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Antiwar students' week of action

September 28, 2007 | Page 14

Socialist Worker collects reports from activities organized on campuses around the country.

AS PART of a week of action called by the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), activists on campuses across the country organized antiwar actions. The events--from speak-outs to teach-ins--were timed to respond to the Iraq "progress report" by Gen. David Petraeus.

-- In San Francisco, some 100 activists from Bay Area campus antiwar groups rallied September 19 in front of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco office to protest her continued support for the war in Iraq.

The protest, organized by CAN, reflected the growth that antiwar groups on campuses have experienced this fall. Students, many of them new to activism, took turns addressing the crowd. "We came here to do what Nancy Pelosi was elected to do but hasn't done: bring the troops home now," said Karen Knoller of Students Against War at San Francisco State University.

Students debated whether to carry out a sit-in of Pelosi's office. Activists elsewhere have occupied the offices of pro-war politicians. Students voted against sitting in because of extremely high security in San Francisco's Federal Building, where Pelosi's office is located.

In addition to the San Francisco police presence, FBI agents and members of the Coast Guard were also there. A chain-link fence was erected the day of the protest to control entrances and exits into the plaza in front of the building.

After picketing and holding a speak-out in front of the building, students entered the lobby to the chant of "Nancy, Nancy you can't hide, cut the funding, take a side!" Students were told that if they crossed the waist-high barrier demarcating the security checkpoint, they would be fired on with rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray.

Eddie Falcon, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and City College Students Against the War, told the crowd, "I got back from Iraq where we were having projectiles shot at us, and now I'm being threatened with projectiles here."

Despite riding a wave of antiwar sentiment into office, a Democratic majority in Congress has yet to take meaningful steps to end the war. Pelosi has refused to meet with her antiwar constituency since the November 2006 elections. In a town hall meeting before the 2006 elections, she was roundly booed and plainly flustered when she tried to justify her support for continuing war funding.

-- In Madison, Wis., nearly 200 students at the University of Wisconsin (UW) participated in a rally and march September 20 against the efforts of the notorious war profiteer Halliburton to recruit students.

"The UW has made it clear," CAN member Chris Dols told the crowd. "Halliburton is their client, and we are their product. We are not for sale!" Students surrounded the recruiters' table at an engineering career fair for several hours to show their opposition and dissuade fellow students from visiting.

"From high to low, Halliburton's got to go," sang protesters. They then marched to the chancellor's office, shutting down traffic along the way.

"I think a lot of people heard what we had to say today, but the chancellor is one of the people who made this possible," said Zach Heise. "We want to hear what he has to say about war profiteers recruiting our students."

The group, now about 100 strong, sat down and held a meeting to discuss the day's events and next steps for antiwar organizing at UW. "We need to spread our success," said Cindy Sirquist.

-- In Amherst, Mass., more than 100 students gathered on the steps of the University of Massachusetts Student Union Building on September 20 to participate in a speak-out against the war, organized by a newly formed CAN chapter.

"We should look for some other force to bring change other than the Republicans and the Democrats," said speaker Ross Hogan of CAN. "That's why we need to build an antiwar movement in this country connected with GIs that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that want to resist the occupation, and connected with students, workers and others here in the U.S. who want to stop it. That's what happened in the Vietnam War; that's what can happen now."

-- In Chicago, the CAN day of action was sponsored by the three Chicago affiliate groups at the University of Illinois-Chicago, DePaul and Northeastern Illinois University, which worked together to call a picket outside of Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's office. Protesters are calling on the Illinois senator, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to put a stop to war funding.

The September 20 protest began at 10 a.m. with about 15 UIC students; their number increased to 50 as other schools joined in. Chants like "No blood for oil, U.S. off Iraqi soil!" sent a clear message to onlookers that this is the Democrats' war as much as the Bush administration's.

The picket was followed by a speak-out where a letter to Durbin was read, along with demands for cutting the funding, immediately withdrawing troops, supporting veterans' health care and an accountable public meeting with the senator.

-- In Austin, Texas, University of Texas (UT) students participated in a full week of campus action against the war in Iraq. On Monday, CAN hosted a speech on academic freedom after the termination of DePaul professor Norman Finkelstein in Chicago. It was followed the next day by a presentation called "A People's History of Iraq."

Wednesday saw a discussion on the relationship between UT and the war effort, namely the way that student tuition and research is used to support oil companies and war profiteers. On Thursday, protesters confronted UT military recruiters outside their building.

-- In Champaign, Ill., about 70 protesters took part in a "die-in" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 20.

Before the action, people gathered at the Alma Mater, a statue next to the Student Union, for a speak-out that included contributions from members of CAN, the Campus Greens, the IVAW and a high school antiwar organizer. Afterward, protesters went to the one of the busiest streets on campus and pretended to die, with people falling to the ground and others drawing chalk outlines around the bodies. Others passed out fact sheets with criticisms of the Petraeus Report.

-- In Burlington, Vt., about 30 people came out to the University of Vermont's speak-out called by Students Against War in solidarity with the CAN National Week of Action. Speakers included two IVAW members, a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, students and community groups.

The most moving moment came when a Vietnam vet and an Iraq vet held up their arms to show their scarred wrists from suicide attempts--and talked about how little has changed in the government's care of post-traumatic stress disorder in the last 40 years.

Other topics discussed ranged from how students and soldiers can end the war, to the campaign to get UVM to divest from General Dynamics, one of the largest war profiteers, and counter-recruitment.

Kelly Booker, Ben Daniels, Graham Shaw, Jeremy Tully, Julie Villar, Rachel Wilsey and Steven Wyatt contributed to this report.

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