Mobilize to Shut Down CCNY
Military Recruiters Out of CUNY!
WAR ON IRAQ, CUNY UNDER ATTACK
On the eve of the second anniversary of the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq, the administration of the City University of New York is waging war on the “home front.” CUNY officials are attempting to stifle opposition by imposing a police lockdown on the 19 campuses of the largest urban university in the country. On Wednesday, March 9, three City College undergraduate students (Nick Bergreen, Justino Rodriguez and Hadas Thier) were brutally arrested during a peaceful protest against the presence of military recruiters on campus and charged with everything from disorderly conduct to resisting arrest and assault. Two days later, an administrative assistant in the theater department, Carol Lang, was seized by police at her workplace in the presence of representatives of her union (DC 37). Lang was locked up in The Tombs, the holding pen in downtown Manhattan, and finally released at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday. The CCNY Four face up to a year in jail on these bogus charges.
What happened at City College on March 9 was a textbook case of police provocation. As soon as the CCNY students and staffers began chanting “U.S. out of Iraq!” and “Recruiters off campus” at a National Guard table at a job fair, they were jumped by a mob of 20 security guards and hustled off into a corridor where the protesters could be beaten behind closed doors. According to witnesses, Bergreen was tackled by a private goon, then pinned to the floor with a foot on his back. Rodriguez was thrown against the wall by a campus cop; when he called out, “look what they’re doing to me,” a guard slammed his head against the wall again. Thier was arrested for taking pictures of this cop brutalization with the camera on her cell phone. A New York Newsday (14 March) reporter wrote: “Not a single student or staffer I talked to who was there saw anyone attack a security guard. It was the other way around, they said.”
These arrests were no “mistake,” this is not campus cops gone wild or “out of control,” as some liberals have suggested. They are totally under control and in control – that’s the point that university authorities are making with this crackdown. CCNY president Gregory Williams parroted the cops’ cock and bull story about three protesters supposedly “assaulting” 20 security guards (including rent-a-thugs from the Burns Security agency). CUNY immediately suspended the three students and the secretary, without a shred of due process. Thier, a petite woman, was branded a “continuing danger” and barred from setting foot on campus. Although CUNY “peace officers” are not police, they are empowered to make arrests, carry weapons and use deadly force (their arsenal includes hollow-point bullets, munitions that even the NYPD is not supposed to use). They are a menace to all who study or work at CUNY. It is urgent that students, faculty and staff mobilize to demand: Drop the charges! Rescind the suspensions! All cops off campus!
Already the New York Civil Liberties Union has raised “concerns about the state of free speech on campus.” They’re right to be concerned: free speech and academic freedom are under full-scale assault in the halls of academe. But the right to protest won’t be won by appealing to campus authorities not to be so “heavy-handed.” Already, the CUNY tops are circulating “guidelines” for “demonstrations/disruptions” which include pens to confine anyone who dares to protest. CUNY tops seem intent on provoking a “free speech” fight, such as the 1964 “battle of Berkeley” when thousands of University of California students took over Sproul Plaza and imposed their right to free political expression. They want an explosion of student unrest? They should get more than they bargained for. For student-worker mass action to drive military recruiters out of CUNY!
The cop assault on antiwar protesters was no isolated incident at CUNY. Protesting this on the faculty Senate Forum, CCNY professor Bill Crain noted the parallel with the persecution of Miguel Malo going back to August 2001. Malo was holding a sign protesting cuts at Hostos Community College when he was assaulted by CUNY security personnel, who after viciously beating him then arrested him on the same frame-up assault and resisting arrest charges now being used against the CCNY protesters. Crain himself, a tenured professor and head of the CCNY College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty council, was arrested and sent to The Tombs last summer for the “crime” of attempting to enter Baruch College after showing his CUNY faculty ID.. Repression at CUNY is extreme, and it is escalating.
This is part of a wave of neo-McCarthyite repression in universities around the country. And just as the late 1940s and ’50s witch hunt was the home front of the anti-Soviet Cold War, to ferret out the “enemy within,” the new purges are part and parcel of the bipartisan imperialist “war on terror.” Two years ago, York College adjunct professor Mohammed Yousry was “relieved of teaching duties” (fired) after the government charged him with aiding “terrorism” as a court-appointed translator. An investigating committee of the American Association of University Professors condemned this as a violation of academic freedom. Then last December, Susan Rosenberg, was fired as an adjunct at John Jay College on the explicit grounds that her presence might offend the cops who populate the college.
