In the beginning of 2009, student activists in the UK and USA resurrected the sit-in as an activist tool for the 21st century. By late February, there had been nearly thirty 'occupations' by students demanding divestment from Israel and increased funding for education. Many of the occupations in the UK were successful while in the USA the few that did occur were swiftly brought to an end by police repression. But there are now signs that another wave of student unrest is approaching campuses.
Three days ago, students at the New School for Social Research in New York City resuscitated the occupation movement and demonstrated to the world that at least a few activists still have guts.
According to the website of the New School activists, "Around 6 AM [on April 10th], a group of Situationist-inspired students of the New School entered their school, sealed the doors, climbed on to the roof, draped signs and occupied the building for several hours. Once on the roof, they shouted through a megaphone explaining their reasoning for occupying the building. However they were soon forced to retreat inside as police barricaded the doors and took control of the exterior building."
"To quote a flyer that was distributed outside the building, 'Their demands are simple: the resignation of President Kerrey and full control of the building.'"
"It was certainly the most exciting in a series of university occupations that have happened in New York City during the past four months. The New York Police Department responded as if a bank robbery had occurred, with literally hundreds of police cars, helicopters, riot police, and eventually tear gassed the occupiers inside the building. By noon, everyone involved had been gassed and arrested, indicating a much more hardline approach to university occupation than has been seen in the past few months."
One explanation for the swift severity of the police response is that these New School students were the ones who kicked off the last wave of student occupations in the UK and USA with their actions in December. Can we therefore expect another round of student activism to come?
Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters magazine and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com
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