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11209374_998472310164327_1210149021943802280_nStudents for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota stands in solidarity with the people’s uprising in Baltimore as they demand justice for Freddie Gray. UMN SDS stands against police repression and militarization, particularly in its manifestations as brutality, racial profiling, and enforcement of white supremacy. The uprising in Baltimore highlights the extreme emergency situation of oppressed nationalities in the United States and demonstrates the extreme measures to which people living in Baltimore will bravely go to take back their streets, in a sustained series of protests that have yet to cease.

Baltimore police officers tackled Freddie Gray and took him into custody on April 12. In the process, police crushed his voice box and nearly severed his spine breaking it in 8 places. Police then waited nearly 40 minutes before calling for medical attention. Gray died a week later from his injuries. This act must be seen rooted in the routine everyday practices of the status quo across the United States.

Local, state, and federal law enforcement units have consistently stolen the lives of innocent Black, Latin@, Indigenous, Asian, and other oppressed nationalities in the States. Amongst those that have stood out the most over the past few years leading to ongoing protests are Derek Williams and Dontre Hamilton killed in Milwaukee, Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Missouri, Walter Lamer Scott in South Carolina, 12 year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and the homeless James Boyd in New Mexico. These are only a few names amongst many that have been caught in the spotlight of criticism and dissent. However, far less frequently reported are the deaths of women and trans women of color, such as Mya Hall, who hailed from Baltimore, who like Freddie Gray was also killed by police.

Racism and violent brutality doesn’t start or stop with the police; their racism is rooted in the racist institutions, structures and history of the United States. Racism which continues to segregate housing in cities across the United States. Racism which leaves our schools more segregated than before Brown v. Board of Education. Racism that saturates the courts and manifests itself in the ‘legal’ system in the form of mass incarceration, disproportionate sentencing for people of color, routine and systematic harassment, and the abuse of power like that seen at Homan Square in Chicago.

The media also fans the flames of racism by distorting and routinely overlooking and excusing the murders committed by police and vigilantes. This was transparent in the case of Walter Lamar Scott whose case was nearly overlooked as another “routine” killing of a “dangerous” suspect by police, reported by local news without much notice until a video surfaced documenting his being shot in the back as he fled from officers. More examples can be seen daily in the smear campaigns against the protesters demanding Justice for Freddie Gray. The media has constantly been shifting attention away from the damaged spine of Freddie Gray and instead has focused on the damaged private property of Baltimore. The media has refused to acknowledge the vast economic and social disparities in Baltimore, just 40 miles away from the heart of the United States Capitol but instead has branded protesters with veiled racism like “thugs.” The media has excused the police repression carried out by the Baltimore Police and other local law enforcement, reassuring the white middle class viewers that their opinion about the police and their brutality against people of color are just a “few bad eggs” and do not represent any kind of systemic injustice or oppression.

University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society stands with the people of Baltimore and oppressed people across the United States in their struggle for liberation and justice. UMN SDS condemns racism, police repression, brutality, and mass incarceration. People of color have the right be free from and to resist oppression, exploitation and white supremacy in all forms.

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Students for a Democratic Society and its affiliates stand in solidarity with political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, who is the victim of attempted execution through medical neglect and malpractice. An acclaimed activist, author, and revolutionary journalist; Mumia went into diabetic shock on March 30, with no past history of diabetes. Hospitalized for two days, Mumia was then transferred back to the prison that failed to diagnose his illness. With a dangerously inadequate diet and health that deteriorates each day, Mumia’s well-being is being deliberately sabotaged. As the state’s two past execution attempts were foiled by international pressure, SDS recognizes this medical mistreatment as another attempt on Mumia’s life.

 

This timing is not accidental. The attempt to silence Mumia comes during waves of racial unrest across the United States. Mumia Abu Jamal is an uncompromising advocate of racial and social justice who continues to inspire activists to fight back against oppression. The United States’ system of white supremacy cannot allow revolutionary figures like Mumia to voice their dissent to the constant reign of terror inflicted upon the black community.

