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UCLA Students March Against War, 'Seize' Campus Building

By staff

Los Angeles, CA – On the April 17, a coalition of campus peace groups led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a protest against the U.S. war on Iraq. After a spirited rally at the site of the 1969 assassination of Black Panthers Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, the crowd marched through the campus, chanting the slogan, “Iraq for Iraqis! Troops out now!” before symbolically 'seizing' the student union building. Once inside, onlookers gawked in astonishment or gave the thumbs-up, as the deafening sound of anti-imperialist chanting, accompanied by the stomps, whistles, cheers and claps of the crowd, filled up the enclosed space. Finally, the protesters rallied in front of the building for more than hour, giving speeches, performances and thought-provoking materials to the passers-by before dispersing.

For many of the organizers and participants of the event, it was their first time being involved in a mass anti-war event on campus. “Many haven't done this sort of thing before, but now they are inspired, and we are already talking about what to do next,” said Eric Gardner, who is a campus employee as well as a member of SDS.

The protesters' principle demands were first of all for the immediate withdrawal of all the foreign troops from Iraq, and secondly the reallocation of the money and resources being spent for wars abroad to instead go towards education and other human needs at home. Several speakers also condemned the recruiting practices of the U.S. military, describing the targeting of immigrants, the poor and oppressed nationalities as exploitative and dishonest.

The timing of the event close to tax day was a deliberate choice. The organizers of the event say they sought to highlight the stark choice of jobs, education and health care on the one hand, versus bullets and bombs for occupation on the other. To publicize the event, on April 15 a team of students dressed up as IRS agents and handed people tax ‘bills’ for their ‘share’ of the cost of the war. Given the fact that the Regents of the university announced tuition increases only days before, the action sometimes elicited powerful reactions. Said one student, “Our hard earned tax dollars are going to fund a war for Bush's cronies, rather than the people’s needs. If that isn't upside down, then I don't know what is!”

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