The LRP in New York distributed the following statement concerning the recent arrests of four activitists at the City College campus (CCNY) of the City University of New York (CUNY).
The arrests of three City College students and one campus worker for participating in a non-violent protest against military recruiters at a “career fair” on March 9 take place in a stepped-up climate of tension and repression in the United States. The U.S. is currently engaged in imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and making aggressive threats against Syria, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. At home, the working class has been under economic assault for decades, since the capitalists can keep their profits up only by squeezing more out of working people here and abroad. Dissent is being strangled.
Last Wednesday [March 9, 2005], when about fifteen demonstrators chanted anti-war slogans in front of a National Guard recruiting table, private “rent-a-cops” and campus “peace officers” physically attacked two protesters, Nick Bergreen and Justin Rodriguez, and arrested them along with a third student, Hadas Thier, who was taking pictures. The level of repression was stepped up when the cops seized secretary Carol Lang in her office on campus two days later. Three of the four arrestees are charged with assault -- a standard cop practice to cover their own brutality. Two of the students have been suspended from the college, and Carol Lang has been suspended from her job without pay for thirty days, pending investigation by the college. “Guilty until proved innocent” is CCNY’s operative procedure.
This crackdown on protesters takes place at a time when opposition to the anti-working-class assault is mounting. The war against Iraq is increasingly unpopular, and recruitment is sagging well below Washington’s needs for policing the world. For years, the U.S. has maintained an army combining hard-core volunteers with working-class youth, especially those of color, recruited through economic necessity. Stretched thin in Iraq, the military has sent into battle Reservists and National Guard troops who never expected to fight abroad. Re-enlistment is down, and “stop-loss” orders have forced thousands of soldiers into involuntarily extended tours of duty -- a “back-door draft.” Protests by soldiers, their families and outraged opponents of the war are growing. Resistance at high schools and colleges across the country has the Pentagon particularly worried.
The City University authorities, tailing their bosses, have hardened their line against student, staff and faculty activists. CUNY is a working-class university, with a majority of Black, Latino, Asian and immigrant students. As part of the overall anti-worker and racist assault, cutbacks and rising costs at CUNY have become the norm over the years and have inspired numerous rounds of protests. Inevitably these attacks will accelerate, and protests will escalate. So police presence on CUNY campuses has been expanded, and arrests of student demonstrators on trumped-up charges is becoming standard practice.
City College in particular is a symbol of protest and resistance. It was a hotbed of political radicalism in the 1930’s and ’40’s, the locus of the Black and Puerto Rican student upsurge that took over the campus to demand open admissions in 1969, and the center of the CUNY-wide student protests against tuition hikes in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. In 1990, when the college awarded an honorary degree to Colin Powell, who was then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and fresh from engineering George Bush I’s brutal and racist invasion of Panama, a campus protest persuaded Powell not to show up.
More recently, a teach-in about the upcoming Afghan war in 2001 inspired tabloid headlines claiming that “CCNY Attacks America,” a charge shamefully echoed by the university’s Chancellor and Board of Trustees. A year ago, student and staff protesters exposed John Kerry as a supporter of Bush’s Iraq war when he made an early campaign stop at City College. This year, campus security has used police holding pens to restrict faculty and staff members demonstrating for a decent union contract.
The broadest possible campaign to force the dropping of all charges against the “City College Four” has to be built. The hired thugs in uniform who police the campus in order to serve their masters in suits have to be exposed. Once again CCNY can take the lead in sparking a defense against the crippling assault on civil liberties now being mounted across the country.
The LRP is proud to have taken part in all the anti-imperialist, anti-racist and working-class actions at City College for the past twenty years. Mass class struggle is the only way to stop the attacks on our class here and around the world, and to show fellow workers that they have the power not only to resist, but to put an end to the profit-gouging rule of the capitalists and create a new society run by and for the working classes. The LRP is dedicated to building the revolutionary working-class party that can show the way forward in these struggles.
The CCNY Four need your support!
The City Defense Campaign has been holding rallies and public meetings on the City College campus as well as publicizing the struggle city-wide and nationally.
(Checks or money orders payable to the City Defense Fund.)