April 17th Anti-War Teach-In

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Activists speak out against US wars and occupations

On April 17th, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), joined by Food Not Bombs, Bradley Manning Support Network, Uhuru Solidarity Movement, Tampa Dream Defenders, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, held an anti-war teach-in on the University of South Florida (USF) campus. At Cooper Hall the various groups took turns calling for an end to all US wars and occupations and describing the ways in which wars affect different parts of society: immigrants, the environment, women, students, veterans, whistle blowers, and third world nations. 

This event was a part of the National SDS call to protest all US wars and occupations and also in solidarity with many national organizations call for the month of April to be a month of action against drone warfare. 

Billy Livsey of the Bradley Manning Support Network denounced the treatment of Bradley Manning, a military whistle blower who exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning’s case is fraught with secrecy and fraudulent claims. After being in solitary confinement for 3 years, a practice seen as torture by the UN and others, Manning’s trial is due to be held without any transparency to the public. 

Tefa Galvis of Tampa Dream Defenders talked about war’s affect on immigrants. War leads to mass migration and displacement, forcing millions to flee their homeland. War is also used to demonize immigrants from countries that the United States is at war with, such as people from the Middle East. Galvis also discussed how the US’ military presence in countries like Colombia drain resources from the population and prop up military regimes. 

Matt Hastings from Tampa Bay SDS discussed how the resources used on military spending account for over 50% of the federal budget. At a time when tuition has increased 900% since 1978, the military budget continuously grows. The connection between war and students was clear: the money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone could have paid for 22 million students to attend college for free. While politicians force budget cuts and tuition hikes, squeezing teachers, students, and staff, money for military occupation and deadly drone strikes is consistently there. Hastings also called out the military’s use of Universities for research that contributes to newer, deadlier weapons and diverts research money from projects that could be used to build society, rather than destroying it.

Jesse Nevel of Uhuru Solidarity Movement paralleled US military actions that affect the lives of millions of Africans and the war on black and brown people inside the United States. He described how the police forces essentially act as a paramilitary force used to terrorize black and brown communities across the US, include Tampa and St. Petersburg, where in recent and past years police have brutally murdered unarmed African-Americans. He also pointed out how ever 36 hours, a black person is murdered by the police.

Danielle Leppo of SDS and the Coalition to End Rape Culture spoke on war’s affect on women. Rape is historically used as a weapon of war against the female populations of countries. Sexual assault against women in the military, by male solidiers is increasing at a horrific rate, with most perpetrators receiving no penalty. 

Walt Byars of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization denounced the war maneuvers against North Korea and the ongoing US military presence on the Korean Peninsula. Byars spoke of how the United States has surrounded North Korea since the Korean War, and the imperialist border lines drawn by the US and other nations. He also called for self-determination for the Korean people.

The forces drawn together by this day of action show that the anti-war movement is gaining strength as activists see the emptiness of Barack Obama’s rhetoric for change and see his actions (see: drone strikes that inflict massive civilian causalities in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemeni, Afghanistan, waging war in Libya, and now threatening war in Korea and Syria) for what they are: a part of the same imperialist system that has dominated the US landscape. People of conscience, especially students who have historically been at the forefront of the movement against US wars, must step up their protests and resistance no matter who the ruling class has selected to lead the country, Democrat or Republican. 

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Money for jobs and education, not war and occupation!

http://www.facebook.com/groups/tampabaysds

Coalition to End Rape Culture Begins With Teach-In

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Coalition to End Rape Culture Banner

On November 29, The Coalition to End Rape Culture (CERC) spearheaded by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and joined by other campus organizations held its kickoff teach-in at the University of South Florida (USF). In response to two reported rapes on the USF campus, Tampa Bay SDS responded quickly by shaping a petition of demands to be implemented in a timely fashion by the USF administration. Organizing under the banner of ending rape culture, “a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape”, the campaign is designed to focus in on the systematic roots of rape and sexual assault.

cerc signs

Five members of SDS, alongside faculty and the Center for Victim Advocacy and R.E.A.L. program, spoke on a diversity of topics ranging from examples of rape culture to the need for a third wave of feminism to continue the gains of past women’s liberation movements. Joined by around 50 students and many onlookers inspired by the call to action, the teach-in was a deeply personal and liberating experience for those involved. This teach-in represented the launching of a sustained anti-rape culture campaign, which will lead to the presentation of demands to USF administration, which include: the introduction of a mandatory rape awareness and myths course for all incoming students, the expansion of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and the introduction of a “Good Samaritan”, bystander intervention policy requiring students to take reasonable steps to intervene if observing a person or people engaged in sexually assaultive behavior.