 

Mumia’s prison doctors claim to be unable to identify the cause of his illness, which leaves his skin blackened and swollen and causes him severe pain. Despite their failure the prison doctors refuse to allow outside medical professionals or diabetes specialists to attend to Mumia Abu Jamal. Each day Mumia is refused proper medical attention brings him closer to death. SDS holds the Pennsylvania State Correctional system complicit in this attempted murder of Mumia Abu Jamal.

 

Mumia Abu Jamal is one of many political prisoners, like Chicago activist Rasmea Odeh, currently facing repression from the United States’ government. It’s important that we stand in solidarity with our friends in the struggle. The United States must stop its brutal repression tactics, and free all political prisoners!

 

We demand an end to this medical murder. SDS stands with the family of Mumia and his supporters around the world as we call for his release in order to receive proper medical care.

In Mumia’s words from prison, “We shall prevail!”

 

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Join SDS, SJP, Amnesty International, Jewish Voices for Peace and the Anti-War Committee in Welcoming Sabry Wazwaz to the University of Minnesota where he will share stories, photos and videos from his travels in the occupied Palestine.

Sabry Wazwaz is a dedicated Palestinian American activist and outspoken leader in Minnesota’s peace and justice community. He has spent years in the movement for a free Palestine and has been active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement; with which he helped shut down Interstate 35W and participated in the numerous other peaceful protests and demonstrations including the rally at the Mall of America which has now seen 11 activists come under local government repression for their organizing.

In December and January Sabry spent more than a month traveling in Palestine, returning to Minnesota with extensive videos, photos and first-hand accounts of life in the occupied West Bank. Since returning he has traveled across the United States advocating for Palestinian issues highlighting Israeli crimes against humanity, racism and systematic brutality against Palestinians and immigrants. He documented the dehumanizing military checkpoints restricting movement of Palestinians, the violence of Israeli settlers stealing Palestinian land against International law, the racism of Israeli apartheid laws, the massive apartheid walls being erected to divide the landscape and carve up Palestinian territory, the Jewish movements of peace and justice in Israel and abroad, and the ongoing denial of the right of return of Palestinians to their homeland.

The event will be held in Blegen Hall, Room 110 on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota on Wednesday April 22 at 7pm.

Join Students for a Democratic Society at the University if Minnesota as we welcome our dear friend, mentor and fellow activist Sabry Wazwaz to campus. 

Join SDS and Students For Justice in Palestine on the University of Minnesota West Bank in Blegen Hall 115 for a screening of the award winning 2012 film ‘When I Saw You” at 7pm this Tuesday, April 7.

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Film Screening Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/868834153184089/

Part of Students for Justice in Palestine & Amnesty International’s Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Minnesota

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On the evening of April 2, 2015 students, staff and faculty of the University of Minnesota gathered on campus in Ford Hall for The People’s State of the University. The Peoples State of the University was held an hour after the carefully scripted university’s State of the University address given by President Kaler.

In his PR driven script Kaler maintained his typically vague language and claimed credit for much of the hard work done by students, staff and faculty at the university to achieve meaningful and progressive gains over the past year. Kaler also laid the foundation for hard hits to students in the form of a tuition increase when, in his prepared remarks “We will probably get back to a period in which we have relatively modest 2 or 3 percent tuition increases,” after highlighting “his” great accomplishment of a tuition freeze over the past two years.

The real source of pressure to hold the line on tuition came from SDS in the form of years of resistance and demands to end the increases to tuition and cut administrative spending. These efforts culminated in a 2013 all campus election referendum that passed overwhelmingly by over 85% that demanded an end to tuition increases, a cut to administrative bloat and an reinvestment in the educational mission of the university.

While in 1993-94 tuition was $3,421 it has skyrocketed to $13,626 today, an increase of 143% after adjusting for inflation. While Kaler has insisted, like many administrators, that the source of this rise has been state or federal spending cuts a recent New York Times article highlighted the source that SDS has been citing all along with its allies- bloated administration.

In the wake of a damning report from the Wall Street Journal last year, which cited the University of Minnesota as the most over administrated university in the United States, the New York Times article highlights, “a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration,” adding that between 1975 and 2008 there was a 221% increase of administrative roles.

The Wall Street Journal cited the University of Minnesota as having the most excessive spending on administration but it also highlighted the same facts pointed out by the Times regarding the outrageous ratio of administrators to students, staff and faculty.

