Students For A Democratic Society (sds)
Nov 17 2008, 01:57 PM
Day of Demands:
On November 14th we will take a step toward transforming the movements for student power and accessible education that we’re building in schools around the country into a Student Movement that can and will make demands at the level necessary to transform the entire educational system. We will, with much fanfare and merrymaking, publicly make our demands to the people and institutions that control our education system; the Department of Education, our school Administrations, Student Loan Companies, and the rest of the unaccountable folks who ignore our needs and profit from our exploitation.
The goal of this Day of Demands is to announce the arrival of a militant, radical, and dedicated student movement and make public our vision for a democratic, liberatory, and accessible education system. It is to take the power we have been building at our schools and in our communities, and by mobilizing collectively allow ourselves to make demands more sweeping and more far reaching than anything we can accomplish at our individual schools.
On the Day of Demands SDS chapters from across the country will organize marches, rallies, and parades that will end in public presentations of both our local and national demands to the targets chosen by local chapters. Media teams will make sure the whole world hears us.
The Department of Education has 10 regional offices in cities across the country which we suggest chapters target if they’re close enough. Office locations are:
* Boston, MA
* New York, NY
* Philadelphia, PA
* Atlanta, GA
* Chicago, IL
* Dallas, TX
* Kansas City, MO
* Denver, CO
* San Francisco, CA
* Seattle, WA
Specific addresses and contacts for each regional office, along with the states they represent can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/about/contacts/gen/regions.html.
Of course, their headquarters is in Washington DC.
Most of the student debt in this country is through federal loans from the Department of Education. Not to mention all the horrible policies they’re responsible for (standardized testing, No Child Left Behind, funding public schools according to property values, etc.)
Jan 7 2007, 01:18 PM
Tear It Down!: A Personal View of the First SDS Northwest Convention
From the very beginning the Northwest convention had a very different feeling than the previous two. There has been very little MDS involvement in the Northwest so students had planned the entire conference. Friday night, a group of Lewis & Clark SDSers, including myself, crammed into two cars and headed over to Reed College for our last minute meeting. On the way we stopped at the Red & Black café to pick up a 3-pound bag of chips and a gallon of hummus and tapenade that they had so generously donated for the cause.
Thanks to Sam Downs and Frazer Lanier of LC SDS Noah’s Bagels had also given us a weekends worth of bagels and Food Not Bombs prepared some veggies, fruit and other goodies for the conference. When we got to Reed, some guy needed help jump starting his car, so I stayed behind as everyone else headed to the Student Action Office. When I got there ten minutes later everyone had already made big signs on butcher paper directing people where to go.
We all headed over to the psychology building where the opening plenary was to take place. I set up my computer for registration as Guy Dobyns, an LC SDSer tried to fix our button maker. Within an hour dozens of unfamiliar faces, which would soon be familiar, poured into the hall. Alex Cooper and Mary Sackley from LC SDS registered everyone while we waited for the last few cars to get here. It was great to see Brendan Dunn from Olympia SDS and Patrick and Millicent from Tacoma SDS, whom I hadn’t seen since the National Convention in August. We started at 7:15pm, a little behind schedule. After introductions from Mary, Matt Wasserman from Reed SDS gave a short history of what SDS did in the 60s and then I gave a brief synopsis of what the new SDS has been doing around the country. Afterwards Alejandro Queral from the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center gave a very informative speech on the federal government’s roundup, intimidation and harassment of environmental and animal rights activists, and what student-based organizations can do to counteract attacks on dissenting political points of view. I had booked Alejandro only a few days before, so it was great to see everyone to react so positively to his speech. When Alejandro finished, a member or a few members from each chapter gave a report back on what they had done over the course of the semester. Every chapter was doing some great stuff, but the highlight for me was hearing from Bellingham SDS who had just formed a few weeks earlier.
After the report backs Mary had everyone who needed housing head to the left side of the room and those who could offer housing head to the right side. After everyone was paired up, we all separated for the night. I had to run off to play a concert back at Lewis & Clark, but I eventually ended up at Frazer’s house with a bunch of Portland, Bellingham and Olympia SDSers. We had a few beers and talked politics until way too late in the morning and after a few hours of sleep I was up and heading to Lewis & Clark College for the first day of the convention.
