Take the City was set up to be a website promoting an informal network linking high school kids, college students and all pissed off New Yorkers wishing to coordinate to fight back in these times of “Crisis”. We wish to help promote actions, and to hopefully be a tool to link disparate struggles in this largely atomized city. We are not part of any organization.
When we began we did not want to involve ourselves in sectarian squabbles or internecine drama of any sort. However since the events of March 4th at Hunter we feel that it is necessary to endorse this response crafted by Hunter students and alumni. There are many allegations floating around and we are trying to sift through them to figure out all that happened that day.
While we will take anybody to task for using sexist or otherwise abusive language, what we personally witnessed on the 4th and are beginning to hear as we talk to others who were involved in the events of the 4th paints an entirely different picture than that which has been spread over the internet in the past few days.
That said we present you with the below statement. Word is there will be more statements forthcoming in the coming days so stay tuned…
A Response to the Lies of March 4th
On March 4th 2010, a walkout was called for at Hunter College. This event was organized to coincide with the National Day of Action to “defend public education”. Inspired by walkouts, strikes, occupations and other acts of disobedience in public universities in California and here in NYC, Hunter students and allies decided on calling for a Walkout at CUNY Hunter. For a rundown of the day you can look here. This day has quickly become very controversial, with a multitude of accusations being thrown around the Internet. Pictures of participants of the action have even been emailed around activist circles at CUNY Hunter, and even published in articles in the Hunter Word by an ‘activist lawyer’ none the less. Based on this backlash from ‘activists’ who had little to no role in the organizing of the walkout and indoor demo that occurred, some of us involved in putting together and publicizing the walkout wish to clarify some points. We would also point out that, unlike those involved with the anti-walkout witch-hunt, we will not use photos of those involved with the rally or walkout or people’s names out of respect for their anonymity in the face of possible state repression.
Of “hijacking” and “saboteurs”:
On Facebook and in open letters making rounds on the internet, various self-defined Hunter ‘student activists’ have referred to those who took part in the indoor demo and walkout at Hunter college as “saboteurs”, and “outside agitators” who came to CUNY to “hijack” the day of action, putting students at risk. This is a complete lie. Many, who are now being decried as violent outside agitators, are actually the ones who spent over a month organizing the walkout. Weekly public planning meetings were held at Hunter, and hundreds and hundreds of fliers were printed and distributed among students. Tabling sessions were used as an opportunity to talk one-on-one with fellow students about March 4th and about the issues that we face as students at Hunter. Most of the people who have initiated wild denunciations and false rumors never even bothered to participate in these meetings or info sessions. Others were openly dismissive of the day of action.
The night of March 3rd it became clear that text messages were being sent among Hunter ‘activists’ claiming that New School and NYU students were coming to Hunter to cause a riot. Last ditch attempts were made by these ‘activists’, who had little to no role in planning this event, to contact students considered connected to the walkout threatening them that they needed to call off the event.
Having failed at preemptively sabotaging the walkout, the question should be raised: “Did these ‘activists’ go so far as to contact campus security and NYPD to repeat these baseless accusations about outside provocateurs and create an atmosphere of fear which led to the complete militarization of campus?”
“These guys aren’t students, they are ringers from outside”
– A cop in the stairwells of Hunter on the 4th echoing the claims of rally organizers.
On March 4th, many of us heard the same mantra, “New School and NYU kids are coming here to riot” from various students in the halls of Hunter. This same false claim was heard coming from the mouths of police attempting to control the indoor demo. Inside of Hunter the 3rd floor meet up point was swarming with NYPD (plainclothes and in uniform) and campus security. Signs were posted saying that any gathering inside of Hunter was unpermitted, but that the rally (called by some of the various activist groups who run the roost at Hunter) was permitted. Cops and security tried to herd the crowds gathered inside towards the permitted rally.
