February 01, 2007

SDS Marches in Washington DC on J27

Washington, DC - January 28, 2007. A wide array of SDS/MDS chapters journeyed to Washington D.C. to take part in the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) anti-war protest held on January 27, 2007. An estimated 500,000 protestors crowded the Mall area between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. SDS was among those on the Mall - and with the anti-authoritarian bloc that assembled separately at DuPont Circle. A group of SDS chapters joined the anti-authoritarian feeder at DuPont - a feeder that eventually marched on the Capitol itself - forming what Howard Community College (HCC) SDS termed a “Radical Student/Youth Contingent”.
Getting a late start in planning the action, SDS ultimately reconciled the two points of view among the planners by embracing both meetup locations: DuPont Circle (named in a call to action issued by Howard Community College SDS) and the Smithsonian Institution, favored by some SDS who wanted to do outreach to youth and students. Although its numbers were split in two, SDS fielded good sized contingents in both locations. The following chapters were represented: New York City’s Pace University, Pratt Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, New School University and NYU SDS; MDS New York (including members of the John Brown Caucus); New Jersey’s Drew and Bergen County SDS; Pennsylvania’s Strath Haven High School SDS and Philadelphia SDS; D.C. metro area SDSers; Howard Community College SDS (Baltimore), and; George Mason University (Virginia) SDS. Brown University SDS (Providence) fielded a large contingent and members of Connecticut College were also present. Several midwestern chapters also marched: Ohio, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Wayne State University (Detroit) SDS all sent contingents. One of the highlights of the day was SDSers from all over meeting one another face to face - many for the first time.
The DuPont feeder march stepped off far earlier than the main UFPJ march. Early reports were that the marchers were surrounded but not interfered with by D.C. police. When the Black Bloc and SDSers arrived at the Capitol building the contingent marched through the police lines and advanced to the Capitol steps. After a standoff on the steps, the marchers flanked the police, advancing on the side entrance to the Capitol building where another tense standoff occurred. By this time the Smithsonian SDS contingent joined the group at the Capitol. After a spirited rally the anti-authoritarian contingent reformed and joined the UFPJ main march briefly. Tom Miles of MDS New York marched with the Socialist Party. He reported that the UFPJ march itself moved very slowly. His contingent, which did not participate in the Capitol action, did not step off until 3:45 pm. The massive traffic jam that was the UFPJ march stalled the Black Bloc/SDS feeder as it attempted to join with the main body. Eventually the merge happened and the march proceeded. A short time later, frustrated with the slow pace of the march, some of the anti-auth marchers formed a breakaway and left the UFPJ main body. Although the police were aggressive with the breakaway marchers no arrests occurred despite reports of alleged damage to a recruiting center.
SDS organizer Mike DaCruz (Brown SDS) reported that outreach at the Smithsonian and elsewhere was very successful. Many in the DuPont feeder SDS contingent reported that the march to the Capitol was very inspiring. According to an article in The Hill US Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Phillip Morse stated that police were instructed not to make any arrests as the “anarchists” were seeking confrontation. SDS got an honorable mention in the Washington Post. Tucked below a longer piece (a cover story) on the protest was a story entitled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Student Protesters, Fighting Image of Apathy, Call for a Cohesive Movement.” In this piece, SDS is referred to as “the more radical Students for a Democratic Society” (as compared to the College Democrats of America). The piece concludes with comments by MDS member and former Weatherman Mark Rudd. Rudd noted increased anti-war activity among college students over the last year.
This protest in Washington, the first since New SDS celebrated its first birthday (on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), witnessed the first massing of SDS chapters in a national action - an important step towards building a Movement for a Democratic Society.