By UNC-Asheville SDS
January 19, 2009
Since our affiliation with SDS in August 2006, the student movement here in Asheville has moved by leaps and bounds. From dozens of movie screenings and teach-ins, to participation in the biggest coordinated student protests since Vietnam, SDS has pushed the boundaries in the student movement and is, nationally, on the way to establishing itself as one of the most important forces in the anti-war and student movements. It is important to look back and celebrate our victories of the past three years.
Out of all of our local work, anti-war has been the most pressing and fruitful in terms of garnering support and new members. In October 2006, we gathered 200 people, nearly 5% of our school, who walked out of their classes and marched downtown in protest against the Iraq War. In November, we constructed a Palestine apartheid wall on our quad as a reminder of the war crimes carried out by Israel, and supported by U.S. tax dollars. For the third anniversary of the Iraq war, we held another walkout and march downtown. Then, under fear from recent community ICE raids, came the immigrants’ rights May Day vigils in 2007 and 2008. UNCA SDSers have also supported demonstrations for the freedom of imprisoned FARC leader, and Colombian freedom fighter, Ricardo Palmera.
UNCA SDS has opposed the militarization of our campus, and has consistently protested against recruiters from the Armed Forces and Homeland Security. By uniting against the most oppressive force in the world, U.S. military and intelligence, we have lowered recruitment levels and weakened the U.S. ruling class’s ability to sustain two major wars abroad.
We have strongly supported students’ demands to desegregate the campus, which has been led by a multinational coalition of majority Black, Latino and white student groups. UNCA has consistently fallen below university statewide “diversity quotas,” essentially qualifying as a segregated campus. For example, this means that while 18% of our city and 22% of our state is African American, only 3% of our student body is African American. SDS has maintained a consistent vision in anti-oppression work and stands in solidarity with Black, Latino, and other national liberation movements.
Many members of UNCA SDS were in the forefront of leading the call for nationwide March 20 student and youth days of action in 2007 and 2008. Through this work we have been able to synchronize a diversity of actions along with tapping into previously unaffiliated student groups across the nation. Also, leading and participating in contingents in national and regional demonstrations has been important in projecting SDS. Likewise, our work in the Stop the War, Stop McCain Working Group drew in many new activists in several chapters across the country who were not content with simply voting. The election of our first Black president is a step forward for this country, but it will not be enough to achieve the democratic society that we envision.
As we usher in 2009, now more than ever is the time to plan actions, build strong and militant local chapters, and achieve more political unity. The Obama administration will present new challenges that young people in the U.S. will take head on. We must be in the forefront of those struggles against U.S. imperialism and world hegemony.
Already, the wholesale slaughter aimed at the extermination of Palestinians in Gaza has created a massive outpouring across the U.S. Our movement must build on this momentum this semester. The anti-war movement is looking more at a renewed assault on Afghanistan with Obama calling for U.S. troop increases to 60,000. We must maintain the call for self-determination in Afghanistan, demanding a complete and immediate U.S. withdrawal. Finally, the Iraqi people continue to wage a life or death struggle for liberation, and we must continue to support their struggle, as well.
On this third anniversary, our chapter and SDS, nationally, have much to celebrate. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we should remember the speeches of Dr. King, during the last months of his life, against the Vietnam War and poverty at home; and how he connected the Black Freedom Struggle with that of the Vietnamese struggle for self-determination. We have struggled for three years, and we still have much ahead of us to build a democratic society.
The Struggle Continues!
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