December 20, 2006

Rallying to defend the Morales/Shakur Center at City College

There was a rally today at the City College of New York, in defense of the student-run Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community and Student Center, a long-standing people's institution there. Maybe 70 people or so, a majority from the community or radical groups, but a solid showing at a time when most people are off campus until well into January.

The administration stonewalled the delegation of students, teachers, and community figures who demanded to speak with the President, and promised a meeting at a date to be disclosed later. The background can best be tracked at the excellent All Out for the Fight blog, which has been posting on this since last Monday when the attack was launched on the Center because it is named--and has been since its founding in 1990--for two fugitive freedom fighters who are also CCNY alums. (All Out has also done some model work researching and exposing the dime-dropping little weasel whose inititive gave the reactionaries the opening they needed to attack.)

In his first post there, Modern Pitung pointed out that this little tempest was stirred up in the first place as a distraction and a rallying point for reactionaries hard pressed to defend the NYPD after the 50 shot police fusillade that killed the unarmed Sean Bell on his wedding day. "Look, a sign with a cop-killer's name on it! Something must be done."

In fact, City students have made the connection work the other way. The administration, after first declaring that intervention was not within its powers, took down the Morales/Shakur center sign in the middle of the night. The students reclaimed it and marched with it in last Saturday's powerful march for Sean Bell--and got a lot of recognition and support from folks in the crowd for their struggle. (See photo at top, by Stan Ragouski).

I want to highlight three points made at different points in the short speeches at the rally today, which linked together make for a very good campaign.

At a very basic level, the attack on the name is an attack on free speech and free inquiry, and on any independence for public higher education. If any political hack or egomaniac newspaper publisher can determine what ideas will and won't be permitted at CCNY, the students can kiss their education goodbye.

At another level, the question is who's going to run City College. The administration wants something like a combination of WalMart and a police state, where students are passive and obedient consumers of whatever gets dished out to them, not human beings who need a say because their whole lives will be shaped by what they experience and learn at CCNY. That's why students there have always fought back, with organizing, with strikes, with lawsuits, with passive resistance to stupid rules.

At still another level, the names of Guillermo Morales and Assata Shakur are proud banners for our side in the long war over whose interests CCNY will serve--the needs of the communities of NYC, particularly the disenfranchised communities, or of those who are looking to build and run some fake Ivy in the middle of Harlem. These freedom fighters symbolize the self-determination of Black and Puerto Rican people, the need for revolutionary struggle against all oppressors and the drive to create a better future--and that's why the administration and the greater powers behind the administration hate the very sound of their names...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that this is yet another direct attack on the students at City College, who by now are used to an endless series of attacks aiming to beat back the gains that were won in 1969, 1989, etc., the activists at City have taken a lot of heart from the level of support that the community has shown so far. Something like 100 people turned out on just a couple days' notice to a public meeting last Friday evening. Even though this is certainly not (yet) a time of upsurge, that is a sign that bodes well for the future. The student movement even on its own has more life in it than it did a few years ago; with the backing of people from the community it stands a very good chance of growing even stronger.