News and reports
October 31, 2003 | Pages 10 and 11
Defend the Berkeley 3
BERKELEY, Calif.--Three University of California-Berkeley (UC) students will face a sentencing hearing on October 28 as Socialist Worker went to press. Their "crime"? Playing a leading role in a campus antiwar protest on the day that George Bush's war on Iraq was launched.
UC administrators have steamrolled the three activists in a process riddled with violations of the students' rights. Now they face punishments that could make it practically impossible for them to participate in campus protests again.
None of the sit-ins at UC-Berkeley over the last decade have been punished this way. But administrators want to set a precedent. That's why they have decided to hold the hearing far away from central campus, in a clear attempt to hide what is taking place.
But activists on campus have a different idea. They have launched a broad appeal for support through an online petition and an open letter in defense of the Berkeley 3.
So far, the response has been huge--people across the country now know about the administration's attack on the right to dissent in the historic home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. The online petition--which demands that the charges against the students be dropped--has accumulated more than 1,500 signatures, coming from scores of campuses, as well as several countries internationally.
This outpouring of support makes it clear that people from all walks of life--even a retired Air Force colonel--are shocked and disgusted by UC's actions. In addition, hundreds of people have signed an open letter to administrators demanding a new and fair trial.
Union activists--including several teachers' unions, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and several campus unions--have signed onto the letter, as well as leaders of progressive organizations and publications such as Global Exchange and War Times newspaper. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in the campus newspaper the day before the hearing--and encouraged people to attend the protest right before the sentencing hearing. Activists hope that a good turnout will put pressure on the hearing committee to back down and respect students' rights.
IN THE weeks leading up to the national mobilization on October 25, student antiwar activists built for the protests by hosting stops on the Campus Antiwar Network's "Speaking Truth to Empire" national tour. The tour had stops across the country, featuring opponents of U.S. militarism such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Rania Masri.
In Greensboro, N.C., an October 9 CAN tour stop at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro drew 70. The audience represented a core of antiwar activists from the around the state. In a follow-up meeting, campus activists planned for an "Arts Against the Occupation" festival event.
In Boston, five speakers came to Northeastern University October 21 to address an audience of 75, one of the largest meetings ever of the campus antiwar coalition. Dr. Karim Khudairi, a native of Iraq and professor emeritus at Northeastern, and longtime anti-sanctions activist George Capaccio talked about the impact on the Iraqi people. "Iraq has been occupied now by four empires in its history," Khudairi said. "History is being repeated in the 21st century."
In Burlington, Vt., the CAN tour came to the Memorial Auditorium on October 22, packing 200 into an overflowing room. One speaker who recently returned from Iraq shared the opinion of a cab driver he talked to--that the U.S. "wants us to be afraid like we were afraid under Saddam." Antiwar activist Rania Masri, meanwhile, linked the war abroad with the war at home, describing the poverty draft that fills up the ranks of the U.S. military.
Pete Ivey, Ben Larrivee and Mary Howland contributed to this report.
NEW YORK--Some 150 people turned out to protest last week at Columbia University against the USA PATRIOT Act. The rally was sponsored by a local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and included speakers from political offices and various activist organizations.
Some of the protesters carried signs that connected the injustices of the U.S. occupation of Iraq with the stifling of opposition at home. Students said that they turned out because of the threat to their rights--and to the families who face racist scapegoating promoted by the civil liberties-shredding law.