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Students Protest 8 Years of War in Afghanistan

By Kati Ketz

Students holding a banner that says "US out of Afghanistan"

In a day of action organized by Students for a Democratic Society, October 7 saw dozens of protests across the country against the Afghanistan war on the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion. Students marched, conducted die-ins and skits, and some were arrested as they demanded money be spent at home on education and healthcare, instead of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Students Take Action

Hundreds of students marched in Washington, DC in a “Funk the War” event organized by DC Students for a Democratic Society. The demonstrators stormed the lobby of a building that houses Chevron, Shell, Blackwater’s lobbying group, United Technologies, and Clear Channel, demanding U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Gainesville, Florida, 40 people rallied in the Plaza of the Americas at the University of Florida to protest the war in Afghanistan. The protesters then marched to Turlington, chanting “Fund education, not occupation” and “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” The demonstrators held a “die-in” during a class change to symbolically represent innocents killed in war. Protester Fernando Figueroa said, “I think the demonstrations in both Gainesville and across the United States showed that students are willing to fight back against imperialism and demand that funding be used for education and not occupation…what we have done today doesn't end here. We will keep building the movement to end the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.”

In Asheville, North Carolina students shouted “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” across the quad on the University of North Carolina at Asheville. UNCA Students for a Democratic Society member Angela Denio said, “The people of Afghanistan have the right to self determination. Eight years of unjust U.S. occupation in Afghanistan has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties, and displaced too many families that are now living in extreme suffering and poverty.” The SDS chapter in Chapel Hill, NC also had 30 people protesting the war, with hundreds more stopping to listen to speeches.

A “Funk the War” protest by Rochester SDS that drew dozens into the streets demanding an end to the occupations and an end to militarization of schools ended violently, when almost 30 police cars interrupted the peaceful protest and began shoving students and community members, threatening them with batons, and spraying them with pepper spray. The police arrested 12 protestors, 2 of whom had to go to the hospital for injuries caused by police brutality. The first person arrested by the police was the only African-American student in the vicinity, and protestors quickly called the police out on this obvious racism. This protest was part of a larger campaign by Rochester SDS to end budget cuts and demilitarize their schools.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee SDS had a protest of 50 people including members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The protest led to SDSers starting a new campaign for education rights and to fight cutbacks on their campus, as well as a campaign against a racist student senator.

University of Houston SDS held a teach-in with 70 people in attendance. Afghanistan war veteran Matt Dobbs spoke about his experiences in two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and how he has come to oppose the war on a civilian population that is fighting a battle of self-defense against the U.S. occupation.

University of Minnesota SDS held a protest of 30 students that included a skit to demonstrate the need for funding to go to education and not the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grace Kelley of SDS linked the war to sexism at home, saying “It has been argued by many people, politicians, and even feminists, that the war in Afghanistan is in fact going to liberate the women of Afghanistan. This argument reveals a prejudiced belief that we Americans are in a culturally superior position to help, which is both bigoted and untrue. How can our military forces help the women in Afghanistan overcome their own cultural oppressions when we can’t even eliminate sexism within the military itself, with one in three female veterans reporting sexual assault while in service? How can we claim that we are creating a better world for Afghan women when our superior military force continues to widow them and maim their children? How can we say we are helping the people of Afghanistan when our bombs murder Afghan civilians everyday?”

An Unjust War

The war in Afghanistan is becoming more and more deadly as it continues. 311 coalition troops were killed in the war in 2009 alone, bringing the total of dead soldiers to 869. U.S. and NATO occupation forces do not keep track of civilian casualties, but many estimate that U.S. air strikes and gunfire have killed tens of thousands of Afghans. Just last month, U.S. air strikes killed over 90 Afghan civilians in the northern Afghan village of Omar Kheil. A similar strike in Farah province on May 4 this year killed 147 civilians.

Troop levels have increased from 5,200 in 2002 to 68,000 in 2009, with no talk of de-escalation or ending the war. The war is costing American taxpayers millions of dollars everyday – $228 billion overall, $60.2 billion of which was spent in 2009 alone.

There will be no justice for the Afghan people while U.S. and NATO forces occupy their country. Only full U.S. and NATO withdraw will give the Afghan people self-determination, their right. It is the continued responsibility of activists in the US to demand an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to insist that the hundreds billions of dollars being used to pay off the banks and wage war on peoples around the world be used for social needs at home, like education and healthcare.

Students holding colorful signs, marching in the streets

Student holding a sign that says "Self determination for the Afghan people"

Students listening to a speaker in a classroom

Students standing on a lawn holding antiwar signs

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