BoT Meeting at Baruch: Cops Run Wild Against Student Protesters
NOVEMBER 22 – Last night, the CUNY Board of Trustees met to rubber-stamp new attacks on the people who study and work at the City University. Tuition hikes, the class-slashing Pathways program, keeping students in debt peonage and adjuncts in two-tier poverty – this is all business as usual for the crony capitalist cabal who dictate policy at CUNY.
But now they have upped the ante by unleashing their “security” goon squads against students who dared question this illegitimate, unelected body – students who are standing up for our RIGHT to education. The campus cops brutally attacked the students, arresting 15 and turning them over in ziptie cuffs to their fellow thugs in blue of the NYPD. Protesters chanted, “CUNY is not a jail” and “Cops out of CUNY!” The students face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to “rioting.” We demand: Drop all charges now!
The CUNY Public Safety Department and its elite “Special Response Team” are a clear and present danger to the safety of students, faculty and staff. Who rioted yesterday were the cops, shoving, beating and roughly manhandling the crowd of 200-plus. They had been refused entry to the supposed “public hearing” which was closed to everyone who didn’t have a pass. And anyone can see in the multiple videos that the police attack was completely unprovoked.
So what’s next, Chancellor Goldstein, BoT boss Benno Schmidt and your corporate masters? You’ve installed turnstiles guarded by rent-a-cops on one campus after another. You’ve built up a “security” apparatus fit for a police state. Will the next step be pepper spray in our faces when we demonstrate? Expulsions of “trouble-makers”? “Stop-and-frisk” in the halls?
What’s happening at CUNY is not an isolated incident. Under Bloomberg, Cuomo and Obama, the ruling class is ramping up repression. Let’s run it down:
● Videos capture NYPD officers brazenly pepper-spraying a group of women in the face after they are trapped in orange netting on an OWS march on September 24. This comes right after protests against the legal lynching of Troy Davis. A week later, over 700 Occupy demonstrators are arrested in a police trap on the Brooklyn Bridge.
● While OWS supporters kept chanting “You are the 99%” to the NYPD, African American and Latino youth face police brutality every day – over 600,000 in “stop and frisk” operations last year alone. Their names are entered in a data base (see our article in the current issue of Revolution, the newspaper of the CUNY Internationalist Clubs).
● On October 15, Bloomberg and the NYPD evict Occupy Wall Street in the dead of night. The next morning, despite a court order telling them to let demonstrators back in, the authorities keep Zuccotti Park closed. This shows yet again that the rulers’ interests weigh far more than any legal niceties.
● Evictions of Occupy protests spread around the country, coordinated by the same Homeland Security that now has a quota of deporting 400,000 undocumented immigrants a year. No doubt the Obama White House was informed.
● Emboldened, campus administrations and their home-grown “security” spies and cops escalate repression. Following the attack on occupiers at the University of California at Berkeley last week campus cops brazenly pepper-sprayed students at UC Davis. As several million people have now seen on YouTube videos, this was a downright sadistic attack on protesters quietly sitting on the ground. In response to the uproar, the campus chancellor suspended the cops and then the police chief, but insists that she is staying in the face of massive calls for her resignation.
● The NYPD’s extensive spying operation against Muslim students and campus clubs at CUNY was exposed by Associated Press. Faculty have rightly demanded that CUNY officials, including the “Public Safety” departments, detail their knowledge of or involvement in this spy operation. The Hunter PSC executive committee passed a resolution also demanding that any officials or employees of CUNY “who participated in, cooperated with or knew of this illegal operation should have their employment terminated” and “The NYPD and all police/spy agencies must get off and stay off our campuses.”
Last night at Baruch, student activists chanted “CUNY cops are the same as NYPD.” In response, some reformists started yelling that since some cops go to John Jay [College], “You [the cops] are CUNY.” We joined others in booing this dangerous attempt to identify students and workers with the forces of repression. At the huge (50,000+) demonstration last week (November 17), some protesters chanted at the phalanx of police that blocked the street, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” The answer should be obvious, certainly by now.
