newark has prompted New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker to say that placing a community under covert surveillance on basis of religion “clearly crosses the line,” although such vigilance may have been justified in protecting citizens from crime and terrorism.

On the other hand, Mayor Bloomberg has vehemently defended the NYPD scheme. “We have not forgotten the lesson of that terrible day on 9/11 and we are not going to forget that,” he said, deeming the surveillance “legal,” “appropriate,” and “constitutional.” The contentious standing of the Handshu Federal Accord, however, means that several elements of the NYPD monitoring scheme is widely open to serious contention on the basis of their legality, appropriateness, and constitutionality.

Indignation at NYU

Iqbal, a Texas native of Pakistani descent, expressed dismay at how his faith could potentially threaten his civil rights as an American citizen.

“I’m an American before I’m a Pakistani. I felt that I had to prove [my identity as an American] just because of my faith. That’s just against the values this nation was built upon,” he said.

Asked if the disclosure of NYPD’s surveillance tactics has in any way altered his daily routine, he said, “It’s made the community more aware. But we [ISA] don’t have anything to hide. We’re just regular American college students. The only difference might be that we pray five times a day, which the NYPD might also have been counting.”

Raza felt the scheme ought to prompt significant response from the student community on the basis of civil rights. There is a pattern in history of slowly eroding the civil liberties of a minority group until people stand up and say "no more". As a student body, we cannot be passive," he said

At NYU, the Muslim Community has held several discussions and rallied the NYU community at large via mass email to send letters of concern at the current state of affairs to the University administration. This has directly prompted President John Sexton to send a letter to Commissioner Ray Kelly:

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

We all appreciate the grave responsibility that the Police Department has taken upon itself to safeguard New Yorkers from terrorist attacks.  All of us who lived through the events of 9/11 here in New York understand what is at stake for our city.  However, if our understanding of the newly revealed information is correct – that the Police Department has been monitoring our Muslim student group based on religion alone – then we find this troubling and problematic.

Universities fill a special and especially valuable role in our society.  Our commitment to the free and peaceful exchange of ideas is at the heart of our effectiveness as institutions of research and of teaching and learning. This is true even of genuinely controversial ideas, let alone the kind of uncontroversial activities involved here.

Parents and students now wonder whether continued participation in the University’s Islamic community of worship is a risk; whether an opinion expressed at a student group meeting will end up in a government report; whether testing an argument or challenging conventional wisdom will cause one to become a suspect of some sort.  These possibilities are disquieting to our students and their families, harmful to our community-building efforts, and antithetical to the values we as a university cherish most highly.

You are a public servant of good will and character facing difficult and complex challenges in keeping New York safe from terrorism, and we at NYU appreciate your hard work.  Still, I must report our community's alarm over the reports of this activity, and that we stand in fellowship with our Muslim students in expressing our community’s dismay.


John Sexton

Raza was enthusiastic about Sexton’s decision to send this letter of disapproval, characterising it as “a great first step.” He also lauded Sexton’s “measured approach” in such times of polarized controversy.

"His measured approach to this is exactly what's needed considering some of the stuff coming from both sides.  We do expect him to keep the issue on his agenda and continue a dialogue with city officials going forward,” he said.

On the other hand, Sundus Arain, a CAS sophomore, characterized Sexton’s letter as rather lackluster. “I’d really like for him to send out… a public statement, not just a letter to commissioner Kelly… I’d like for them to send out a statement saying this is wrong because nowhere in this letter does he say this is wrong, this is unconstitutional,” Arain told WSN.

Mr. Sexton’s response so far has been remarkably tame, at least in comparison to that of Yale President Richard Levin, who immediately sent out a university-wide message which read, “I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States,” he said.

At Columbia, President Lee Bollinger’s initial response, the attitude of which could be placed in similar vein to that of Mr. Sexton, came under heavy criticism from the Muslim Community at Columbia. This has prompted Bollinger to release another public statement and to hold a “fireside chat” with a “limited number of students.”

Asked if any formal investigations at NYU by administration were pending, NYU spokesman John Beckman said that while the University did not have “the capacity” to undertake an investigation, the administration believed  "the correct course is to convey the concerns of our University community and indicate our support for our Muslim students, which we have done in a direct written communication from the University's President to the Police Commissioner.”

