G. tells me that his son, 18 years old and active in OWS, has witnessed a lot of the police violence that doesn’t necessarily make it to YouTube. He was in the streets of the financial district for the action on the morning of November 17th, and said that the cops, wanting to keep arrest numbers down, contented themselves with placing a number of people in chokeholds and otherwise manhandling them, then letting them go. Thus far, the 18-year-old–who dropped out of art school after a brief stint and has been searching unsuccessfully for a job for over a year–has been energized rather than demoralized by these experiences and is planning to travel to another East Coast city to take part in a new Occupation now in the planning stages. “He’s counting on his mother and me to bankroll the venture–which we probably will do if the action comes together, although I have to say I wish he was majoring in something besides unemployment.”
On Friday, I run into Mitch Cohen in the food co-op. He offers me a copy of his pamphlet “Why I Hate Thanksgiving” (“Learn the Truth about Thanksgiving, this celebration of the genocide of millions of people native to the Americas, as well as the annual ritual mass-slaughter of tens of millions of turkeys”). He was down at Zuccotti Park on Thursday giving away copies. Says the day was great, with good food and music. We talk about the boorish behavior of the Brookfield Properties employees. Mitch saw them deny entrance to a banjo, although a wide range of other instruments made it past the checkpoint. I tell him that ever since my exchange with one of those guys the other day, I’ve been thinking about that verse from “Union Maid” that goes: “…who never was afraid/of goons and ginks and company finks/and deputy sheriffs who made the raid….” I’ve never been quite sure what a “gink” is, but now I think I know. Beefy Brookfield Properties guys in green DayGlo vests: this is what a gink looks like.
My neighbor Nancy, who’s finishing up her doctorate at the City University of New York Graduate Center and also teaches writing students in another CUNY school, tells me about the great student organizing that’s going on there. After the experience of November 21, when campus police roughed up students who were trying to gain entrance to a trustees’ meeting in order to protest relentless tuition hikes, another demonstration has been scheduled for Monday, November 28th, starting at 4 p.m. in front of Baruch College, Lexington Avenue and 25th Street. The faculty union, PSC-CUNY, is organizing to support the students and calling for mass community participation. A statement on the PSC-CUNY web site (http://www.psc-cuny.org/), responding to the November 21 events, says in part: “Last night, peaceful protesters—CUNY students speaking out against unfair tuition hikes and the privatization of public higher education—were shoved by campus peace officers with batons and reported being hit as the CUNY peace officers forced them out of the lobby of Baruch College’s Vertical Campus. Reports indicate that 15 students were arrested (Daily News, New York Times, YouTube). The baton push began shortly after dozens of students sat down to conduct a ‘people’s hearing’ in the lobby.
“All this happened while dozens of CUNY students, faculty and staff testified at a CUNY Board of Trustees hearing taking place on the 14th floor at Baruch. At the hearing, testimony focused on three issues: adjunct health insurance, tuition hikes and revisions of the CUNY Bylaws that would undermine faculty and staff rights. A number of students were also forcibly removed from the hearing after raising their collective voices with several Occupy Wall Street style ‘mic checks.'”
Also on this coming Monday, the U.C. Berkeley Academic Senate is scheduled to take up a vote of “no confidence” in the Chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, following violent police response to a student protest there on November 9. The Nation’s John Wiener gives background at
I’m thinking that the rising of the students–usually a prerequisite for galvanizing any genuinely effective progressive faculty activism–holds great promise for helping the next phase of the Occupy movement find its sea legs. Not that academia per se is so very important in the larger scheme of things–but public education is important, and it’s also important that the new wave of radical activism establish some beachheads of operation in already existing institutions. I’ll be at the CUNY demonstration on Monday.