The police protect the interests of the capitalists against those they exploit and oppress, including us. That is why we in the CUNY Internationalist Clubs have waged one struggle after another for the demand, all cops off campus. Recently this was the subject of some controversy in the Hunter General Assembly, but we insisted and the GA voted this to be one of the official demands of last Thursday’s Hunter student strike. It was made clear as well that “cops out” includes all campus police and security guards.
At the rally before the BoT meeting, an Internationalist supporter called, as we have for years, to “Abolish the Board of Trustees.” Reports from inside the meeting say that those few students who were able to get past the security “attacked the basic authority of the Board to make policy.” We are for student-faculty-worker control of City University. They also noted that the only ones speaking in favor of a tuition increase were members of the college administrations, provosts, vice presidents, etc. There was also powerful testimony by adjuncts who are facing a cutoff of their medical insurance, which only some have. Students must join with faculty to demand full health care for all adjuncts.
There is massive opposition to tuition hikes amid the economic crisis. In California, tuition has doubled over the past several years. In New York, the planned regular tuition hikes amount to $300 a year for the next five years, plus increased “fees.” When you couple this with the cutbacks in Tuition Assistance Program funds, this means that thousands of students will be forced to drop out, particularly from working-class families who can’t get TAP. We in the CUNY Internationalist fight for Open admissions and No tuition! And rather than calls to refuse to pay student loans and for partial “debt forgiveness,” we demand cancel all student debt.
From its inception as the City College of New York, CUNY used to be free, as any public university should be. Open admissions was won by the historic 1969 occupation of CCNY by black and Latino students, and was enacted with the aid of the New York City labor movement. Tuition was introduced, not accidentally, in the first year that there was a non-white majority at CUNY, reflecting the city’s population. The abolition of open admissions and skyrocketing increases in tuition are part of a racist, anti-working-class offensive by the capitalist rulers who want higher education to be a commodity that is bought and sold on the market, rather than a fundamental democratic right.
Today, even more than in 1969, it will take convulsive student struggles in conjunction with powerful working-class mobilization to defeat the ruling-class attack. We have plenty of allies. Thousands of black, Latino, Asian and white parents have come out repeatedly to oppose the assault on public education by the NYC Department of Education under mayoral control. Verizon telephone workers and Teamster workers locked out by the Sotheby’s auction house have joined with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. School bus drivers are threatened by Bloomberg’s cutbacks and could be forced to strike.
In demonstration after demonstration in recent weeks, the CUNY Internationalist Clubs together with the Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Education Workers have carried signs and chanted for students and labor to shut NYC down. We first raised this call at the time of the December 2008 occupation of New School University (see Revolution No. 6, April 2009). It was taken up by hundreds of CUNY the next march at a demonstration of city workers. This has now become a mass demand as thousands of students at Union Square chanted loudly on November 17, Workers and students, shut the city down!
As we marched through the streets, at Foley Square and over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Internationalist contingent repeated this and other demands, calling for “Union power, workers power,” “Asian, Latin, black and white – workers of the world, unite!” As we passed MTA buses on Sixth Avenue, we chanted “TWU, TWU” – recalling the tremendous 2005 strike by Transport Workers Union Local 100 that tied up New York. Despite media attacks and repression (whopping fines against the union and union members, jailing the union president), the strike was tremendously popular.
The next time, we must mobilize all of NYC labor, students and the oppressed together with this powerhouse, and we can then really shut the center of international finance capital down with a citywide strike. That means breaking with the Democrats and all capitalist parties. We need a workers party fighting not just to “occupy” but to expropriate Wall Street and all the capitalists, through international socialist revolution. Then, and only then, can we get rid of racist police brutality and make free, quality, public higher education a reality for all. ■
To contact the CUNY Internationalist Clubs, send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: email@example.com