Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Rally and news conference announces upcoming march to Harrisburg to demand ‘A People’s Budget, Not a Prison Budget,’ May 14, 2013.
Info on the march, which kicks off May 25 at Love Park
Photo: Decarcerate PA
[image of rallying students, some with illegible signs in their hands, some arm in arm.]
How a few Philly high school students organized themselves into a few hundred in four days
May 9, 2013
It began, not surprisingly perhaps, with a modest online message.
About two weeks ago, school district officials had announced, once again, a serious hole in the District’s budget and had laid out, once again, severe cuts that would be implemented if a roughly $300 million hole wasn’t filled — this time invoking layoffs and cuts to programs, especially arts and extracurricular.
And as students pondered cuts to their favorite programs, the irony that last Friday would mark “Teacher Appreciation Day,” was not lost upon them.
Before news of the proposed cuts reached them, says Teyin Tseng (upper right), a member of the student council at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, “Our plan was to see how much money we had and see if we could buy flowers for every teacher.”
“But then the budget [was unveiled] — and we decided to do this.”
So, on Friday, another CAPA student, Maureen Smith (lower center), created a new Facebook page: Silenced Students March — announcing a plan by her and some of her classmates to protest the threatened cuts. She opened with something of a rallying call:
“As students we are fed up and want to be heard. Its OUR education and WE should have a say in it. TUESDAY May 7th is teachers appreciation day, we are organizing a march to 440 North Broad Street, which is the school district building. Depending on your school’s location you can choose a meeting area and then proceed to march to 440.We will all be meeting there by 4:30. There is strength in numbers.”
The response — recorded online in blow-by-blow Facebook posts — was immediate, enthusiastic, and complex as any overnight organizing effort.
Talking points were discussed; a deliberate effort to attract media and control the message was conceived.
And there was, as there is in any organizing effort, vigorous debate over tactics and message: When some students announced a planned walkout; other students objected, worried the organized disobedience would undermine their credibility as a group — a debate which continues as some students contemplate a walkout tomorrow.
A system was worked out: each school’s protest contingent should nominate a representative to contact.
“We have a huge network,” explained Tseng outside the building. “We all called each other, and we got a lot of schools to join.”
“I was contacted by Teyin over here,” said Belal Shami (lower left), “and he told me he needed my help. My role was to gather people from Franklin Learning Center and get them to the protest. … I brought roughly 35 people.”
In a stretch of years in which there has been no shortage of protests outside 440 N. Broad, yesterday nonetheless marked the first time many of these students had ever done anything of the sort. And their motivations often went beyond their personal welfare.
“People are saying, ‘You’re a Senior,’ why are you here?’ Well, I have friends that I’ve made this year in lower grades,” said Kelechi Ekwerike (upper left), for whom this protest was his first. “For their education to be cut short, truncated, I will not stand for that. And if this carries on next year, if nothing is done, they [the School District] will not hear the end of it.”
“The sense in my class is a little bit like we’re the last survivors on the Titanic,” is how Samantha Ho (upper center), a junior at Masterman High School, put it. “We survived. But I have a cousin who’s going to be first year at Masterman — I can’t really imagine that place without extracurricular activities. That’s where people connect.”
“My little brother, my sister — I don’t care about myself,” said Spencer Nguyen (lower right) from the Palumbo Academy of Art. “This is for future generations.”
About two hours after the protest had started, a small knot of these students remained outside school headquarters, huddled as they debriefed and planned for whatever comes next.
“I’m more than happy with the turnout,” acknowledged Facebook event creator Maureen Smith. “It really does speak volumes, that young people can make a difference.”
From the Philadelphia Student Union: Today, hundreds of students walked-out of school and took to the streets. We rallied at City Hall to tell City Council that we need funding for our public schools. We have had enough budget cuts. We marched down Broad St. to 440. Students are ready to fight back against budget cut backs. Get ready to see a lot more of us next time.
“Don’t Hate, Donate: Be the society Thatcher said didn’t exist”. That is the message of a website (http://donthatedonate.com/) established in the wake of news of the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher today (8 April 2013), following a major stroke and long-term illness.
The aim of this initiative is positive, creative and compassionate: to encourage those who wish to continue to stand in solidarity with the victims of Thatcherite policies, and who wish to respond to their progenitor’s death in an honest way (but without rancour), to support actively the causes and campaigns of homeless people, miners’ families, Hillsborough survivors, victims of apartheid, gay teenagers, and many others.
look, i get that people like writing about les amis as a contemporary radical activist group, but i’ve seen a lot of stuff that… doesn’t really reflect the reality of protest in virtually every country in the world, and certainly in basically every western democracy. at a protest today enjolras would have to beg the local institutions of power for permission to march up a public street, and he would be held responsible for any diversion from the plan he submitted. if his friends and followers were kettled and terrorised by riot police, he’d be told in no uncertain terms that this was his fault. les amis would have to hole up in someone’s flat beforehand and duct-tape and stuff cardboard inside of their jackets, in advance preparation for the inevitable police violence to come. they’d have to write the phone numbers of lawyers on their arms in magic marker and combeferre would have to check that everyone knows not to tell the police a single thing, to always ask for a lawyer, and then shut up.
enjolras would have to give his speeches with bahorel and feuilly standing on either side of him with their arms folded and their faces set, would have to march with jehan and courferyac pushing forward as his vanguard. les amis would have to surround enjolras like a tidal wave, in case the police got any bright ideas about cutting off the serpent’s head in order to make the body flail and panic and die. if and when the violence started — violence enjolras probably would not have wanted, because violence is used to re-write the history of contemporary resistance all of the time — courferyac and graintaire would have to pay in bruises to distract the cop bearing down on combeferre so it would be definite that someone would be left in the morning to post bail. joly would have to bring medical supplies in his bag with the full expectation of using them, because kettles can go on for hours and you never guarantee that even someone bleeding enough to lose their life will be allowed to leave.