Photographs of members of the Muslim community at NYU by NYU Local's Nadia Hassan

Commencement Addresses, 1979-2012

Kudos to the estimable website Longform for collecting and making available the most stirring commencement speeches over the last twenty-three years. There's inspiration, hilarity and pathos, frequently all in the same speech. Check out Longform's collection. Some of our favorites were by Carlos Fuentes, David Foster Wallace and William Gass.

Demand the Future

This summer, OWS-affiliated student groups are planning a national convergence in, interestingly, Columbus, Ohio, the political epicenter of a very important swing state in the November election. It's happening August 10 to 14.

From the website:

"America needs a youth movement. As our generation comes of age, our country is coming apart. Our opportunities are drying up and our democracy is increasingly controlled by a tiny few. At this moment, we have a choice: we can save our future or sit by as it's squandered by those in power. From Wisconsin to Keystone XL, from Occupiers to DREAMers, we have already started to stand up. Like our friends in Chile, Mexico and Canada before us, students across the US are fighting for change. This summer, we will converge in Columbus, Ohio to plan the next stage of the movement."

Get updates, join a working group and check back at this link soon for registration info

The Ivy League Hustle (I Went to Princeton, Bitch)

This video, created by twenty-something Princeton graduate Nikki Muller, is attracting international attention as a critique of over-education and underemployment, and has already garnered nearly 300,000 views on YouTube.

The video also amusingly mocks the way many men are fearful of strong, smart women, a message that has been neglected by the attention, argues Princeton professor Amada Sandoval in a smart analysis of the video at Alternet.

Watch the video and use the comments section below to let us know what you think of Muller's parody.

Campus Releases Police Review Board Report on Occupy Cal Protests

UC Berkeley’s independent Police Review Board released an official report Wednesday on last year’s November 9 Occupy Cal protests.

The report outlines the board’s review of the November 9 occurrences including the confrontations between protesters and UCPD officers and whether the day’s events align with normal campus protocol.

In a statement posted on the UC Berkeley NewsCenter website, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau affirms the report’s conclusion that the campus’ handling of the protests were inconsistent.

“While the PRB notes that the Occupy Cal movement presented particular challenges to the Berkeley campus, it concludes that our management of the protest was inconsistent at times with safeguarding the norms expected of Berkeley to protect free speech and assembly,” the statement reads. “We truly regret that our processes are not adequate for dealing with the particular challenges of that day.”

Birgeneau also states that the campus has already come up with a set of principles for the recently-formed campus Protest Response Team, which he hopes will help moderate and minimize police use of force during interactions at protests.

According to the report, the board avoided making broad policy recommendations because UC President Mark Yudof has appointed that task to a UC-wide committee  with a larger number of members and experts in matters of police tactics and strategy.

Birgeneau originally asked the board to review the day’s events and to assess whether police conduct during the protests was consistent with established campus policies. However, this review was limited to two primary confrontations on November 9 involving the erection of tent encampments on the steps of Sproul Hall, which led to the use of force by police against protesters, according to the report.

Howard Graduate Caps a Four-Year Fight for Access

Major kudos to former Nation intern Britney Wilson who graduated this past May from Howard University with a flourish of collegiate honors: Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, and a laudatory profile in the Washington Post, detailing her four-year struggle to make Howard more accessible for handicapped students like herself.

A Nation intern over the summer of 2011, Wilson wrote an important piece for thenation.com decrying the dangers of classifying students according to their intellectual ability.

At Howard, the Brooklyn-born Wilson was both an advocate and critic. She penned a column for the Hilltop campus newspaper: Mut(e)iny: The Silent Rebellion in which she railed against Howard’s social cliques, lamented the scarcity of student-scholars and celebrated the propensity for a math class to suddenly veer into a discussion of black history.

We look forward with great anticipation to Wilson's next move, which will involve law school and a possible career as a litigator attacking the remaining legal foundations of social discrimination.

Students Create a Religious Group ‘Without the Religion’

This article was originally published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

For many new Princetonians, freshman year starts with the search for a new spiritual home among the dozens of religious groups on campus. For Daniel Schiff ’12, however, one group seemed to be missing.

“I came and saw all these religious posters, and it made me feel a little alienated,” said Schiff, who was raised in the Jewish tradition but no longer believes in God.

Last year Schiff, along with Corinne Stephenson-Johnson ’12, David Perel ’12, and Kaylyn Jackson ’13, founded the Princeton University Society of Humanists (PUSH) to promote discussion based on reason, not religion. The group now has an email list of about 100 students.

