Folks often ask, rather cynically, where are the students protesting the war? Well, the answer is that they are there–on their campuses and in the dorms–organizing speakers, rallies and teach-ins. The fact that folks off campus do not hear about these events does not mean that they aren’t occurring. What it does mean is that the media is choosing not to cover them. Here in Asheville, NC, the local SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) linked group at University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) organized a counter-recruitment protest in January 2006, a walkout and march against the war last October and is now actively involved in getting students to go to the March 17th March on the Pentagon. At UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, six students were arrested on February 17, 2007 after refusing to leave Congressman David Priceâ€™s office in a protest demanding that he vote against further war funding. Meanwhile, on February 15th, students at campuses around the country held rallies and teach-ins against the war. While the movement has not reached the proportions organizers want to see, it is growing. The next student day of protest is scheduled for March 20th–three days after the March on the Pentagon. I recently connected with UNCA SDS member Kati Ketz over email. Besides her activities here in
Ron: First, what is the March 20th Day of Action? How did the idea originate?
Kati: March 20th is an SDS national day of student and youth action against the war in
Ron:What do the organizers hope to accomplish? What would connote a successful day, here in
Kati:We hope that this day of action will be a catalyst for students to rise up and get organized against the war in
Ron:I notice that the majority of the campuses that have signed on for the March 20th action are from the southern part of the
Kati:I think it is very significant that a lot of schools from the south are organizing against the war. It goes against the stigma that the south is normally faced with â€“ that all anti-war organizing happens in the north and that the southern US is largely ignorant of and not involved in any progressive movements. There is some exciting organizing going on in the south â€“ for example, UNC SDS took part in organizing a demonstration against John Ashcroft, who came to speak at their campus. Members of both
Itâ€™s amazing to see that, for March 20th, the schools signing on to the call are from all over the United States â€“ from North Carolina and Alabama in the south to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in the West to New York City and Boston in the northeast to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Ohio in the Midwest, to name a few.
Ron:What is your impression of the new SDS? Is it growing in numbers and influence?
Kati:I think that we as students finally have an opportunity to build an independent student anti-war movement through SDS. I talk with students on a regular basis that are either considering or have just affiliated with SDS, and the number of SDS chapters grows weekly. SDS groups are having regional conferences and connecting with each other through forum, conferences and actions. Now, we are connecting with one another as SDS through this national day of action. There is a felt need in the student movement for a national student anti-war organization, and SDS is it.
Ron: What are your hopes for its future?
Kati: My hope for the future of SDS is that we continue to grow both in influence and in numbers across the nation, and that we are able to get organized on a national level in order to have even more nationally coordinated actions against the war in
Ron: What are some of the other campaigns SDS is involved in–nationally and locally?
Kati: The main campaign that SDS is involved with is working against the war in
Ron: Back to the war. What do you personally think it’s going to take to end this war?
Kati: The Iraqi resistance are the ones fighting against this war every day, and â€“ similar to what we saw with the national liberation front in
Ron: What do you think the role of students and other young people is in the movement to end it?
Kati: The role of youth and students in the movement to end the war is to build the anti-war movement. We need to take to the streets in a major way and resist the ongoing war and occupation of
Ron: When you’re organizing on campus and elsewhere, do you run into a lot of cynicism and apathy from other young people? What at do you say to those youth who dismiss the antiwar movement?
Kati: There is always going to be a certain amount of apathy and cynicism from young people on any major issue â€“ itâ€™s easy to feel that your voice in a movement does not matter and will do nothing to change things. What these students need to remember, however, is that the masses are the makers of history. It has historically been social movements â€“ not great leaders â€“ that have changed the course of history. It is our role in this present day as students and youth to make those movements and be a part of them. As far as apathy is concerned, what is more important right here and right now than the fact that the
Ron: Is SDS encouraging young people to attend the March on the Pentagon on March 17th? On a side note, what is your take on the ongoing squabble between the two national antiwar coalitions–UFPJ and ANSWER?
Kati: SDS is mobilizing for the March on the Pentagon on the 17th â€“ there is an SDS organizing team and a planned SDS contingent for this march. There was also an SDS-led student contingent at the January 27th UFPJ demo in DC. As far as the fighting between UFPJ and ANSWER â€“ I cannot speak for all of SDS, but ANSWER tends to have more anti-imperialist politics like that of SDS. There was an open letter to UFPJ written recently that was critical of the call that they put out for a protest in NYC on March 18th â€“ the day after the ANSWER March on the Pentagon and during the planned encampment in DC. Some SDS activists signed on to that letter and I agree with it. I oppose any kind of efforts to divide the anti-war movement.
Ron: How can people interested in organizing or attending a March 20th action find out more?
Kati: People interested in organizing an event for March 20th, or even if schools are on spring break but still support the call to action, should contact [email protected]. There is also a blog about the March 20th actions â€“ www.march20antiwar.blogspot.com â€“ where people can see what schools are participating, reports about organizing methods from schools, and press roundups.
Ron: Anything else?
Kati: The call to action for March 20th grew out of an initiative from an SDS meeting with 20 campuses, started out as having four schools signed on to action, and now has over 50 schools participating. The momentum for this is tremendous, and shows that we are truly in a new period in the student anti-war movement. Itâ€™s so inspiring to see actions being planned all across the country, with different student groups working and connecting with each other. The groups participating range from large well-known universities to small-town high schools with a couple of students taking up the initiative. I hope that we can continue with this energy past March 20th and really make history with the work that we are doing, everyday, to end the war.