I got there at 9am when registration was supposed to start and the place was completely vacant. I started crimping some buttons with our newly fixed button maker (thanks to Guy), and blasted The Coup from my computer speakers while I waited for people to show up. By 9:45 the registration room was crowded with people, food, and coffee mugs donated from the Lewis & Clark Co-op. The workshops started at 10am and like the rest of the convention, I had to pick from a jam-packed schedule of amazing workshops.
I ultimately decided to head to the workshop entitled “Removing Gender Biases and Embracing the Trans-Community.” The queer-rights activist group from Lewis & Clark, called SAFER gave the workshop. It was incredibly informative, especially about the vocabulary used when talking about gender identity.
Removing Gender Biases and Embracing the Trans-Community Workshop
Others went to workshops on learning from the Black Panthers, the Military Commissions Act, and the first of several workshops and discussions on environmental issues. After a small break I facilitated a discussion on local structure. It was incredibly interesting to talk about the problems each branch had been having and to collectively think of solutions. After our discussion it was time to eat lunch. Food Not Bombs and Sam Downs spent the whole morning cooking food for the group.
While I ate, I participated in a caucus on feminism and gender equality. When that discussion finished I went to an incredibly informative workshop on basic protest preparation and safety held by Mimi Calkins and Rachel Graham of Olympia SDS. They talked about their experiences being pepper sprayed at the port of Olympia and different ways to help those who had been pepper sprayed or tear gassed.
After the last section of workshops we all broke off in small groups for the “From Theory to Practice” plenary that Daniel Cairns from Tacoma SDS had thought up. Millicent from Tacoma was the facilitator in our group of almost entirely Lewis & Clark students. The group was largely SDSers but included two students from Lewis & Clark who I had never seen at a meeting. It was interesting talking to them about their conceptions of SDS and conceptions of SDS on campus in contrast to what those who were involved experienced. One of those students, Scott, seemed very inspired and changed by the conversation and has been coming to meetings and playing an active role in our chapter ever since. When the discussion ended, everyone gathered in one room and I facilitated our first general discussion amongst the entire group. Although originally the discussion was slated to talk about regional structure, we actually ended up discussing a whole range of regional issues including actions, letters, goals and structure. Afterwards we showed the video of the Iranian American student at UCLA who had been tasered by campus security. A few of us stayed behind to draft a letter to the UCLA officials and the UC regents about the event.
Finally, we left the campus and I got to go out with a bunch of the Tacoma SDSers and Joshua Russell from the Rainforest Action Network to eat scrumptious burritos at Laughing Planet. After a lot of face stuffing and dinosaur action figure role-playing we split in two as some went to Portland’s infamous Voodoo Donuts and another group went with me back to my house, The Alamo, to set up for the party. When we got there, it was already packed. We had a fun night of drinking, dancing and listening to live music and after four hours of sleep I was back at Lewis & Clark setting up the registration table.
Everyone was pretty tired and we ended up starting the opening plenary 30 minutes late. The plenary went extremely well and we made a bunch of unanimous decisions. After brief discussion and a few additions we sent out the letter to UCLA that a group of us had written the night before. We also sent out a letter I had drafted that morning to the Pace University officials about their blatant disregard for their students 1st amendment rights and the problems Pace SDSers have been encountering. We decided to create a Northwest phone tree for emergency actions or meetings. We also set up a monthly conference call with representatives from all of the chapters in the region. The group requested that I set up a Northwest SDS website, where we can all post news and events and discuss different topics. You can now see that website here: www.northwestsds.org. We also decided that the next Northwest SDS Convention would be held in Olympia sometime next semester. After the plenary we all put our hands together for a big “Tear it Down” salute, to which Josh quickly replied “while building sustainable alternatives.”
After the salute were made a few people left to go to an Oaxaca protest in Olympia. With a smaller crowd, the convention marched on with a new set of workshops. I listened to an interesting history of the environmental movement given by Alex Cooper, who is writing her thesis on the ELF and afterwards I participated in an incredible workshop on sustainable student organization building that was facilitated by Joshua Russell.
