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SDS strengthens at 14th annual national convention

By Chrisley Carpio

Participants at SDS convention.

Jacksonville, FL – On September 20, New Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapters from across the United States convened at the University of North Florida to reaffirm their commitment to student organizing and to discuss ways to, “Stop Trump, Stop Racism, Stop U.S. Military and Police Terror.” The conference peaked at over 80 students with a dozen chapters represented.

Speeches and applause rang through the halls all weekend. Students opened the conference chanting, “Dare to struggle, dare to win!” The conference ended with, “It is our duty to fight for each other, it is our duty to win!”

On Saturday evening, students took to the streets of Jacksonville and rallied against police brutality at the Duval county courthouse. The second day of the conference, SDS calls to action showcased the seriousness of the activists of New SDS in building the student movement.

Students resolved to organize for “Justice for Botham Jean” who was murdered by police officer Amber Guyger. There are plans for protests if officer Guyger is acquitted. Students also voted to organize campus rallies on October 8 for LGBTQ+ rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is holding three hearings related to Title VII, calling for federal protections for LGBTQ+ people against harassment, termination and other discriminatory practices. Students also embraced a November 8 day of action on the anniversary of Trump’s election, in order to condemn Trump’s administration.

Students also renewed their determination to demonstrate against Trump's immigration policies, from the border wall to the concentration camps, and now ICE's new abilities to arrest and detain immigrants without a warrant. SDS embraced the demand for “Legalization For All” undocumented immigrants. SDS then pledged to continue organizing against hate crimes and white supremacist acts on campuses and to demand accountability from campus officials who allow them.

One of the highlights of the convention was a speech by Michael Sampson, a leading organizer of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, who spoke about the fight against police crimes. He discussed the movement to form civilian police accountability councils that is spreading across the country. New SDS as a national organization has endorsed this demand, as well as the upcoming refounding conference of the NAARPR, November 22-24 in Chicago.

Matthew Wheat, a new member of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, stated, “This was my first SDS convention. I was so happy to interact with and get to know other SDS members from around the country. Words cannot express how grateful I am to be a part of SDS, a group that is on the front lines of progressive change. I look forward to fighting bigotry and tyranny with a message of solidarity.”

SDS devoted much time on the panels and in workshops to strengthen their stance against U.S. wars and intervention, particularly the U.S. coup attempts in Venezuela. Students heard from Tracy Molm who visited Venezuela and saw firsthand the might of the Venezuelan people that crushed the attempted U.S. coup d’état.

New SDS resolved to continue to organize in solidarity with Venezuela, against the U.S. sanctions as well as other acts of war. SDS passed a resolution outlining the accomplishments of the Bolivarian Revolution in eradicating illiteracy and greatly expanding higher education as well as other social programs to benefit the people.

In response to Trump’s order to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia, in preparation for military aggression against Iran, SDS resolved to say, “No war on Iran!” SDS pledged also to resist U.S.-backed military aggression against the people’s movements in the Philippines and occupied Palestine as well.

SDS is united behind demands related to the climate crisis. Students proposed analysis and resolutions about the climate crisis, including a resolution calling for actions against fossil fuel industries that poison the earth, and a call to organize against pipeline constructions, similar to the Standing Rock campaign. SDS respects the sovereignty of indigenous people’s lands.

“The SDS convention was a think tank of conversations and exchange of ideas to inspire us and tell us to keep going. It is a reminder that student activists are here to stay and that we are not alone. We're on the right – no pun intended – track. Let's push things forward,” said Gabriela Medina from University of Texas Arlington Progressive Student Union.

“The SDS convention was an amazing show of student activism from around the country. We got to learn from each other’s struggles and make goals to build movements on our campus,” said Monique Sampson, of North Florida Students for a Democratic Society chapter, which hosted the convention.

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