Campus Antiwar Movement Begins to Make Its Mark


Richard Moore

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The Students are Stirring:
A Campus Antiwar Movement Begins to Make Its Mark
by Ron Jacobs
March 12, 2007

Folks often ask, rather cynically, where are the students protesting the war? 
Well, the answer is that they are there -- on their campuses and in the dorms --
organizing speakers, rallies and teach-ins. The fact that folks off campus do 
not hear about these events does not mean that they aren't occurring. What it 
does mean is that the media is choosing not to cover them. Here in Asheville, 
NC, the local SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) linked group at University
of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) organized a counter-recruitment protest in 
January 2006, a walkout and march against the war last October and is now 
actively involved in getting students to go to the March 17th March on the 
Pentagon. At UNC's Chapel Hill campus, six students were arrested on February 
17, 2007 after refusing to leave Congressman David Price¹s office in a protest 
demanding that he vote against further war funding. Meanwhile, on February 15th,
students at campuses around the country held rallies and teach-ins against the 
war. While the movement has not reached the proportions organizers want to see, 
it is growing. The next student day of protest is scheduled for March 20th -- 
three days after the March on the Pentagon. I recently connected with UNCA SDS 
member Kati Ketz over email. Besides her activities here in Asheville, Kati is 
also a spokesperson for the SDS call for the March 20th Day of Action Against 
the War. The exchange with Kati was an opportunity for me to learn what antiwar 
students have been up to and how they see the future. I share the transcript 

Ron Jacobs: First, what is the March 20th Day of Action? How did the idea 

Kati Ketz: March 20th is an SDS national day of student and youth action against
the war in Iraq. The idea came out of an SDS-sponsored meeting of activists at 
the School of the Americas demonstration in Ft. Benning, GA. Over 100 students 
from 20 different campuses were at this meeting, and at the end we voted to make
March 20th a national day of action, in order to take all of the local 
organizing we have been doing on our campuses and attempting to connect those 
struggles to make a larger impact on a national scale.

RJ:What do the organizers hope to accomplish? What would connote a successful 
day, here in Asheville and nationally?

KK:We hope that this day of action will be a catalyst for students to rise up 
and get organized against the war in Iraq. Four years is four years too many, 
and it¹s time that students in this country get organized against this war. In 
Asheville, we hope that our actions will draw in more people who want to get 
more involved in organizing against the war. We also hope that our actions 
contribute to building a grassroots student anti-war movement. Nationally, we 
hope that this will help build ties with other campuses and connect different 
movements together in order to work towards ending this war.

RJ:I notice that the majority of the campuses that have signed on for the March 
20th action are from the southern part of the United States. Why do you think 
this is? In my mind it's somewhat significant in that it goes against the idea 
so many US residents have about the south -- you know, reactionary and pro-war.

KK:I think it is very significant that a lot of schools from the south are 
organizing against the war. It goes against the stigma that the south is 
normally faced with -- that all anti-war organizing happens in the north and 
that the southern US is largely ignorant of and not involved in any progressive 
movements. There is some exciting organizing going on in the south -- for 
example, UNC SDS took part in organizing a demonstration against John Ashcroft, 
who came to speak at their campus. Members of both Alabama and Asheville SDS 
groups also have participated in a lot of events (MLK day marches, a 4th of July
march in New Orleans) concerning race and national oppression, since that is 
something that is especially relevant to us in the south.

It¹s amazing to see that, for March 20th, the schools signing on to the call are
from all over the United States -- from North Carolina and Alabama in the south 
to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in the West to New York City and Boston in the 
northeast to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Ohio in the Midwest, to name a few.

RJ:What is your impression of the new SDS? Is it growing in numbers and 

KK:I think that we as students finally have an opportunity to build an 
independent student anti-war movement through SDS. I talk with students on a 
regular basis that are either considering or have just affiliated with SDS, and 
the number of SDS chapters grows weekly. SDS groups are having regional 
conferences and connecting with each other through forum, conferences and 
actions. Now, we are connecting with one another as SDS through this national 
day of action. There is a felt need in the student movement for a national 
student anti-war organization, and SDS is it.

RJ: What are your hopes for its future?

KK: My hope for the future of SDS is that we continue to grow both in influence 
and in numbers across the nation, and that we are able to get organized on a 
national level in order to have even more nationally coordinated actions against
the war in Iraq. There is a new wave of student activism in this country, and I 
hope to see SDS play a leading role in this movement. The student movement 
against the war in Vietnam took awhile to take off, but once it did it took off 
in a big way. We hope to see the same develop with SDS against this war in Iraq.

RJ: What are some of the other campaigns SDS is involved in -- nationally and 

KK: The main campaign that SDS is involved with is working against the war in 
Iraq, but SDS is a multi-issue progressive organization. In Asheville, we had a 
week of action around Palestine, where we built a 45-foot long, 8-foot tall mock
apartheid wall on our campus and hosted teach-ins and showed a documentary about
the situation in Palestine. There have been student strikes and marches for 
immigrants¹ rights in conjunction with the May 1st demonstrations. UCLA SDS 
worked with UCLA's Moviemento Estudantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) to organize a
demonstration against a speaker from the Minutemen that ended up canceling his 
speech at the university as a result of the protest. University of Central 
Florida SDS recently issued a statement calling for release of former Black 
Panther political prisoners. SDS is a vehicle for taking actions around any and 
all progressive issues.