It is interesting that these ‘activists’ continually see the presence of students from other schools who, for the record, were invited by organizers of the walkout, as somehow more dangerous than that of the police. The NYPD were allowed full access to Hunter, blocking entrances and shoving and beating students. Arrested students were brought to the basement of Hunter College, which had secretly been transformed into a NYPD staging area for the day. Campus security also attacked students attempting to convince more students to participate in this walkout.
As students began to gather on the 3rd floor, watched by a large police presence, a member of the ISO loudly accosted a New School student, who is also a professor in the CUNY system. The ISO activist asked him why he was there and if he was going to start trouble. The New School student, who was invited to the walkout by Hunter students, replied that he was simply there to support the walkout. Minutes later as this same New School student was walking up the escalators with his friend, a Hunter alum, he was surrounded by police, security, and the Vice President of Student Affairs all dressed in suits. His cell phone was grabbed out of his hand and he was asked again – this time by police – if he was a New School student, and if he was here to start trouble. At this point he was threatened with arrest and lead downstairs toward the campus security office. Eventually one of the suit wearing men identified himself as a police officer and after walking the New School student to the exit informed him he was ‘free to go’. This account leads us, despite the denials of the ISO member, to believe that our friend was either pointed out to the cops by the ISO member or was lead to be detained by the police because of the extremely loud public accusations of the ISO member.
While students worked their way through the halls of Hunter, encouraging others to join the walkout, campus security and the police continuously ushered latecomers outside. Furthermore, in cooperation with the police, several people who had had no part in the actual planning of the event, attempted to disperse the crowd, thus dismantling the walkout itself. A drum was heard banging accompanied by the cry, “Outside! Outside!”. Confrontations occurred inside the school as campus security and NYPD manhandled Hunter students and allies. After a while, students from the indoor demo and walkout began to trickle outside, in some cases chased or escorted out by police, security and those who intended to manipulate the situation for their own political motives, even though these motives were in direct opposition to all that had been agreed upon in organizing meetings. Many, who moments before were involved in fighting off police assaults, were angry to see the walkout degenerating into another boring Hunter rally with the usual suspects taking credit for the day’s events.
At the rally a few students with boom boxes began trying to energize the crowd in response to the call that had gone out from students still inside to reconvene back in the building. At this time, the same woman banging a drum asked one of the Hunter students to be quiet and respectful of the speechifying. When this woman refused to comply, the woman with the drum hit her full in the face with her drum, giving the student a nasty cut. This assault instigated a full-fledged melee with students pushing, shoving and yelling at each other. Friends of the woman holding the drum attempted to point out fellow Hunter students to police who rushed the crowd hitting and grabbing at people. (A video shot by NYC IMC shows this melee, as the NYPD grab at the crowd you can see two women on the left of the screen pointing people out to campus security or police). The police arrested one walkout supporter during the fracas.
Clashes continued mainly between walkout supporters and various members of the Marxist-Leninist sects who assembled to speak at the outside rally. Repeatedly students were asked to produce their Hunter ID’s by other students or faculty, insinuating that they were outsiders or private school kids, further infuriating Hunter students who had seen our friends pointed out to the cops, assaulted and insulted by the real hijackers of the March 4th walkout.
After the rally a small stream of students walked downtown on the sidewalks, ironically chanting “Whose streets? Our streets?”, as traffic continued its normal flow down Lexington Avenue. They then reassembled inside protest pens outside of the Governor’s office. Once securely penned in they again had the pleasure of being harangued by the same speakers from the Hunter rally. The walkout became another small but heavily policed rally on the streets of midtown Manhattan.
Fuck With Hunter.
There have been a host of sickening statements unleashed on the Internet, mostly via Facebook, over the past few days. Most of these attacks accuse “private school kids” from “downtown private universities” of being “outside agitators”, often hinting that those involved in the walkout were all privileged white kids with no understanding of Hunter College. They talk of “Anarcho-Imperialists”, apparently a new strand of left libertarian thought popular amongst “rich white kids”, whose dogma apparently involves putting less privileged people at risk.