After the day was over I had tons of new ideas of how to better organize our chapter and integrate new members and about a dozen projects I wanted to take on for SDS. By the time the conference ended at 6:00pm there were only about twenty SDSers left. We all said our goodbyes and it was over. The next day a bunch of Lewis & Clark SDSers met with Josh Russell to reflect on the conference. Here are a few quotes from that meeting:
“It came together so well in the end and students from all over the region were teaching students the tools they learned through activism.” — Frazer Lanier
“All of these people with varying opinions came together. As a stranger, I walked in and got a distinct sense of community amongst a great group of people.” — Scott Heirshberg
“That students who are usually so busy with their academic and social life could meet together on a weekend and sit and talk extremely intellectually for eight straight hours two days in a row, says something about the power of students ability to self-educate.” – Nick Kaufman
“I get a lot of criticism about how anarchism would ever work. And this weekend it worked. It was mutual aid in its purist form. Students cooking for students. Cleaning others dishes, etc.” – Sam Downs
Personally, I think the conference was incredible. I learned more in this weekend from my peers and fellow activists then I’ve learned in my last two years at college. I feel like a lot of people felt very empowered by this convention. Building a non-hierarchical, multi-issue organization is very difficult. We’re not like STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), where the title of your organization defines what you are going to do and people getting involved know exactly what they are getting into. Instead we are trying to deal with a very diverse set of political views and tactics. And we want to structure our organization in a non-hierarchical, democratic way leaving room for dissent and for oppressed peoples to voice their concerns. I think every branch was beginning to encounter structural and tactical problems because of the many issues that arise when trying to accomplish this. The convention opened all of our eyes to the larger picture, and in doing so, helped us brainstorm and come to conclusions about ways to overcome the difficulties within our individual branches. Everyone left the convention with tons of great ideas about what to do next.
Dec 21 2006, 09:34 PM
Students, Faculty and Labor Denounce Wrongful Arrest of Pace SDSers
November 20th, 2006 by Thomas Good
A member of SDS New York stands vigil outside the 1st Precinct (Photo: Thomas Good)
New York, NY - November 20, 2006. Wednesday, November 15th began quietly enough in lower Manhattan. However, by day’s end a large group of SDS, armed with pots and pans, would be vigiling outside a New York City police precinct - demanding the release of five first amendment activists wrongfully arrested for protesting on the sidewalk of the very university they pay to attend. They would be joined by one of their professors - chair of the Sociology Department; members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”), and; attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild. The students, members of Pace University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), would spend several hours in jail - two spending the night at the Tombs. By the next day the story would be in the New York Times, on New York One (a cable news station) and all over the internet. The Pace Five would be receiving letters of support from SDS Chapters, Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) members, faculty from various Pace campuses and union rank and file.
On November 9th some Pace SDS members were detained by Pace security for allegedly fliering on their campus. In what Pace SDS organizers call a pattern of harrassment, the students were written up for posting ‘unapproved flyers’ on school grounds. These students face disciplinary charges and the possibility of expulsion. This arbitrary act on the part of Pace prompted the local SDS chapter to call a press conference and protest - to be held on November 15th. The press conference was held at New York’s City Hall - across Park Row from the Pace Campus. SDS from several NYC chapters attended and the event was documented by a number of Lefty journalists and filmed by New York 1 News (cable). Several members of Pace SDS spoke in turn from the podium as about 25 SDSers stood behind them on the steps of City Hall. Pace University’s Director of Public Information, Chris Cory, was in attendance as well and spoke briefly with journalists.
Following the conference, SDS marched across Park Row to the Pace Campus. The Pace campus features a large courtyard outside of the main entrance. According to Pace the public and private space is delimited by a row of flower pots which parallel Park Row. The students demonstrated on the public side of the imaginary line under the watchful eye of the New York City Police Department who turned out in force, apparently at the behest of anxious Pace administrators. An unusually large number of NYPD senior staff were present including a full Captain, a Community Affairs officer (Moran) from the First Precinct and Lieutenant Louis Turco - well known in activist and labor circles as the leader of the anti-Critical Mass squad (1st Precinct Scooter Detail) and the effort to arrest street vendors in Chinatown. Pace administrators and security flanked the entrance to the school.