when the cops come for enjolras, he’d kneel and put his hands behind his head and not say a thing, not when they kicked at the backs of his ankles or slammed him against a cop car or pulled his head back by his hair to hiss his rights into his ear. he’s a leader, and he’d know the value of a slit through his eyebrow in the press tomorrow. he’d know that this beating was coming whatever he did, but bruises in the dock in the morning make his argument for him. courferyac would, again, be the one dragged out of the crowd with his lip split and grantaire gripping tight around his wrist in vain, so combeferre could try and desperately usher away teenagers from riot shields, so joly could try and stem the bleeding of a thirteen year old girl’s head-wound, so bahorel could help jehan carry feuilly away without putting too much pressure on the point where his ribs had cracked. no one would hit a cop. if you hit a cop, a cop can do whatever they like to you, and every single member of les amis would have seen that happen with their own eyes.
the reality remains that there is virtually no such thing as a peaceful protest, because it is to the advantage of those in power to ensure that there’s not. the reality remains that there is nothing glamorous about a riot, and that enjolras would be taking his friends’ lives in his hands with reckless abandon if he thought there was. in a sense he’d be happy if he was the only person arrested, that combeferre would have to come for him in the cold light of morning and pick him up from the police station steps and drive him to the hospital, dirt under enjolras’s fingernails and blood crusted in his hair.
he’d have spent a night cold and maybe alone and maybe sitting in an interrogation room for hours staring at bare walls and having cops yell questions in his face that he couldn’t risk answering. he’d be exhausted and sore and on the verge of total-shut down. every single protest he led, he’d have to know that this would be how it could end for him— if not something much worse. protest is dangerous. riots aren’t fun. les amis would be covered in battle scars. they would spend weeks showered in bruises and knowing that they would have more to come. in the 21st century, protesters still build barricades. in fact, they do so relatively regularly. it’s just a thought, but you might want to think about why.
These rape protesters in India might be our new favorite people. They’re reacting to widespread comments about skirts being the cause of rape, seriously.
Let’s get something straight, the only thing responsible for rape is a rapist, if you’re blaming a woman’s clothes for her rape you’re clueless.
I also love that the one sign I can read says “Don’t skirt the issue”.
The rape protesters in India in general are fast becoming my favorite people.
photo by Eve Arnold
Our comrades at Untorelli Press just put out a collection of essays and communiques called Dangerous Spaces: Violent Resistance, Self-Defense, and Insurrectional Struggle Against Gender. It includes some stuff we’ve posted in the past and a lot of cool action and analysis surrounding the struggle against gender. Check it out!
we hijacked the front steps of the charlotte observer because they wouldn’t stop using the i-word in their pieces about undocumented immigrants.
they did not like us for being there a week straight
no human is illegal!
take the pledge to Drop the i-word
Social Justice issues that are extremely important
- Human Trafficking
- Human Rights Violations
Social Justice issues that tumblr users think are extremely important
- White Privilege
- Cultural Appropriation
- Gender Pronouns
In order for a society to commit genocide against a people or treat human beings as objects or unworthy of compassion and support, they must first be systematically dehumanized, ridiculed, demonized, and generally rendered “Other”. Take a few guesses as to how that’s accomplished.
reblogging for the commentary
maybe! and that too is also where word of mouth activism (such as online/blog activism) serves well, despite what people say. it gives you an opportunity to spread information from reliable sources on a subject you feel strongly about
insert articulate response here, about how novels are my personal favorite form of activism because I can be like “hey have you read this great novel” and lend it to some non-political person and it’s a SNEAK ATTACK because HEY the novel is about the Biafran War and BAM THE POLITICAL IS FUCKING PERSONAL AND NOW YOU KNOW IT and BAM NOW YOU ARE INFORMED and BAM NOW YOU CARE it’s like magic, I plan to use it on my dad when I get home because he is in love almost exclusively with nonfiction about white American history (for now)
well, firstly — self care is so important to activism, i think? nobody’s doing anybody any good if they’re pushing themselves so far that they break. and frustration with your own privilege is an ok thing to feel. it is an ok thing to feel /bad/ (c)
about. mostly privilege gets in the way and becomes oppressive when you let it start squishing people less privileged than you along the way. and i think there is a distinct difference between being patronizing and being angry at the system. (c)
people seem to forget that people with privilege can ALSO feel anger and frustration for a system that marginalizes so many. it’s ok, it’s even good for privileged people to feel that way! it’s only not ok when those privileged people try to put (c)
their voices ahead and on top in discussions in which their privilege renders them incapable of personal experience re: that oppression. and from what i’ve seen, you don’t do that? you know when your voice is applicable and when your willingness (c)
and readiness to listen is just as if not more important. and that’s also a key aspect to essential and effective activism. being a “real” ally involves a lot more listening and silent solidarity than actually acting — which can be frustrating, (c)
i think! but knowing that that is an important thing to do is good and vital — and i think you already know that, and implement it when and where you can. so maybe your view is narrowed to “what can i DO” rather than “who can i LISTEN TO” re: (c)
privilege, at least in the sense of what you believe means you have made a difference. but listening and supporting can make all the difference, a lot of the time. it’s never patronizing to listen and support.
being an activist/ally solely to make yourself feel good is privileged/dehumanizing but there’s nothing wrong (to me) with appreciating that you’re getting something important out of the process as long as it’s not your only reason or expected result
Mm that makes sense! I guess I’m struggling to find that balance, so I still feel uncomfortable?