Thus what Kaler is suggesting the university has to “get back” to is a tuition rate that increases at double the rate of inflation and that in total will double every decade to fill he and his administrators pockets with more money.

While President Kaler tries to take credit for “freezing” tuition, what we really need is a reduction of tuition. Any cut in tuition will require a cut to administration, which is why we have been telling administrators for years to “fund education not administration!”

President Kalers carefully scripted State of the University also used buzzwords and elitism to entice corporate investors and big money donors while ignoring the impact that it has had on education at our states major land grant public university.

For example President Kaler proudly stated that “we must intentionally reject complacency about diversity and campus climate,” but in doing so neglected acknowledging his own “ntentional efforts to avoid meeting with and engaging in meaningful dialogue with students of color in the ‘Whose Diversity?’ collective when they occupied his office after months of administrative negligence and rejection.

President Kaler also tried to claim that it was born of his own efforts to remove “some” racial description from crime alerts, suggesting it was at an open public meeting over “six months ago” that a few students addressed the issues for the first time with him. The PR machine even adopted two students to grant credit to while neglecting to mention the demand was risen over six months ago in a set of demands authored by ‘Whose Diversity?’ which was delivered to administrators well over six months ago.

President Kaler also failed to mention his efforts to create an inclusive and diverse environment on campus include cutting the Chicano/Chicana Latino/Latina Studies program. Cutting ethnic studies programs that were waged through student led struggles historically can help white wash and strip the power of students to have a meaningful voice in creating a truly inclusive, inviting and democratic environment where student needs come over administrative greed.

Finally President Kaler “recognized” that research ethics at the University of Minnesota are “a problem,” for the first time after years of vocal criticism from professors like Bio-Ethics professor Carl Elliot and many other student and community voices.

Kaler had little choice after two independent investigations recently condemned the university at length forcing it to stop all research involving human subjects after it was found there is a “a culture of fear and intimidation around research ethics.”

There remains much to be explored and unveiled in terms of extensive conflicts of interest between research at the university and private pharmaceutical companies who help the university conduct research. A systemic failure like this can only be the result of institutional corruption, negligence and deceit from the highest levels. Accountability must come down on the medical research programs as well as the President and the Board of Regents who have continued to ignore, deny and categorically cover up the scandal for years.

The time has long since passed for change at the University of Minnesota. Students for a Democratic Society will continue to demand justice and accountability. We say “Education is a Right!” There is no more time for empty rhetoric, PR campaigns or cute photos of administrators with students and staff that they systematically extort in the name of education. Join us in our struggle for justice and education!

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Sources:

-Wall Street Journal Article:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323316804578161490716042814

-New York Times Article on the Real Reason College Costs So Much:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/the-real-reason-college-tuition-costs-so-much.html?_r=0

 

-On the Research Practices of the University of Minnesota:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/dan-markingson-university-minnesota-clinical-trials-astrazeneca

 

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/296914121.html

 

http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/audit-finds-serious-ethical-issues-in-u-of-minnesota-s-handling-of-drug-trial-suicide/95861

On April 2nd the president of the University of Minnesota, Eric Kaler, will be delivering his annual “State of the University” address to both the campus community and to important actors in state politics and big business. Students for a Democratic Society at UMN knows that this “State of the University” will neglect the issues impacting students, staff, and faculty at the university today.

In response to President Kaler’s address, SDS will be bringing together students to highlight and speak to the work, concerns and struggles they are engaged at the university and in the community. Concerns like discrimination, inaccessibility and livable wages for staff and faculty who make our university work.

SDS will join other groups to highlight the work that represents their needs and their issues in a “Students’ State of the University.” The “Students’ State of the University” will be held immediately after the officially sanctioned scripted deliver of President Kaler’s media spectacle in order to highlight the growing gaps between administration and students, staff and faculty at the university.

Amongst the disparities we will highlight are responses to the typical rhetoric of President Kaler and his administration. Rhetoric about issues like “Campus Climate,” which has been veiled rhetoric referring to access, diversity, inequalities and safety at the university. In his 2014 address he stated, “Advancing equity and diversity is a priority of mine… too often, students of color come from families of limited means. Thus, a necessary step to increasing the number of students of color is to make the University more affordable.” However far from building bridges to communities of color he and his administration have held the line and even gone as far as attacking students of color.