This campaign is designed to bring about practical changes on the USF campus, as well as shifting the discussion from how victims should act to telling rapists not to rape. For too long systems of patriarchy and male privilege have been used as tools to oppress women and the LGBTQ community.  The Coalition to End Rape Culture has been created to fight back against such oppression and fight for women’s and LGBTQ liberation. Tampa Bay SDS stands firmly in its belief that we cannot stop rape and sexual assault without a clear discussion of the systems that enforce and utilize such horrific tools. With the hosting of this teach-in, the CERC campaign is going full speed ahead into the next semester to plan more actions and the eventual presentation of demands to administration.

On this day all stood to say: This is what a feminist looks like!

March 1st National Day of Action for Education Rights

-Matt Hastings

On March 1st, 2012, students across the country participated in the National Day of Action for Education Rights. This day was designed for students to demonstrate for affordable education, end to student debt, and democratic representation on campus.

Students gather outside Cooper Hall with signs (Photo by Jared Hamil)

Tampa Bay SDS organized a campus-wide Walk Out and protest against the devastating attacks on education in the state of Florida. At noon SDS, alongside groups such as Occupy USF and the Black Student Union, faculty and workers at USF walked out of their clasess and gathered outside of Cooper Hall. Joined by over 150 members of the USF community, SDS members and faculty gave urgent speeches describing the actions needed to defend education. With the Florida legislature fighting to destroy public education, with especially high cuts to USF, the students’ passion for the right of education was ferociously present throughout the day.

Students march through the John and Grace Allen Building (Photo by Jared Hamil)

On the cusp of a series of speeches that energized a growing crowd, SDS led a march across campus with a final destination of the Marshall Student Center. The large contingent of USF student, faculty, and workers chanted slogans such as “Education is a right! Fight fight fight!” and “Chop from the top!”, through the administrative plaza where they finally sat-in the Marshall Student Center. From there a diverse group of USF undergraduate and master’s students gave speeches to the even larger crowd that had gathered around the sitters. Personal stories of debt and unemployment were shared by the students along with organizational strategies for present and future struggles.

Students sit-in the MSC and listen to speeches (Photo by Catherine Lim)

The day’s success can be measured by the large number of students who were inspired to share their struggle and join in the fight for education for all. This day of action was only the beginning of the growing student discontent. As cuts, hikes and corporatization of Universities take place across the country, students will only utilize their power in numbers at an even greater rate. As attacks on students grow more alarmingly, so will the consciousness of the same students.

They say cut back; We say fight back!

Rally in Tally

– Matt Hastings

4:30 a.m. was a harsh time to make a drive to school, but through the haze of the early morning, we made our way onto the bus that would take us to “Rally in Tally”. A group of about 50 students mostly comprised of SDS and student government members traveled to Tallahassee with intentions of expressing discontent against the further weakening of Florida’s education system.  The lawmakers’ continuing trend of raising tuition and fees and slashing services was of particular grievance to many students.

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SDS members Tefa and Phil Siniscalco having lunch (photo by Catherine Lim)

An itinerary of the day’s scheduled events included the following: a 10:30 trip to the Higher Education Appropriations Committee Meeting, Lunch, the rally on the Capitol at 1:00 and then a two hour period of meetings with various legislators in their office. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving it was evident that much of what was said to happen was either cancelled or cut short, resulting in groups walking endlessly around Florida’s Capitol building. Although the emphasis of the event seemed to be centered on the need for better policies for students, much of what was said during the rally was vague statements about students’ potential. There was little mention by the speakers about policies that would directly benefit the over 300 students present. The most sparking event of the day was the demonstration on the capitol steps by SDS/Fight Back Florida members, who were equipped with signs and statements that captured the true nature of student frustration. The demonstration was met with a positive response by FSA Student Representative Mike Long and Representative Darryl Russon.