A few blocks downtown from CCNY, at Columbia University a full-scale campaign of Zionist persecution is underway targeting Palestinian and Near Eastern professors on bogus charges of harassing Jewish students. Recently, Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi was dropped from a NYC Department of Education professional development program after the conservative New York Sun denounced him for rightly calling Israel’s occupation of Palestinian areas “racist.” Earlier, a huge campaign was orchestrated by the New York Post and the rest of the right-wing gutter press demanding that Columbia University professor Nicholas De Genova be fired for advocating the defeat of U.S. imperialism in its war on Iraq. Currently, yahoos in the Colorado state legislature are trying to get Ward Churchill, a professor of Native American studies at the University of Colorado, fired for writing that the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were U.S. imperialism’s “chickens coming home to roost.”
The arrests at CCNY last week are another vivid example of how the government is intent on criminalizing “unpatriotic” dissent in wartime. Everyone remembers how they locked up 1,800 demonstrators arrested on the flimsiest pretexts in order to make New York City “safe” for the Republican National Convention. Throughout the last century, imperialist war abroad has meant police-state repression at home. During World War I, the revolutionary syndicalists of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”) were jailed by the hundreds for their “free speech” fights against the imperialist slaughter. In World War II, the Trotskyists and militant union leaders were imprisoned for opposing the second imperialist global war. In addition, there were the tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans thrown into concentration camps in that war, and the thousands of Near Eastern origin arrested and held incommunicado as the U.S. launched its war on Afghanistan.
This repression cannot be fought by appealing for justice from the capitalist injustice system. Three and a half years after his frame-up arrest, Miguel Malo’s case is still stuck in the courts. Nor will calls on the state attorney general (Democrat Elliot Spitzer) to conduct an “outside investigation” achieve anything. The Democrats are just as hot for repression as the CUNY Trustees appointed by Republicans Giuliani, Bloomberg and Pataki. Democratic mayoral contender “Freddie” Ferrer just declared that the cops who fired 41 bullets at African immigrant Amadou Diallo, killing him in cold blood on the doorstep of his home, committed “no crime.” The Democrats as well as Republicans voted for wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act of police-state repression that is its domestic face. The endless war and escalating repression must be fought by combating the imperialist system that spawns them.
In contrast to the “social-patriotic” rhetoric of many liberal and reformist opponents of the Iraq war, who want to change U.S. policies and priorities (“books not bombs”), the Internationalist Group, together with the Internationalist Clubs at Hunter College and Hostos Community College and the Revolutionary Reconstruction Club at Bronx Community College, fights for the defeat of U.S. imperialism and in defense of the Iraqi and Afghan peoples. We have insisted that the war on semi-colonial countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan (and threats against bureaucratically deformed workers states such as North Korea and Cuba) are part of the same war being waged by the capitalists against working people here. At CUNY, the Internationalist Clubs have taken the lead in defending Miguel Malo and in exposing the planned Homeland Security program at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. After an uproar among students and faculty, that attempt to turn BMCC into “Torture U” was withdrawn.
The Revolutionary Reconstruction Club has been fighting to drive military and cop recruiters off campus for more than two years. On March 10, as CCNY students were protesting the arrests the day before, the RRC organized a march against military recruiters at a BCC job fair. Today, March 17, another march is being held at Bronx Community College with leaflets declaring: “We Won't Kill and Torture For the Ruling Class – Drive the Military Recruiters Out of BCC!” The RRC and Internationalist Clubs at Hunter and Hostos have called for united-front action throughout CUNY to mobilize masses of students, faculty and campus staff against the recruiters as a concrete blow against the imperialist war.
The imperialists can be defeated. The U.S. is already bogged down facing a burgeoning insurgency in Iraq. And opposition on the home front has not disappeared, despite the reelection of George W. Bush as imperialist warmonger-in-chief. The League for the Fourth International, of which the IG is the U.S. section, fights for workers action against the imperialist war, including “hot cargoing” (refusing to transport) war material and workers strikes against the war. That this is not only necessary but possible is indicated by the fact that on March 19, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in the San Francisco Bay Area, is refusing to move cargo in protest against the Iraq war. A one-day work stoppage is only a small taste of what it will take, but it points in the right direction. Solid, sustained workers action to block the war would shake the Pentagon, the White House and Wall Street.
To bring the imperialist war machine to a grinding halt we must bring down the capitalist system. And that requires above all a revolutionary workers party, part of a reforged Fourth International, to lead the fight for socialist revolution around the globe. n
To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org