Revolution #69, November 19, 2006
World Can't Wait: Shaking Things Up at University of Arizona
University of Arizona is a large campus of over 35,000 students in Tucson. Over the last month, activists with the World Can’t Wait movement have stepped forward as a force of resistance on this campus—and they have faced suppression by the school administration and attacks from right-wing students.
On October 5 hundreds of people gathered at the University of Arizona (UA) Mall for the World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime rally. (For a report about this event and about World Can’t Wait protests in many other places around the U.S. on Oct. 5, go online to worldcantwait.org.)
The Oct. 5 rally touched off a reaction from right-wing pro-Bush forces on the campus, including a column (titled “Actually, the World Can Wait”) and letters to the editor in the Daily Wildcat bashing the World Can’t Wait organization. When World Can’t Wait (WCW) organizers asked the Daily Wildcat for space to respond to the column, the campus paper refused and only agreed to a letter to the editor from WCW.
In a email correspondence to Revolution, a WCW organizer in Tucson discussed this right-wing response at UA in relation to the larger struggle on campuses around academic freedom and the reactionary offensive by campus brownshirts led by David Horowitz: “The right-wing students aren’t particularly organized here. It’s not like it is at, say UCLA or other schools where the Horowitz thing is going full-on. I mean, they’re here in probably the same numbers and they have a real effect on things, they just don’t seem to have leadership. They act more as individuals. Progressive and radical professors definitely feel pressured. Several have told me that they have changed their classes in the last couple of years to avoid being accused of ‘bias.’”
Recently, when the WCW challenged the campus Young Republicans to a debate, the Republicans refused. The Tucson WCW organizer wrote, “Earlier in the school year, someone from Hillel [a campus pro-Israel group] went to the new University president to try to whip up an attack on us (people in WCW had done work in support of Palestine and against the attack on Lebanon, though WCW as an organization hadn’t said anything about them). Our understanding is that the president said what we were doing was within the bounds of academic freedom.”
The UA WCW chapter had recently planned a “Resistance Through Art Festival”—but the plans were undermined by the actions of the campus administration and police who specifically targeted WCW. As the Tucson organizer recounts, “We had planned on having an all-day music and arts festival on the UA Mall on Saturday, November 4. We went through all the proper channels and had our event approved by Mall Services. However, in the week before the event, we were presented with steadily escalating requirements for our event by the UA Police Department (along with the Associate Dean of Students, Veda Kowalski, who has tried to block events by us for years). Some really petty things—like we aren’t going to have enough trash cans, etc. Finally, just three days before the event, we were told that we had to pay $1600 for the UAPD to provide ‘security.’ We had been previously told that we did not need any security because there was no foreseeable threat. This sudden requirement forced the cancellation of our event, into which we had put considerable time and resources. We were told that security would be necessary because we had anticipated attendance, at any given time, to be between 50 and 100. However, another student group had an event on the Mall that weekend that had the same attendance estimate—and they were not required to have any security. Indeed, it seems that none of the demands made of us were made of this other group. Clearly, different standards were being applied to us. Our suspicion is that someone…decided that our event was not going to be allowed and that policy was made (or enforced) on that basis.”
Another incident right after this further revealed repressive activities by the authorities against WCW. The local WCW had been asked by the UA Debate Club to participate in a public debate on the question of civil liberties. Due to a miscommunication, the WCW chapter put the wrong date for the debate on their website, although it was clearly indicated that the event was sponsored by the Debate Club.
The Tucson WCW activist wrote: “It turns out that the UAPD routinely monitors our site and possibly our MySpace account. They saw the notice, called Mall Services, which checked and found that there was a different event scheduled for the Alumni Plaza on that day… The UAPD suggested that we were planning on disrupting the scheduled event. We then received a rather angry phone call from Mall Services. We’ve written a letter to the [university] President outlining these events and asking for a meeting. We feel that such surveillance is a tactic appropriate for a police state, not a university. We feel quite adamantly that such monitoring, of us or any other student group, should stop immediately. We’ve been told that we are probably on a ‘watch list’ of the UAPD, which is evidently supposed to be for monitoring frats for any underage drinking and excessive partying. It’s clear we’re being targeted. We’re planning an overall response to all this.”
The website of the national World Can’t Wait organization (worldcantwait.org) points out, “While these attacks need to be repudiated by UA’s student body and the Tucson community; this is part of shaking up campuses and we need situations like this erupting on campuses across the country.”
As they resist the attacks, the UA activists are stepping out to reach more students and people in the Tucson area. One upcoming event is the Nov. 28 program featuring Rev. John Fife speaking on “Theocracy, Pre-emptive War, and Torture: George W. Bush and the Theology of Empire.” Rev. Fife co-founded the Sanctuary Movement, and his church provided sanctuary for 12,000-15,000 Central American refugees during the 1980s. He and others formed the Samaritan Patrol, now part of No More Deaths, which give humanitarian aid to immigrants crossing the border through the Arizona desert.
The Tucson WCW organizer wrote about this event, “We’re doing outreach to local churches—it’s a part of Tucson that we’ve never really connected with. We’ve reserved a hall that seats 500 people, and we’re pretty sure we will fill it up.”
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