Wednesday, May 28, 2008

SDS Sit-in at Washington State's Evergreen College in Sixth Day


Olympia/Tacoma, Washington--It all began with a February 15th post-concert riot featuring Dead Prez (?!) at what has been traditionally considered a very liberal university. Banning a student group for the actions of a few is wrong, as well as unconstitutional, and begs the question of whether this is a matter of coordinated harassment.
Members of the Students for a Democratic Society say Evergreen has changed ever since the campus riot in February. They claim free speech has been squashed, concerts banned and student records turned over to police. When the SDS asked to stage a protest in March, the collage asked members to cancel it. "They said that it was because of safety, but almost all the other events went through. This one had a lot less potential for being unsafe than the ones that did go through," said a student who identified herself as "Courtney."SDS staged the event anyway, and it's been suspended from using campus facilities ever since. ("Evergreen state students stage sit-in in so-called fight for free speech," 05.26.2008)
For six days, the SDS Olympia chapter has been occupying the halls of the administration building (called "Seminar 1") outside of the office of Art Costantino, the Vice President for Student Affairs. For at least a year, there have been scuffles between the Tacoma Police Department and the student organization (and SDS Tacoma, along with other anti-war groups).

By-all-appearances, the kids are taking all the beatings, and we're seeing more extralegal misbehavior by our nation's police. One example might be very instructive as to the degree of harassment going on at Evergreen against SDS members:

On Friday, May 23 an Evergreen student lost her job as a result of her participation in the demonstrations. Kelly Beckham, 20, was fired from her job at campus Parking Services after being deemed by a "security threat" by Evergreen Chief of Police Ed Sorger. She was notified directly by the police of her termination, rather than by the proper chain of command of her employment. Kelly Beckham, a member of banned student group SDS, was a speaker at the SDS Free Speech rally that preceded the sit-in. The loss of her job was a direct result of her involvement with the sit-in. ("Student Sit-in at TESC, 100 Hours," Portland Independent Media, 05.27.2008)
I'm not sure why a 20-year-old student poses a "security threat" with no solid evidence other than that she's a member of a banned student organization. After all, Ms. Beckham was merely exercising her First amendment rights by speaking at the rally, and peaceably participating in the sit-in. It's the hope of this writer that she files a civil suit against Chief Sorger and the university's administrators.

More startling is the fact that she was fired by the Chief of Police of Evergreen--one assumes that he's the university police chief. How much has he been conferring with Tacoma's Police Department and municipal anti-terrorism units in the region? When are the authorities going to start labeling the kids terrorists? Probably when they start defending themselves from extralegal violence from overzealous police.

It's an overreaction by administration authorities in every respect to single-out SDS. The question is: who's at the heart of their actions against the membership of the banned student organization? Is it just the administrators, or is there pressure coming from above? There are just 30 students at a time participating in the sit-in. Even Evergreen alumni are helping--are they a "security threat" as well?

The members of SDS at Evergreen have voiced their commitment to non-violence (while the police clearly haven't), and as far as this writer can tell, none of them were involved directly in the after-concert "riot" of February 15th of this year on the state campus. What is this? Probably history repeating itself. So much for Evergreen's "liberal" image, that's over. But then, the same goes for America's moral standing in the world, something that was always an illusion anyway.

 On the sit-in (from yesterday):

KOMO-TV News on the Evergreen sit-in: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/19275174.html