Kaler stated that in order to achieve this goal, “the environment of campus could be more welcoming.” His idea of a welcoming environment has included white washing the diverse cultural centers that provided safe spaces for our diverse student body. It has also included ignoring the groups like Whose Diveristy? who have worked extensively to create an inclusive environment. Kaler has gone further then ignoring the group, he had several of its members arrested in a peaceful sit-in at his office. For Kaler, arresting students of color who work tirelessly to challenge the university to achieve his “priority” of advancing equity and diversity on campus  is having them arrested in attempts to engage in meaningful change that goes beyond rhetoric and empty dialogue.

Kaler has also “changed” crime alerts, to exclude race, “in some cases,” and will likely trump this as an act of inclusiveness while being able to uphold “safety” as a standard for a largely middle class white student population. Despite this many students, including a group of doctoral students have highlighted that research has show race in crime alerts is far from effective and actually does not correlate to proper suspect identification. This gesture was made as a meaningless concession to those, like Whose Diversity? and others that have highlighted the impact of race as a description used in crime alerts for students of color on campus. Far from creating a “welcoming” environment it creates one of unwarranted suspicion of students of color from their white peers.

President Kaler also spoke about a “Strategic Plan” last year in his State of the U speech. The stated goal was to be “faculty driven” and that it was extremely important that “staff, students and stakeholders voices are there too.” Yet these voices have been routinely ignored. The university staff remain under-compensated and routinely have to fight the board of regents 3 minute time limit for their voices to be heard and subsequently ignored by university leadership. President Kaler has also done little to trim excessive administration bloat and golden parachutes while maintaining the status quo for the already outrageous tuition charged by the university. Far from “rejecting complacency” President Kaler has upheld it.

President Kaler and his administration have most notably upheld complacency in their response to research misconduct and systemic and institutional negligence. A review of these practices, including those that saw research subject Dan Markingson die in 2004, wrote that “weakness in policy and practice were evident and require attention,” adding that “in the context of persistent internal and external criticism…the University has not taken an appropriately aggressive and informed approach to protecting subjects and regaining lost trust.”  Voices within the university including students, staff and faculty have been joined by a chorus of concerned community members including former Governor Arnie Carlson to publicly demand accountability and outside investigation of misconduct. Most recently at a Faculty Senate hearing many staff went as far as demanding accountability from the top, including resignations.

While President Kaler likes to talk about “Grand Challenges” and rhetorically wage a PR campaign to appease corporate donors and state lawmakers. President Kaler has upheld a “tuition freeze” as his great achievement for students. Far from making the university more accessible, it has maintained the status quo. The bottom line remains that over the past decades tuition has risen at outrageous rates, far exceeding inflation and mirroring increases in administrative costs. A real victory to celebrate will be when tuition is decreased. Further, Kaler and his administration have remained idol in trimming top heavy spending, offering livable wages and benefits to staff and their families, creating an inclusive environment for a diverse students body and they have consistently failed to hold themselves accountable for academic and research negligence and misconduct which undermine the very foundations of our university.

The time for hollow rhetoric has passed. President Kaler has proven himself to be just another scripted talking head that is unwilling to take the necessary actions to meaningfully address “Poverty. Social Inequality. Religious intolerance. World Hunger. Climate Change. Disease,” and the other challenges he highlighted in his opening remarks of his 2014 address. For those that are tired of such empty PR media spectacles to boost alumni fundraising and corporate donations, join SDS and its partners in our “Students State of the University” on April 2nd following Kaler’s speech. Let’s discuss the real issues and begin doing the work necessary to build a better, more tolerant, more inclusive, more accountable and more accessible university and community.

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Join us at 6pm on April 2 in Ford Hall.

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota demands justice for unarmed 19-year old Tony Robinson who was killed by police Friday March 6 by police in Madison, WI and an end to all racism and injustice plaguing our campuses and communities across the country.