SDS conducted a speak out and almost immediately the NYPD moved in to demonstrate their determination to control the event. SDSer and Wobbly John Cronan was approached by P.O. Moran who threatened arrest if a bullhorn was used. In response, SDS read the first amendment to the constitution aloud - without sound amplification. The P.D. backed off, apparently mollified. A number of speakers condemned the arbitrary actions of the Pace administration and expressed outrage at the ongoing violations of the students’ civil rights. Jeffrey Francois, of the Pace University Press (campus news), took the stage to demand freedom of expression on the campus, arguing that “this is not a radical issue!”
Sometime after 4 pm a number of Pace SDS entered the courtyard proper in order to request to speak with Pace officials. As the students demanded to speak with (Pace University) President David Caputo and Dean of Students Marijo O’Grady, Lieutenant Turco ordered the arrest of any SDS members who were in the courtyard - where other Pace students stood, looking on in shock at the militarization of their campus. This reporter observed that a number of students who had previously looked on in silence began chanting “Solidarity, SDS!” Turco and his uniforms cuffed John Cronan, Davey Vacek, Lauren Giaccone and Alexander Cline as Brian Kelly was carried out of the courtyard to a waiting Police van. As the uniforms lifted and carried him to the van Kelly was heard chanting “Free Speech! Free Speech! Free Speech!” Following the arrests police lined Park Row, standing in the street as upset students stood on the public sidewalk shouting that their first amendment rights had been violated - and demanding the release of free speech activists then in custody.
A short time later a number of SDS made their way to the First Precinct to do jail support. At the precinct confusion reigned - initially a Sergeant named Wolfgang informed the vigilers that they could not stand in front of the Precinct. The SDSers crossed Ericsson Place and took up positions along Hudson Square (south). As they banged on buckets and pans, drivers who stopped for the light at Varick St expressed sympathy and support - many expressing the view that arbitrary action on the part of officers working the One was no surprise. “We have no rights at all,” said one motorist. As word spread that 5 SDS were being held more vigilers began arriving. Lieutenant Turco crossed the street and told protesters the PD had set up pens for them on the sidewalk outside the station house. When pressed, Turco acknowledged that the protesters at Hudson Square could remain where they were. A short time later community affairs officer Moran approached the vigilers, asking them to go into the pens as the Square was Port Authority property. Noting the number of SUVs and trucks parked right on the square itself, all sporting NYPD parking permits on their dashboards, the crowd demanded to stay where they were. Moran accepted this and the discussion was over.
As the evening progressed a number of Wobblies came to support the SDSers - in part because two of the arrestees were also Wobblies but also in the great IWW tradition of general defense of working class militants. Similarly, members of the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchists (NYMAA) came out in support of the students. At one point an NLG lawyer appeared and went into the precinct to discover the fate of the arrestees. He reported that 3 would be given desk appearance tickets and 2 transferred to the Tombs, 100 Centre Street, for arraignment. A bit later, the chair of the Pace Sociology Department joined the vigil - getting a very warm reception from his students.
The vigil continued as activists and organizers shouted and drummed. At 10 PM Sergeant Wolfgang crossed the street to demand the vigilers stop banging on pots or face arrest for “unreasonable noise”. Although the militants were not amused by this they did comply as the 1st has a history of arbitrary arrest (especially Turco and his scooter cops who comprise the Critical Mass detail). Sometime after 1 AM three arrestees were given their DATs and released. At 11 AM the following day the remaining two arrestees, Brian Kelly and John Cronan, were arraigned and charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration (OGA - a class A misdemeanor) and disorderly conduct (failure to obey a lawful order). They were released on their own recognizance and have a trial date of December 21 at 9 AM (100 Centre). The three DATed organizers have arraignments on December 12th at 9 AM, also at 100 Centre. They are charged with failure to obey a lawful order (240.20 (6)).
Response to the actions of the Pace Administration and NYPD was swift. The progressive community, labor and Pace faculty and staff have all issued statements. At Pace, emergency meetings of faculty have been called on both the Pleasantville campus and the Pace Law School campus. Faculty are circulating petitions and planning protests in defense of the students. A Pace Law professor has offered to represent the students.