RJ: Back to the war. What do you personally think it's going to take to end this

KK: The Iraqi resistance are the ones fighting against this war every day, and 
-- similar to what we saw with the national liberation front in Vietnam -- they 
are the ones who have the power to end it. The United States and their allies 
are losing the war in Iraq, and it is only a matter of time before they are 
forced to withdraw their troops. Here in the United States, we need to work on 
getting Bush and the Republicans out of the White House; for example, there is 
going to be a large demonstration at the Republican National Convention in 
Minneapolis in 2008. We in the anti-war movement also need to put pressure on 
the Democrats to actually adopt concrete measures against the war and to stop 
funding the war.

RJ: What do you think the role of students and other young people is in the 
movement to end it?

KK: The role of youth and students in the movement to end the war is to build 
the anti-war movement. We need to take to the streets in a major way and resist 
the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq, and this is exactly what is happening. 
On February 15th, thousands of students in Santa Barbara occupied a highway for 
hours, bringing the war and the anti-war movement back into the front pages of 
the media. We need to continue with this momentum and continue to organize!

RJ: When you're organizing on campus and elsewhere, do you run into a lot of 
cynicism and apathy from other young people? What at do you say to those youth 
who dismiss the antiwar movement?

KK: There is always going to be a certain amount of apathy and cynicism from 
young people on any major issue -- it¹s easy to feel that your voice in a 
movement does not matter and will do nothing to change things. What these 
students need to remember, however, is that the masses are the makers of 
history. It has historically been social movements -- not great leaders -- that 
have changed the course of history. It is our role in this present day as 
students and youth to make those movements and be a part of them. As far as 
apathy is concerned, what is more important right here and right now than the 
fact that the United States government is continuing an unjust and illegal war 
and occupation in Iraq that is causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of 
people? I think more and more students are recognizing this -- at UNCA we are 
going door-to-door in the dorms trying to get people to pledge to walkout of 
their classes, and almost everybody we talk to is very receptive and wanting to 
do something to end the war, and just need an organization or action to plug 
that energy into.

RJ: Is SDS encouraging young people to attend the March on the Pentagon on March
17th? On a side note, what is your take on the ongoing squabble between the two 
national antiwar coalitions -- UFPJ and ANSWER?

KK: SDS is mobilizing for the March on the Pentagon on the 17th; there is an SDS
organizing team and a planned SDS contingent for this march. There was also an 
SDS-led student contingent at the January 27th UFPJ demo in DC. As far as the 
fighting between UFPJ and ANSWER -- I cannot speak for all of SDS, but ANSWER 
tends to have more anti-imperialist politics like that of SDS. There was an open
letter to UFPJ written recently that was critical of the call that they put out 
for a protest in NYC on March 18th -- the day after the ANSWER March on the 
Pentagon and during the planned encampment in DC. Some SDS activists signed on 
to that letter and I agree with it. I oppose any kind of efforts to divide the 
anti-war movement.

RJ: How can people interested in organizing or attending a March 20th action 
find out more?

KK: People interested in organizing an event for March 20th, or even if schools 
are on spring break but still support the call to action, should contact 
•••@••.•••. There is also a blog about the March 20th actions 
where people can see what schools are participating, reports about organizing 
methods from schools, and press roundups.

RJ: Anything else?

KK: The call to action for March 20th grew out of an initiative from an SDS 
meeting with 20 campuses, started out as having four schools signed on to 
action, and now has over 50 schools participating. The momentum for this is 
tremendous, and shows that we are truly in a new period in the student anti-war 
movement. It¹s so inspiring to see actions being planned all across the country,
with different student groups working and connecting with each other. The groups
participating range from large well-known universities to small-town high 
schools with a couple of students taking up the initiative. I hope that we can 
continue with this energy past March 20th and really make history with the work 
that we are doing, everyday, to end the war.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather 
Underground  (Verso 1997). His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming
from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: •••@••.•••.

Other Articles by Ron Jacobs
* The Union Makes Us Strong
* Missile Defense Redux
* Marching On the Pentagon March 17th, 2007

* One Man's Truth, Another Man's Lies: A Review of Richard North Patterson's 

* An Interview With Christina Cowger of North Carolina Stop Torture Now

* Nothing is More Important This Moment in History
* The Dialectics of Love
* Further Along the Dead-End Road We Call the Iraq War
* Trying to Create the Next World War
* The Sigh of the Oppressed: Abraham and His Progeny

* Making Stones Weep: A Review of Susan Abulhawa's Novel, The Scar of David

* A Review of Elizabeth Laird's A Little Piece of Ground
* Back in the Aether Again: Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day
* Veteran's Day, 2006
* Who is Hamas?
* The Boom Heard Around the World?

* With Friends Like These" A Review of Giuliana Sgrena's Friendly Fire

* We Can See Through Your Masks: War and the Power of Words
* Chewing Khat and Thinkin' A Lot-A Satire of Sorts
* Publicity Stunts and Public Policy
* One, Two, Three Many Olympias
* Undoing a History of Robbery
* Neil Young Kicks Out the Jams!

* How Does One Convince The Occupied That This Mayhem Is For Their Own Good?

* Resistance: The Rx for Fear
* Why Leaving Iraq Now is the Only Sensible Step to Take
* Capital is Not God

* This Ain't No Video Game: A Review of Jeffrey St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon


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