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Student activists at the Rally on the Old Capitol steps (photo by Catherine Lim)

What seemed to be the most imperative event of the day, the meetings with legislators associated with House Education committees, failed in many aspects. Most representatives and senators were called into sudden meetings during the portion scheduled to meet with them. During this portion we were also instructed by USF Student Government President Matt Diaz to hand out cards expressing gratitude to lawmakers’ (as of now undecided) support for higher education, along with a USF pin and a message from Matt Diaz on the cards. Many representatives would not accept Diaz’s cards as it is against House ethics rules to accept gifts from universities and their student governments. Despite the event being scheduled in a two hour block for meetings, it was cut in half and time was made for the provided dinner earlier at 3:30 p.m.

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SDS member Dani Leppo giving an interview (photo by Catherine Lim)

This day’s events should only serve to embolden students’ in their quest for a strong student movement that is organized and empowers the voice of the students from around the state. Students’ should not be placated by the attempts of those in charge to dismiss the will of students. Attempts to nurture a bond between administrators of schools and government and students is always welcomed, but until actual results are forthcoming, the student voice will only grow louder.

More Rally in Tally photos: USF SG Facebook

As We Write, Listen ✌p!

It’s been extremely busy for us student, activist, organizers. From organizing for the Republican Debate that occurred on January 23, 2011 to attending and studying the Rally in Tally on January 26, 2012! We are currently, fervently writing up summations of the various events.

Yes, we’d been neglecting our wonderful blog; so here we are! To remind you Tampa Bay SDS still holds you dear in our hearts. Listen to these inspiring tracks while you await our [almost] complete blog entries.

Dead Prez – “Politrikkks”

Lila Downs – “Minimum Wage

Goodbye 2011!

-Sol Márquez

Our summation for the 2011 year at University of South Florida is as follows:

USF is loaded with strong, independent-thinkers who are ready to do all they can to put their own future in their own hands! Tampa Bay SDS could not have been possible if it hadn’t been for all the help and dedication put forth by all who helped.

Tampa Bay SDS (along with various other SDS chapters across the country) in its very first semester of existence had many victories!

*Here are some of them:
1. 50+ student attendance at our first-ever rally against the 15% Tuition Increases.

photo by Peeraya Sawangkum

2. LIVE time with leading news medias who saw the potential in our efforts.

photo by Peeraya Sawangkum

3. Our Proposed 81% Referendum Victory!
*USF students were able to voice against the 15% Tuition Increases passed by administration over the summer without our consent.

During our 2nd Rally

4. We supported the Occupy Wallstreet movement on our campus–Occupy USF!
*Occupy USF received the same curt feedback Occupy Wallstreet received from International News Medias, yet their efforts were unhindered. Their rallies and teach-ins reflected the truth of what students, faculty and people in our country have to endure. Our support was fateful. We enjoyed joining forces with Occupy USF and wish them the best of luck!

photo by Occupy USF

The year 2012 will mark another year for our very own Tampa Bay SDS to thrive and complete new goals we will be setting for ourselves!
¡Ya basta! with the injustices to students, faculty and to the people in our country!
JOIN US!

Fight Back Music

-Sol Márquez

photo by Josh Holton of WMNF 88.5FM New

It’s been a great while since we updated our blog.
Thanks for staying tuned and waiting us out!

A fellow University of South Florida student Klever has created an inspiring song titled I’m A Leader. Guess who’s featured among the many bright futures? Your very own, Tampa Bay SDS! We appreciate the shout-out and find many of the verses motivational.

At this time we’d like to remind you Students for a Democratic Society is comprised of ALL organizers, activists and leaders. You got this, we got this.
Plus don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for future updates!