Defend the Hampton University Students!
7 Student Activists Threatened with Expulsion
Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"Students who act as part of the national movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime because The World Can’t Wait, especially when they remain firm in the face of police harassment and administrative threats, are heroic, must be defended, and their example must be followed by many others."
From a statement issued by The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime and signed by Sunsara Taylor, Allen Lang, and Howard Zinn
When students at Hampton--an elite, historically Black college in Virginia--decided to take up the November 2 launch of the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime, they were met with an unrelenting force of repression every step of the way.
When students posted flyers, the administration sent out squads to tear them down. When students stepped up into leading positions as organizers, they were followed by undercover cops and brought in for questioning. When people gathered at the Student Center on November 2 itself, they were videotaped, their IDs were taken, and their literature was confiscated from them as "contraband."
Then, the day before the Hampton students were scheduled to travel to New York for the Nov. 19-20 National Organizers Conference of The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, three students were issued summonses for a hearing on the next working day over possible expulsion--leaving them little time to contact lawyers and preventing several from attending the conference. How did the administration react when the Dean’s office was flooded with calls on behalf of the students? They issued four more summonses, raising the total number of students facing possible expulsion to seven.
In the face of all this, the students have continued to tell the truth and stand up against this injustice. When student organizers told their story to the media, campus police shut down an interview being filmed by the local news and kicked the media off the campus. Then, during Thanksgiving break, the administration put a statement under every student's dorm room door, with the patently absurd claim that they were not politically targeting these students but simply enforcing the rules in the school handbook!
As the students have rightly pointed out, unauthorized literature is distributed all the time on campus without penalty, including flyers with pictures of near-naked women advertising parties. And the literature these student organizers were distributing wouldn’t have been "unauthorized" had the campus administration not "lost" the paperwork these students had filed three years in a row to become an officially recognized chapter of Amnesty International.
But the stakes of this case are greater and go way beyond the policies of the campus itself. These students were speaking and acting for millions when they hooked up with the World Can't Wait movement and called out the Bush Regime's crimes around Katrina, exposed the atrocities of the unjust war in Iraq, took on the deadly and growing persecution of homosexuals in this country, spread the word about the AIDS epidemic, and more. And the outrageously heavy-handed attacks on these students must be seen against the backdrop of rapidly escalating repression against political dissent, the criminalizing of protest, and the expansion of police spying in this country.
This is why those who have heard about this case are angered and deeply concerned that the attacks be defeated. One way or the other, a standard will be set for others.
Will we live in a society that refuses to hold accountable the most powerful and murderous liars in the world--the Bush regime--while student resisters are persecuted and threatened with expulsion for their political activity? Or will more people step up, defeat this attack and spur forward many more to join in the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime and reverse the whole direction they are taking the world?
In answering this question, it is worth remembering that throughout history positive change has not come about without tremendous struggle and, at times, bitter sacrifice. It is worth reflecting not only on the courageous act of Rosa Parks when she sat down in the front of the bus, but the importance of her refusal to back down, and the active participation of thousands more who flooded in behind her.
The students at Hampton joined with others in the World Can't Wait movement to take history into their hands and take up the responsibility of leading a movement to drive out the criminal regime. And people need to come to their defense. As we said in the statement quoted at the beginning of this article: "We demand that the Hampton University administration drop all charges against, cease their political harassment of, and apologize to these students. These students must not be expelled!"
The full text of the statement signed by Sunsara Taylor, Allen Lang, and Howard Zinn is online at worldcantwait.org. The World Can't Wait is calling on people to send statements of support of the Hampton students and to call Hampton University officials to demand a stop to any disciplinary measures and harassment against the students: Call the Dean of Men at 757-727-5303 and the Dean of Women at 757-727-5486.