“Youth and students are going on the offensive,” said Jason Fults, a student organizer for the March 4 nationwide “Books Not Bombs” Day of Action. “We are going to fight back against the rollbacks, fight back against the criminalization of youth, against military recruitment on campuses. Youth and students are striking where they have the power – on the campuses,” he said.

Fults, a leader of the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and the Student Environment Action Coalition, spoke to the World about some of the actions that took place on hundreds of campuses across the nation last week.

Rallies, demonstrations, sit-ins, forums, and voter registration drives marked the second annual event. From campuses in upstate New York to southern Texas, youth and students spoke with one voice and, according to Fults, Books Not Bombs “resonated strongly.” Youth and students “see the connection between U.S. militarization and their everyday lives,” he said.

In Buffalo, N.Y., students participated in a mock funeral by placing books in a coffin symbolizing the death of education. “Our gathering today is a public outcry over our government’s priorities,” said Rachel Raderman of Buffalo State Students for Peace. “As education is cut, unlimited money goes to prisons and war. We stand in solidarity with students across the nation to resist this choice.”

Anand Perala, an Amnesty International leader on the same campus, said, “If we hope to achieve peace, we must value education and thought. By devaluing education, [Bush administration officials] make it easier to promote their wars and keep their power.”

Student activists in Texas also connected Bush’s war budget to cuts in education, tuition hikes, campus staff wages and benefits, and the militarization of our schools.

Brent Perdue, a senior at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, told the World, “Tuition rates are drastically increasing. Soon students in Texas state colleges will be paying $200-$300 more per semester. Our tuition dollars are now being used to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

Perdue and other students held a sit-in at the UT Board of Regents lunch to protest the tuition increases, while other students rallied outside and handed out educational material.

“College is supposed to be about education and positive human development,” said Perdue. “Students want a place where we can develop our skills as human beings.” But, he added, “military authority has had a chilling affect on youth and students. The police and campus administration are freely sharing students’ information with the FBI. This is a glimpse of things we thought were part of a bygone era, reminiscent of COINTELPRO,” referring to an FBI program of harassment against dissidents in the 1960s.

Perdue, like other Books Not Bombs activists, sees the day of action as a starting point for continuing struggle. “It is important to incorporate our existing issue-based work with electoral work. We need to get out the vote and talk with people about the interconnectedness” of war and education, militarization and civil liberties, he said.

Students and community activists held a “die-in” at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. Tara Dorabji, outreach director for Tri-Valley CARES (Communities Against Radioactive Environments) and the Coalition to Demilitarize UC, told the World, “There is a tight connection between U.S. militarization and the academic system. In fact, every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal was designed by a UC employee.” She added, “The Bush administration’s policies are played out on campuses. They promote the militarization of our campuses.”

Books Not Bombs sent a clear message to campus administrators, local politicians, and President Bush. According to Dorabji, that message was, “Youth and students are united and looking for a different kind of future. Youth and students see their campuses as a place where really positive social change can be created.” And, she added, “This is just the beginning of a really powerful movement.”

The author can be reached at tonypec@pww.org.

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