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Views in brief

July 20, 2007 | Page 6

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The fight for justice at the G-8
Keep Hunter College public

The fight for justice at the G-8

AS THE leaders of the world's eight wealthiest industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., known as the G-8) prepared for their annual summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, global justice and antiwar activists organized a week of actions in protest.

The protests intended to bring into question the legitimacy of this elite body that makes far-reaching decisions about world affairs with impunity. Protests against G-8 summits gained momentum with the movement against corporate globalization, but increasingly, this movement has been forced to address the violence of wars and occupations in the Middle East.

The protests, educational meetings and musical performances opposing the G-8 took place in near by Rostock, as Heiligendamm (a small resort town) was controlled by security checkpoints for months before the summit. The events were organized by a broad array of non-governmental organizations, trade unions, left-wing political parties and activist groups.

The week's activities began on June 2, with a mass march and rally, bringing together an estimated 70,000. This protest was marred by violence when masked anarchists pelted rocks and bottles at police personnel and vehicles. The response from the police was typically disproportionate--they moved in, indiscriminately attacking the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.

The incident was used by the police and corporate media to demonize the protesters and delegitimize their message. This spin, however, was largely reversed when it was proven that at least one police provocateur disguised as an anarchist in the crowd had initiated violence.

The protests began days before the actual G-8 summit. For the actual days of the summit, many protesters planned direct actions to blockade land entrances to Heiligendamm--to cut off and isolate the G-8 meetings.

Simultaneous to the summit and blockades, a counter-summit was organized in Rostock to put forward an alternative to the narrow and destructive vision of the G-8 leaders. Many people criticized the choice by organizers to hold the counter-summit at the same time as the blockades against the summit, as this created a division of labor between ideas and activity within the movement.

Within the groups planning direct actions, debates occurred over how to carry them out or whether to call them off all together.

After Saturday's violence, the moderate leadership of the European activist coalition ATTAC put out a press release that was conciliatory to police and divisively critical of some protesters. ATTAC's leadership argued to call off the blockades due to the violence, but met with strong opposition from their many rank-and-file activist members. After long discussion, the rank-and-file prevailed, and ATTAC rejoined the dozens of groups planning blockades.

On the morning of the first day of the summit, thousands of people descended on the area around Heiligendamm from all directions. The police force of over 13,000--brought from all over Germany--proved insufficient in preventing most protesters from reaching and blocking the roads to Heiligendamm.

In the end, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people participated in the blockades, enduring tear gas, water cannons and police batons, but holding their position.

The politicians and functionaries attending the summit had to be brought in by sea and air, while journalists and corporate lobbyists along with many supplies were blocked from entering altogether.

Amazingly, much of the media corrected their originally biased reporting and became more supportive of the protests. This was largely due to the peaceful but determined nature of the blockaders alongside the unnecessarily repressive measures of the police. Many local residents showed support for the blockaders by bring them water and coffee.

While all this was happening, thousands of others participated in the counter-summit to discuss many topics related to global justice, ranging from educational sessions on social movements in Latin America to more strategic discussions, such as how European revolutionaries should view and engage with elections. The constant updates from the blockades gave the summit an air of excitement.

The closing rally of the counter-summit brought together over a thousand people into a packed church to hear a series of rousing speeches with the final words reserved for environmental and global justice activist Vindana Shiva. Shiva related the struggles of peoples in the Global South against the privatization of water and eviction from their land with historic struggles and made the connections between the movements in the North and those of South.

As the enthused crowd poured out of the final rally, some weary and sunburned blockaders were making their way back into town, eager to tell their stories. The next morning, most people packed up and headed home, fortified by their experience and ready to bring their insights and enthusiasm back into their communities. A new chapter in the movement for global justice had been written.
Zach Mason, Washington, D.C.

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Keep Hunter College public

I'M A student at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York system. I recently learned that the Hunter administration is planning on closing our campus, meaning students would have to swipe our IDs to enter the building.

This makes me cringe for many reasons, but there are a few that have especially inspired me and others to fight this decision.

First of all, it's unclear why the administration has chosen to try to implement such a system. They've been discussing it since 2001, but it seems they revived the idea after the Virginia Tech shootings, even though the man responsible for the killings at Virginia Tech was a student.

They also claim women on campus don't feel safe at school late at night. While this may be true, this is no solution. There's also the argument that there are too many homeless people at Hunter. Well, there are homeless students, too, but this is no way to solve the problem.

Furthermore, it's not clear what type of information-collection will accompany the swipe system. At the dorms where they've recently implemented a swipe policy from 10:30 p.m. until the early morning, a dean mentioned the possibility of reporting students' whereabouts to their parents, although this is illegal.

To me, the bigger issues have to do with the future of public education. Tuition has increased significantly over the past few years. This is all part of privatizing public education and creating a two-tier system in which students who wish to get ahead are left behind, unable to afford the "good" public universities.

It's also important to note that Hunter is a working-class commuter campus in the middle of one of the richest zip codes in the country. Our school is one of the only indoor public spaces for other people who work in the area.

Hearing about the protests at the University of Massachusetts against former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, with the slogan "Less bureaucracy, more democracy," I see the connection with our situation.

Not only am I against the closure of the campus, but I believe many other students are too. The fact is that the university hasn't consulted anyone! It's ultimately President Jennifer Raab's decision, and she doesn't even have the respect for students, faculty or staff to bring the discussion to the school. Instead, it's happening in backroom deals and being pronounced a "done deal" to the student body.

I have begun organizing with other students to fight this, the latest attack the student body. We need to organize to keep public universities public!
Hannah Fleury, New York City

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