PUSH, which is affiliated with the national Secular Student Alliance and Foundation Beyond Belief, was created as atheist and humanist groups have launched on other college campuses as well. Following in the footsteps of the Humanist Community Project at Harvard and Yale’s Humanist Society, PUSH chose to organize around humanism — a secular moral philosophy that focuses on ethical living without belief in the supernatural — rather than atheism.

“Organizing around humanism allows you a lot more breadth and depth,” Schiff explained. “It allows you to cover the full scope of issues — like a religious group, just without the religion.”

This year was the first time PUSH held events and weekly meetings, which attract a small group of students with a diverse set of religious histories. Discussions often focus on ethics, with philosophy and politics dipping in and out of conversations about everything from vegetarianism to war. The club also has hosted lectures by speakers including philosophy professor Gideon Rosen and anthropology professor Alan Mann.

PUSH holds its meetings at Murray-Dodge Hall, which houses the Office of Religious Life, two prayer rooms, and several campus ministries. Seem incongruous? PUSH’s founders made a point to organize under the auspices of ORL.

“We’re not a religion, but we’re effectively meeting the same sort of community needs,” Schiff said.

The society’s ambitions include more interaction with religious groups and the creation of a humanist chaplain position alongside the 15 campus chaplaincies. Many universities, including Harvard and Rutgers, offer chaplaincies that support humanist, atheist, agnostic, and other nonreligious campus communities.

One of PUSH’s primary functions is to provide a welcoming community for students questioning religion, said Jackson, the group’s president.

“Princeton is a pretty open environment,” said Michael Pretko ’13. “No one would put you down for your religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs.”

Still, some students feel a stigma attached to atheism, not just on campus — where they say it is sometimes expressed with “a weird look” — but especially in their hometowns. Some describe themselves as “closet atheists.”

“People want to talk about their background, their history, how their beliefs are changing, and whether their families are accepting of them,” Schiff said. “You want to make sense of an ethical system and talk with other people, without having to invoke religion —and feel safe and comfortable.”

We Are All Québécois!

Demonstrators protest against student tuition hikes in downtown Montreal, Quebec, May 22, 2012. Tens of thousands marched on Tuesday in a rally marking 100 days of student protests. The banner reads, "towards social strike". REUTERS/Christinne Muschi 

This is what international solidarity looks like.

Below is a statement of solidarity from Chilean academics and student leaders with the ongoing student protests in Montréal, Québéc, Canada. (English translation via Translating The Revolution.)

We Are All Québécois!

We the undersigned, Chilean academics and student leaders, denounce to national and international public opinion the persecution of the student movement in Québéc, Canada, expressed in Act 78, which was enacted on Thursday, May 19 by the government of Prime Minister Jean Charest.

Act 78—or the “Loi Matraque” (Rattle Law)—is the harshest since the War Measures Act in October 1970. It has been denounced by the President of the Bar of that province, as well as by Amnesty International, the Human Rights League, the four main trade unions, and various academic bodies.

It co-opts the fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Québéc by fundamentally restricting freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate, and freedom of assembly, which are enshrined in both the Constitution and Québéc’s Charter of Rights. This law affects not only the students who have been on strike for fifteen weeks against higher tuition, but also all citizens—particularly teachers, academics, and workers, whose rights of expression and assembly are being affected.

Amongst these measures we denounce those that prevent spontaneous demonstrations of any group of more than fifty persons; the prohibition on protesting within fifty meters of a school; and the strengthening of police power by allowing police to decide at any time if a demonstration is legal or illegal, or if someone is an agitator.

By the same token, this law punishes any public expression of support for the demonstrations. For example, nobody in Québéc during a conflict may prevent the entry of students to colleges and universities, on pain of individual fines, fines to the student association or unions they belong to, as well as fines to union and student leaders. These penalties range from CA$1,000 to CA$125,000. Student leadership have announced they will challenge this law in court for being unconstitutional, and they have called for solidarity from all citizens.

The people of Québéc have for years stood by the Chilean people with their active solidarity. That’s why today we feel called to express and demonstrate our fullest solidarity with their student organizations and their leaders, with their labor unions, and with all citizen activists.

We do this for solidarity, but also because we understand that any attack against the freedoms of any place in the globalized world is an attack on our freedoms.

The so-called “Ley Hinzpeter” (Hinzpeter Law) driven by the Chilean government is part of the same repressive and undemocratic perspective.

The struggle of students, academics, and workers in Québéc is also our struggle.

Santiago de Chile, May 24, 2012.

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