NEW YORK – On the eve of the peace rally that is set to bring out hundreds of thousands against the war, people across this city are in the middle of a fight against what has been called a “war economy.”

Students at Hunter College, a city-owned college in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, occupied the office of college President Jennifer Raab, Feb.11, protesting of a proposed $1,200 yearly tuition hike for City University of New York (CUNY) students. At a rally before the occupation, students presented Raab with a list of four demands: that she publicly oppose the tuition hike, the war in Iraq, city budget cuts, and INS detentions of foreign-born students.

“We shouldn’t have to pay higher tuition,” said Nelly Brown, a sophomore who participated in the take-over. “This [war] is absolutely connected to it. They don’t have enough money for us, so they’re hiking [tuition] up. At the same time, they want to spend billions of dollars on war … we’re not being represented. This war does not represent the majority of American people.”

Vasili, the president of the school’s Greek Club, and a member of the soccer team told the World, “This war is a matter of paying so many billions of dollars, and this tuition hike, on the other hand, is just a matter of a couple hundred million dollars … a war that shouldn’t even be, since the inspectors haven’t finished their work yet.”

Students involved said that they were upset with tuition hikes, but saw them in the context of a new “war economy,” which diverts money that could be used for needed social services into a military buildup in Iraq.

“The public hospitals are also at stake here, pre-kindergarten services are at stake here in New York State and City,” said student Daniel Taspirin, speaking to the rally of 400 people. Taspirin is a member of Student Liberation Action Movement, which organized the occupation and rally.

Protesting students had a lot of concern for the soldiers. “We’re not against the soldiers, we’re against the war,” said Sarah, a junior in the Hunter Anti-War Committee. “I have friends in the military. Hell yeah, I worry about them. I got a call last week from a friend who was going to Iraq the next day. I’m worried about a lot of people in my life who may be going to war.”

The next day teachers and staff of city-funded day care centers, members of Local 205 of American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 1707, went out on a one day strike, protesting that they have been without a contract since December of 2000. Also on strike were day care directors, represented by the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. They have not had a contract since March 2001.

Thousands of the day care workers and supporters showed up at City Hall for a rally demanding a contract and fair pay increases.

“We need our money! Bloomberg is holding our money. This is the first time we ever had to walk out,” said Melissa Davis, a 1707 member.

“We can’t even keep up with the cost of living, but the President wants to spend billions of dollars killing people. My son is in the military. I don’t want to lose him. Why does Bush want to spend the money on something that could get our sons and daughters killed in a far off land? That money should come here,” another 1707 member told the World.

The author can be reached at dmargolis@pww.org

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