Recap and photos from May 22 actions in solidarity with the 100th day of the Quebec student strike
[Update 5/23/2012 @ 1:30pm For press coverage of the New York actions, see http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/933487/hundreds_of_students,_occupiers_take_new_york_streets_in_solidarity_with_largest-ever_demonstration_in_quebec]
Hundreds of CUNY students and supporters took part in solidarity actions across New York today, coinciding with the 100th day of the Quebec student strikes. The actions were focused around an emergency law (Bill 78), which specifically targets the student assemblies and mobilizations in an attempt to break the ongoing strike.
At 2pm, roughly 100 protesters held a demonstration outside of the Quebec government offices at 1 Rockefeller Plaza.
Later in the day, hundreds gathered in Washington Square Park for a pop-up of the Free University. Classes and discussions included Occupy Theory’s “Counterinsurgency,” Occupy Student Debt Campaign’s “Debt and Violence,” “Quebec Protests / Law 78,” and “Worker Coops / Permaculture.” Hundreds took to the streets in a nighttime march, at which several were subject to arrest. Student Activism has a full report about police intimidation and the arbitrariness of arresting protesters for something that New Yorkers do everyday: walking on the street without blocking traffic.
CUNY students have been actively reflecting on the significance of the ongoing Quebec student strike for similar concerns around CUNY and New York City in general.
Last week, Biola Jeje and Isabelle Nastasia at Brooklyn College, penned an article in AlterNet focusing on student unions as a driving force behind Quebec’s success:
What allowed our counterparts in Quebec to mobilize so quickly and with such numbers, when our own student response to similar increases has been so subdued? We realized that the main difference lies in their movement’s ability to obtain real, institutionalized student power – something we do not yet have in the United States.
In Quebec, student organizing bodies on campuses have equal seats at decision-making tables alongside faculty and the administration. In the United States, we have nothing like this. Just as unions have been on a steep decline in this nation for decades, so too have campus organizations that answer to students (rather than the whims of the administration) and that hold real power. We believe that if students in the United States hope to have the kind of impact on our universities that we witnessed in Montreal, we will need to first establish radical, federated student unions here at home, organizations capable of replacing our currently weak systems of student participation. Without this shift, our struggle will be long, indeed.
Student unionism is particularly strong in Quebec, and for a reason: they are inherently political, engaging, and participatory, using principles of direct democracy in weekly general assemblies. A dispersal of power, where students have a direct role in shaping the culture of university life through the policies and activities of the unions has been the backbone of the growing movement against tuition hikes, and the secret to why it has been able to mobilize such a broad and popular base.
The article also gives a useful overview of the origins of the unlimited strike and draws important connections between the common struggles of Québécois and CUNY students:
We can see the direct link between tuition hikes and the criminalization of assembly in Quebec, just as we can see Bloomberg’s management through “free speech zones” of political protest, the silencing of media, and the increased police aggression in suppressing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thus, solidarity with Quebec students is also important work in defense of our right to demonstrate here and everywhere.