There is even a Facebook page called “Don’t Fuck With Hunter” which states:
…”A planned protest by Hunter students against the recent tuition hikes and budget cuts was marred by NYU and New School students storming into our school and vandalizing it. Yes, of course they came from schools that could afford to repair damages…Thanks, private school trust-funders! As if we weren’t financially screwed enough. This is only bound to make matters worse, and doesn’t prove anything to anyone.”
With no mention of the police occupation of our school, and only a brief mention of the reasons why Hunter is in dire financial straits, it seems that the writers of this statement see the Hunter students and their supporters who took part in the March 4th actions as responsible for the deterioration of public education. What a stellar analysis of capitalism!
It is highly offensive to the entire Hunter student body that these ‘activists’ fail to assume that Hunter students could, or would, be involved in actions on their own campus. Those who participate in such territorial reactions to the walkout act as if the school actually belonged to us Hunter students! Cops are freely allowed to walk our halls harassing students, CUNY bureaucrats are given raises as they cut our services and raise tuition. Even as students at a public institution, many of us are left strapped with debts. And don’t for a second think that the administration is not aware of how they attack us. That is why as they attempt to cut childcare and other services they find the money to install systems of social control such as surveillance cameras and the new security turnstiles.
This further shows the lack of understanding of those who decry the ‘random acts of vandalism’ that occurred on the 4th. Whatever you think about property destruction, it is clear that the shattering of the financial aid office’s windows and the smashing of the security turnstiles is anything but random. Instead these attacks can be seen as clearly targeted gestures by angry students who understand the stakes that we face as victims of capitalism’s current crisis and who wish to strike back.
Hunter, and all the CUNY schools belong not to the students, but to the administration, the bureaucrats and the cops. It is up to us to recognize that as students we are merely commodities to them, as professors we are simply laborers, and as janitors and clerical staff we are all workers that keep their education factory running smoothly.
It is clear that there were a host of tactical and strategic errors that occurred during and in the lead up to March 4th at Hunter. We hope to address those at a later point. It is also upsetting that the larger issues that came to the fore on the 4th are being overshadowed by individualized (and often contradictory and outright false) accounts of atrocities committed by one group or another. While acknowledging the unfortunate fighting and foul words that occurred outside of Hunter on the 4th, and while we will hold any comrades who may have used sexist language, of any kind, accountable, we believe that these arguments generally boil down to tactical and ideological differences.
There are groups of Hunter students, alumni, and professors who hold very rigid ideological views and have spent their careers carving out their little political territory within Hunter College. It should have been obvious to those of us who live outside the rigid realm of their ideologies that when we attempted an action that would tread on to what they feel is their turf, the backlash would be severe.
This has been a stressful time for those of us who were involved in organizing and publicizing the Hunter walkout. In addition to dealing with raising bail for arrested students, and other threats of state repression, we are forced to defend ourselves against false allegations from all sides including many people who were not even there on March 4th. We have spent the past few days checking up on many of these allegations and have found most of them to be at least misinterpretations but mostly outright lies.
We apologize to our comrades from the New School, NYU, City College, the Grad Center, and other non-students who were invited to support the action on the 4th and have since served as scapegoats for various fictitious crimes. Unfortunately these slanderous statements have made their way across the cyber world where they have gained currency with those who have an axe to grind or whom feel threatened by self-organized movements for liberation.
We believe that although this backlash will definitely occupy us for a while, it will not derail our ongoing efforts to organize a serious force within the city to challenge the crisis in all its forms – not merely on the trite level of student politics. The reactionary attacks of those who wish to control the actions of others has strengthened our resolve and will help us as we further our own strategies and realize who is a comrade and who is in the struggle solely for their own egotistical ends.
They will never be able to control our rage…
–Some Hunter Students, and Alumni