UMN SDS stands in support of students in Madison and everywhere who are standing up and walking out to demand justice. Justice begins in every community with equal access to resources. Youth of color are subjected to the injustice of major failures of education from the achievement gap to the school-prison-pipeline when young people of color are criminalized. They are also subjected to an opportunity gap in higher education and access to equal economic opportunities. Finally they are subjected to the repression and violence of the state through racist police practices seen in the forms of harassment, violence and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

People of color are confronted with injustice and inequalities in every aspect of American society from the education and legal systems to the capitalist economic structure that puts profits over people. In education for example students of color face a major achievement gap in a system that excludes and marginalizes their culture, history and values. In Minnesota for example, amongst the worst states in the education achievement gaps graduation rates for ELL students is 64%, 60% for Latino/Latina students, 60% for black students, and 50% for American Indian students.

Nationally students of color are disproportionately disciplined for activities that are no different than their white peers. Black boys for example are 3.5x more likely to be suspended. They account for 46% of suspensions while composing only 18% of the student population nationally. This is due to racist practices institutionally and also racist practices from teachers individual bias. These systems and practices criminalize youth of color and contribute to higher drop out rates for students of color disrupting their potential for success.

In the legal system injustice and inequality are best demonstrated by incarceration rates. The US incarcerates the higher proportion of its population in the world. The US accounts for 25% of the worlds prison population while only having 5% of the world’s population. Of the 1.2 million people in prison 58% are people of color.

While only 12% of the total US population is black over 40% of those arrested are black. Black men are incarcerated at a rate 6x higher than their white peers. One in ten black men have been incarcerated in the US. Studies and research have found consistently that the rate at which crimes are committed is constant across racial demographics but enforcement is disproportionately focused on communities of color and communities in poverty. The recent DOJ reports about Ferguson highlight this fact but also offer a case study that is institutionally routine across the US today.

People of color are also more likely to be killed by the police. These are the results of systemic and routine practices. Over the past 40 years a black person is on average 4.2x more likely to get shot and killed by law enforcement than whites. While 13% of the US is black, they account for 26% of police killings. American Indians are the most likely oppressed nationality to by killed by police in the United States. They account for .8% of the national population but 1.9% of police killings. These “justifiable homicides” are nothing more than systematic murders rubber-stamped by the legal system echoing a long history of racist violence and terrorism in US history.

Economic inequalities have been consistently maintained since the days when US capitalism boomed on a slave based economy. Since 1989 peak values of wealth ratios were reached and have been in decline ever since. For example he unemployment rate nationally has fallen around 5% in 2014 but is below 5% for white communities while remaining at over 10% for black communities and over 6% for Latino/Latina communities. The median wealth of white households in 13 times greater then that of the median wealth of black households and 10 times greater than that of Latino/Latina households. In the years since the end of the “great recession” in 2010 median household earnings have fallen in the black community by over 50%. Median wealth has fallen as well representing both a decrease in earnings and savings. Across all communities of color in the US since 2010 median household incomes have fallen. Home ownership rates have likewise fallen for communities of color.

These trends represent a renewal of segregation in US society that represents systemic oppression and exploitation of communities of color. The results are felt in communities like Madison, WI not only when their youth are killed but in everyday life.

Madison is only a short distance away from Wisconsin’s largest city Milwaukee, one of the US’s most segregated cities. A city where police have routinely terrorized communities of color and killed unarmed citizens. Among them is Dontre Hamilton, a 31 year old suffering from mental illness who was murdered in a downtown park. Another is Derek Williams who died in the custody of Milwaukee police pleading for help because he could no breathe. Milwaukee police have a long and well-documented history of brutality towards communities of color.

These practices of police brutality are only symptoms of the greater social injustices and racism in US society today.  Racism and inequalities are the plagues of systems of colonialism, imperialism and capitalism ravaging our social fabric today. We must end racism and injustice across our society by challenging them everywhere they exist. Every institution perpetuating these plagues must be challenged and SDS stands firmly opposed to it anywhere it exists. We’re committed to taking on racism and injustice on our campuses, in our communities and across our country or anywhere else it exists. 

We demand justice for Tony Robinson and all those brutally murdered by police and state violence. We demand an end to the harassment, intimidation and attacks on communities of color. We demand and end to all practices of racism individually and collectively in our society. We affirm our commitment to the struggle for justice and the destruction of racism! When communities of color are under attack, we join with those who stand up and fight back! 

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