This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, and links to all posts from 2014, check out January 16. Contact [email protected] with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).
1. 400 Greet Anti-Muslim Hate Speech
In mid-January, a law professor at Vanderbilt University published an op-ed in The Tennessean arguing that Islam poses “an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored” and made “part of the brotherhood of man.” Two days later, 400 students gathered on Library Lawn at Vanderbilt University to denounce an attack on Muslim students.The action showed those who shared the opinions of the faculty member that Vanderbilt students and faculty have zero tolerance for bigotry. In response, the provost issued a statement disaffiliating the views of the university from those of the professor.
2. 68 Blockade for Black Lives
On January 19, Martin Luther King Day, sixty-eight Stanford students were arrested for blocking the San Mateo Bridge as part of nationwide #ReclaimMLK demonstrations. Reclaiming Martin Luther King Day meant engaging in direct and disruptive action and drawing in the internationalism King championed at the end of his life. While detained on the bridge, we tried to bring attention to issues of state violence, mass incarceration and foreign occupation that Silicon Valley otherwise has the ability to ignore. Our action was centered around the Ferguson Action national demands—and featured the Palestinian flag as a symbol of global struggles for justice. The action was black–centered and -led, with participation from Stanford students of all backgrounds.
3. 2 Percent Too Much
With two dramatic campus demonstrations, the Ohio University Student Union launched a new campaign to reverse the university’s decision to raise tuition for both current and incoming students. The “Ohio Guarantee,” as the school has termed the hike, raises tuition for each incoming, in-state freshmen class by 5.1 percent. Students would then pay that rate for up to four years. Current students will see their tuition raised by 2 percent, the maximum increase allowed under current Ohio law. On Thursday, January 22, 100 students rallied outside Baker University Center, followed by a march down a high-traffic street off campus. After the crowd dispersed and journalists left, the Athens Police Department surrounded a small group of students and issued citations to three for “persistent disorderly conduct.” The following day, thirty students disrupted the Board of Trustees meeting to deliver three demands: no new tuition hike, full funding for the Survivor Advocacy Program on our terms and no new natural gas pipeline construction on campus. Three additional students were arrested. We are building a legal fund to support the arrestees.
—Ohio University Student Union
4. 27 Percent—for Now
When the University of California announced a 27 percent fee increase in the fall, it was met with militant protest and multi-day occupations across the state. The increase, roughly $4,000, would be the highest the university has ever seen. Though the spring term has just started, students have already disrupted multiple PR events and protested the Regents’ meeting—while holding down picket lines for UC doctors striking for the first time in twenty-five years. In all these actions, we have decried a budget that prioritizes administration over instruction and things over people. At many, the UC has sent in police to shut down protest. Students at UC–Santa Cruz have already called for ninety-six hours of disruptive action, culminating in strikes and campus shutdowns the first week of March.
—California Student Union at UCLA and UCSC
5. In Arcata, Taking Residence for Native Justice
Since Martin Luther King Day, Humboldt State University students have taken up twenty-four-hour residence on campus in the newly christened Dr. Jacquelyn Bolman Forum—and plan to stay there until our demands are met. Dr. Bolman was the director of HSU’s Indian Natural Resource, Science and Engineering Program, and a beloved Lakota mentor, who was fired last fall for criticizing the university’s inability to hire faculty and staff of color, despite shifting student demographics in the state and public university systems. We are peacefully protesting school administrators for violating the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, California Education Code 66301, United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples articles 14, 18 and 19 and the college’s mission statement. This is not an occupation, but a liberation—a reminder from Native students and the Unified Students of Humboldt that the university resides on occupied Wiyot Land. We have received public support from the Sovereign Wiyot, Tolowa and Yurok nations and more than thirty faculty and staff members.
—Unified Students of Humboldt
6. In Oakland, LA and San Diego, Kicking Out ICE
In September, and again in January, the Immigrant Youth Coalition, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and allied groups sent letters to Attorney General Kamala Harris requesting to meet—with no response. We demand a public statement reiterating stronger implementation of the TRUST Act in lieu of Obama’s new “Prioritized Enforcement Program” for undocumented immigrants; U-Visa certifications for those affected by TRUST Act violations; disciplinary action for sheriffs and police departments in violation; and appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute use of force in jails, prisons, detention centers and the streets. On Wednesday, January 28, we took action at Harris’s offices in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. In San Diego, we occupied the lobby for four hours—first being redirected by a staffer to the Sacramento office, then told by Sacramento that they could not assist us, then chanting, being told to disperse and, finally, winning a meeting with the AG’s office. After multiple hours of negotiation, the office committed to a meeting with a “top” staffer in San Diego.
7. Mississippi’s Gay-Straight Alliance
On January 14, Dr. Lynn Weathersby, the Rankin County, Mississippi, school superintendent, struck down our right to create a Gay-Straight Alliance at Brandon High School, telling us that he did not want “gay clubs” in his schools and that these are “issues” we should discuss with our parents at home. He then ruled that students would need parental permission to join a club in school—posing a problem for students who aren’t out to their parents. On January 20, we held a protest outside the district office. Even though we were unsuccessful in blocking the new rule, the support—and outrage—has been overwhelming. At the same time, we have been harassed as a group and, more frighteningly, individually. This is exactly why we need the GSA. For now, we are still holding GSA meetings, as a donation-funded group, outside of school.
—Brandon Gay-Straight Alliance Council
8. York’s Public School Groundswell
On November 19, students from York City, Pennsylvania, protested the takeover of our school district by a for-profit charter school company with a sit-in at the monthly York City school board meeting. As court hearings began to determine our school district’s fate, we organized a student union to promote student awareness and activism. On the day of the meeting, we led a school-wide walkout and march to the York County Judicial Center and protested throughout the hearings. The judge ruled against us before ultimately granting our right to an appeal. We demand that the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education provide a public school option in York and will continue organizing protests to increase awareness and community support.
9. What’s Wrong With Hoodies?
On January 27, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice announced the #HoodieBanBill campaign. Our effort comes in response to the Oklahoma State Legislature’s proposed SB 13, which would effectively give law enforcement officials the right to enforce a state dress code under the racist pretense that hoodies are directly correlated to crime. The hoodie has come to represent a unifying a symbol of the continued struggle for racial equality and justice for communities of color. On February 3, following signature collection and coordination with groups across Oklahoma to raise awareness that the nation is willing to stand with Oklahomans for dignity and civil liberties, the bill was defeated.
10. When Will It End?
On January 28, 200 people rallied at Denver’s District 2 police substation to mourn and demand justice for 16-year-old Jessica Hernandez, who was killed by police on Monday. We held a moment of silence and watched a slideshow of Jessie projected onto the substation walls. Led by Denver Freedom Riders and Branching Seedz of Resistance and representing Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, we raised our voices until a sergeant came out and agreed to meet with us. As a delegation went inside, we chanted, “Hey now, we can’t be silenced when our friends are gunned down!” and “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” The delegation learned that the Hernandez family was receiving anonymous threats of deportation, prompting police coverage, as well as the names of the officers involved, Daniel Greene and Gabriel Jordan. Still, there were no details or answers about what had happened. We will not stand by and allow the police to monitor and investigate themselves for abuse and misconduct.