September 22, 2009

G20 Press Release

Press Contacts:
Kelly Besherer
Carnegie Mellon University student
Radical Student Alliance member
Sheila Hubbard
University of Pittsburgh student
Students for Radical Change and Liberation member
Alex Lotorto
570 - 269 - 9589
Students for a Democratic Society organizer
Local and regional young people are converging this week in Pittsburgh to oppose the G-20 summit and demand accessible education as a human right.
In addition to participating as a student and youth contingent in marches and actions organized by Bail Out the People, Bash Back!, Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project, Three Rivers Climate Convergence, and the Thomas Merton Center, a coalition of student and youth groups have created their own messaging and demands for facing down the G-20 leaders. In solidarity with young people around the world, they are demanding key revolutionary changes for society.
The coalition of young people will have a march named "Free and Emancipating for All" along the sidewalk on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. starting at Carnegie Mellong University to Schenley Park Plaza. Once at Schenley Park Plaza, they will break out into small groups and have a teach-in to develop a proposal for alternative approaches to education called the Pittsburgh Model for Democratic Education.
The students will include three demands to initiate the discussion. First, they demand a society with just, healthy, and sustainable production based on mutual aid that does not allow poverty, the exploitation of workers, or the destruction of the planet. Second, they demand democratic institutions that include the active participation of everyone they affect through forms of direct democracy, especially through schools and community organizations. Third, they demand the right to a free, empowering, and "emancipating" education that emphasizes the importance of social movements, dissent, and combating forms of oppression personally and structurally. This includes practicing, in classrooms and in relationships, emotional support and attitudes that dismantle racism, abuse, homophobia, patriarchy, class oppression, and other oppressive behaviors that divide people from developing peaceful communities.
The students are drawing on the current model of the education industry, to show how schools and even the G-20 do not present a model of the society they would like to see.
Sheila Hubbard, a member of University of Pittsburgh Students for Radical Change and Liberation said, "Principals and college presidents lead authoritarian administrations that completely shut out all but a select few students from deciding policies and changes that affect students the most. Students are scuttled around like products in a factory, not young people with a conscience. Just like many principals and presidents abuse their power, we know that environmental and economic justice will never be imposed from above by elites like the G20. The current education system is a friendly pillar of support for the G-20, just like the corporate media, police and National Guard, and the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership. To improve, the democratic society we want to see must be modeled in the world's schools, by the students, without the dictatorships of administration figures."
The students also claim that the public, private, and university school system is failing to empower its students.
Alex Lotorto, a member of Students for a Democratic Society and recent graduate of Muhlenberg College, said, "In high schools, students face armed police, disinterested teachers, military recruiters, inaccessible school boards, and segregating standardized tests. At colleges, endowments pay for prisons, wars, and genocide through mutual fund investments, students are indentured by student loans, and the factory-style production of education suits the demands of CEOs and various industries. The incredible rising costs of colleges that claim to be 'not for profit' are forcing more and more young people to pass up their human right to accessible education. This education industrial complex emboldens G20 leaders with confidence our generation won’t see the bigger picture or who’s behind the curtain. It is the G-20 and their International Monetary Fund who advocate the privatization of social services, especially in developing countries in the Global South through Structural Adjustment Programs that, among other catastrophes, decreases access to education and living wage jobs for young people who are left behind in the name of corporate profits."
The final grievance of the students is that they are not taught how to dissent.
Jake Spezio, a member of Rochester Students for a Democratic society, also came to Pittsburgh for the week. Spezio said, "We must practice resistance through trial and error to get it right. In class rooms, students sit through biased lessons and lectures about how the world exists and came to be. At their first jobs, they suffer poor working conditions and are considered disposable laborers or interns. Young people are conditioned not to question, socialized not to dissent. In school, teachers brush over the history of social movements and ignore the domination of European colonialism, corrupt political parties, and the inequities of capitalist markets. In culture, board room marketing executives decide what's hot, what's fun and how young people should want to live. And most of all, we especially don’t learn that the G20 governments are the most violent, militarized, and environmentally destructive institutions in the world. If we can’t question them, what’s stopping them?"
In addition to Wednesdays's march and teach-in, the youth coalition and the local anarchist Break Away Marching Band have coordinated a Radical Caroling procession starting at the intersection of Liberty and Commonwealth immediately after the United Steel Workers and Alliance for Climate Protection event at Point State Park. The coalition will have a contingent in the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project People's Uprising march on Thursday and the Thomas Merton Center People's March to the G20 on Friday.
Maria Lipschitz, a member of the New York University coalition Take Back NYU!, is in Pittsburgh to resist the G20. Lipschitz said, "We are struggling this week, in the face of immense police repression, in solidarity with oppressed people that are denied access to basic human rights around the world by the G20 nations."