Roger Salerno, professor of Sociology at Pace said: “The arrest of protesting Pace students on Wednesday on Pace property, at the apparant behest of University officials, signals to all of us the contempt that this administration has for peaceful assembly and free speech. Many of us on faculty cannot understand how President Caputo could either allow or encourage the arrest of his own students for exercising their constitutional rights. This arrest comes at a time when the faculty is considering a vote of no confidence in both Caputo and the Board of Trustees.”
For their part Pace SDS has issued a set of demands which include the resignation of Pace President David A. Caputo; an investigation of Pace University and its board of trustees by the New York State Board of Regents; immediate full recognition of Pace SDS by the University; dropping of all charges by the NYPD and Pace - and dismissal of all disciplinary charges by Pace; lastly, Pace SDS has demanded that all attacks on the first amendment rights of Pace students must cease immediately.
The Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) issued a press release on November 19, demanding Pace accede to the student demands - and, in addition, demanding an apology from President Caputo for his ongoing violations of the civil rights of Pace Students. MDS Co-President Alan Haber offered to meet with Caputo so they might work towards the goal of restoring free speech to the Pace campus. MDS Secretary Thomas Good, father of two, said the young SDSers “gave him hope for the future” and Penelope Rosemont, MDS Co-President called for getting “all cops off campus”.
Labor organizers have also expressed outrage at the Pace Administration and NYPD as well as solidarity with the students.
“Caputo’s decision to call in state forces to quell speech on campus is abhorrent,” said Daniel Gross, an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World who joined the protest outside the first precinct where the Pace students were imprisoned. “It’s time to show Caputo the door and put an end to the NYPD’s pattern of anti-speech arrests,” he added.
The Pace Transportation Union, part of NYSUT, sent a statement of support to NLN:
The Pace Transportation Union speaks out in support of the Pace students who dare to address the urgent and very legitimate concerns of the student body by standing up to the Administration. They should be allowed to be heard.
We are in total opposition to the severe and unfair actions taken by the University in this case. Once again, Pace Administration is not playing by the rules.
To arrest students for exercising their first amendment rights of free speech when they feel they have no other recourse - is unconscionable. Worse, the course of action taken by the University evidently was pre planned.
Nothing less than the financial health and Pace’s quality of education are at stake here, and it should be in EVERYONE’S best interest to take part in discussions. Only when one side doesn’t wish to dialogue does it resort to these sorts of actions.
It is time for Pace Administration to join the conversation!
Pace has issued a response to the press conference and subsequent arrests. Christopher Cory, Executive Director of Public Information for Pace, sent NLN a statement authored by Neill Blanco, Chairman of the Pace University Board of Trustees. In the statement Blanco cited improvements at Pace attributed to President Caputo. He also indicated that: “Dr. Caputo’s leadership puts Pace at the forefront of the important national conversation currently taking place on accountability in higher education.” Responding to the SDS charge that Caputo’s $700,000 annual salary (and recent $100,000 raise) is excessive, Blanco said: “David Caputo is worth what we pay him.” Blanco seemed to indicate a willingness to address the students’ concerns in some sort of dialogue: “Pace University deserves the best possible discussion by all the members of its community of how to improve the learning and lives of our students. We look forward to continuing conversations on these issues that are vital to the university’s future.”
Lauren Giaccone and Brian Kelly of Pace SDS (Photo: Thomas Good)
It remains to be seen if Caputo or Blanco will agree to meet with the students or any of their supporters. The Pace SDS organizers are currently being flooded with expressions of solidarity from SDS chapters and members from across the country and they remain committed to the goal of restoring free speech on their campus.
“Pace University can try to silence its students but in the end, actions speak louder than words,” said Lauren Giaccone, one of the Pace Five.
Supporters can sign an online petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/pacesds/petition.html and contact Pace:
Dr. Aniello (Neill) A. Bianco Chairman of the Board of Trustees
C/O Christopher T. Corey, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. David A. Caputo President, Pace University
View Photos From The Press Conference and Arrests…
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