Saturday, November 27, 2010

SDS Featured on R&B Video

"Look At Me"
by: Swag House Ent.
Dir. Ozzy Angulo

This is the debut video of local Gainesville Rap Artists Swag House Ent.
This is also my directorial debut and the first video produced by G-Ville Productions.

Related Articles:

The Gainesville Sun

The Independent Florida Alligator

Florida Students March Against Proposed Block Tuition

Gainesville, FL - Approximately 100 students rallied at Turlington Plaza on Nov. 17 with signs, bullhorns and petitions, demanding that the University of Florida halt its plan to implement Block Tuition starting Fall 2011. Block Tuition would force 60% of students to pay for more classes than they actually enroll in. Block Tuition would severely limit the ability of poor and working-class students to attend the University of Florida.

Gainesville Area Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) called for the rally in order to present the university president, Bernie Machen, with more than 800 signatures collected over a four day period. Students spoke out at Turlington Plaza around 12:30 p.m. before marching to Tigret Administration Hall holding signs reading “Tuition is too damn high! Students against Block Tuition!” and chanting “Education is a right - UF students, unite and fight!” The militant march culminated with a delegation of student activists forcing a meeting with University of Florida Provost Joe Glover and demanding that Block Tuition be stopped. An escalation is planned for Dec. 9, when the Board of Trustees will meet to make their final vote on Block Tuition.

SDS master of ceremonies Dave Schneider said, “An organized student resistance to Block Tuition is the only way to stop this assault on public education. The administration is united in supporting these changes and if we hope to defeat it, students must unite in their opposition.”

The struggle for education rights that is surging around the globe has come to Gainesville and the students promised to continue to fight for their rights by any means necessary.

-Fernando Figueroa
Fight Back News

Related Articles:

Fight Back News

The Gainesville Sun

The Independent Florida Alligator

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 17th Rally in Turlington AGAINST Block Tuition

On Wednesday, November 17th at 12:30 PM, students across campus are invited to come out to a teach-in rally at Turlington Plaza AGAINST BLOCK TUITION. At 1 PM, the people at the rally will march to Tigert Hall and present Administration with a stack of petitions signed by students against Block Tuition.

If Block Tuition is put into effect, all full-time undergraduate students (12 - 18 credit hours) will be charged a flat fee equivalent to 15 credit hours. This means that students taking fewer than 15 credit hours--more than half of UF undergraduates--would pay extra tuition money for nothing. This Block Tuition system disproportionately harms low-income and working students, who take lighter course-loads out of monetary necessity or to balance school with their jobs.

On Friday, November 5th, the Florida Board of Governor's amended their bylaws to allow a proposal for Block Tuition to be heard. The UF Board of Trustees will now design a proposal, vote on it in December, and send it to the Board of Governors to take effect in FALL 2011!!

This rally is aimed at educating students about the harmful impacts of this new tuition structure, and building mass student support for a rally on December 9th, when the UF Board of Trustees hears and votes on the actual Block Tuition proposal.

RSVP on the Facebook event here.

Block the Block Tuition Proposal

We're re-posting an excellent editorial on the negative impacts of Block Tuition written by journalist Autar Kaw in The Tampa Tribune from April 10, 2004. Although the editorial was written in response to a Block Tuition proposal at University of South Florida (USF), rather than UF, it's just as relevant to the Gator struggle against unfair tuition practices. You can read the original article here.

When I go to the movies, I order a small Sprite. Without fail, the cashier says, “For only 25¢ more, you can get a medium.” I can afford the extra quarter, especially when a small Sprite costs three dollars. But, because I want to avoid taking a restroom break in the middle of a movie, I stick with my choice of a small Sprite. I would feel cheated if the only size available was large, even when I still can drink only a portion of it.

That is what the block tuition proposal is exactly asking our state university students to do. Pay for 15 credit hours every semester no matter how many courses you can afford to take.

More and more people from other nations, most of them the brightest in their class, come here to get an education. In spite of all the grumblings about low rankings in mathematics and science in standardized world tests, what is that still makes American university education the best and most sought after system in the world. It is the opportunity and the exposure- field trips, use of technology in the classroom, hands-on projects, laboratory experience, internships and co-operative education, integration of state-of-art research into the classroom, involvement in professional and community service, recreational activities, year round cultural, political, recreational and social events, innovative textbooks, attention to learning styles, accommodation of the disabled. Do I need to keep going?

The concept of block tuition is contrary to what American education is all about. Block tuition is an invitation to cookie-cutter education, and such systems will take away the exposure and opportunities that higher education offers. Education will become accessible only to students who can afford the extra tuition. Students will be tempted to enroll for five courses, even when they know they will not have the time to study.

A general rule of thumb is that for every credit hour, in addition to the hour spent attending class, a student should spend two hours studying. For a 15-credit hour load, this means a load of 45 hours per week. That is more hours than a regular full time employee works. Even students who are on scholarships may find losing future eligibility as 15 credit hours of coursework could lead to failing or low grades.

A few state university presidents talk about the good-old days that when they were in college more students graduated on time. In fact, until mid 1970s, Florida charged block tuition but today the demographics of our students are different. More than half of USF students I know go to community colleges to get a low-cost education for the first two years. Their financial circumstances most probably do not improve while they are at USF. Many of these students are not even the traditional age. In a survey of over 100 students conducted of my class at USF in 2002-03, over 20% of the students were over 27 years of age. More than half were working 20 hours or more per week to make ends meet, and the same number was registered for 12 credit hours or less. Most of these students are getting little or no support from parents while 15% of the above groups are parents of young children themselves. These students are generally changing or improving their careers, and they need to be encouraged. An obligation of a civilized society is to encourage diversity, and this group of nontraditional students deserves as much equal opportunity as any other group.

Since we see demands of tuition hikes every year, we wonder what universities do with additional tuition? Tuition in Florida has been historically low, and the demands on universities are higher than ever. Universities need to keep up with rapid change in technology and demands of the workforce. The latter is resulting in offering of more degree programs such as biotechnology, occupational therapy, etc. Politicians do not help the cause either because they want new independent universities, and expensive programs like medical and law schools in their backyard.

Since governmental financial aid packages have been shrinking, the burden of offering financial aid goes to the university. It would unconscionable, if part of the hike in tuition costs is not used to increase the level of financial aid to make tuition hikes transparent to low-income students. The low-income students are yet another group that is most ignored in affirmative action and diversity initiatives.

In some cases, tuition hikes are used to compete for superstar researchers, who get exorbitant salaries and need expensive laboratory equipment while doing little undergraduate teaching. Also, upper level administration in most Florida universities is known to be top heavy.

Now back to some more reasons that block tuition is a premature idea. Block tuition will reduce the number of students participating in professional and community service. Being involved in these activities is as integral to one’s education as being in the classroom and making a passing grade. This is where students learn informally about teamwork with their peers, apply and synthesize their knowledge, and network with working professionals.

For a strong professional workforce and for attracting high paying jobs to Florida, students need training in interdisciplinary subjects. This may require students to enroll in more courses than their degree requires. We should be encouraging such students.

Students changing their major of study should not be penalized unless they abuse the privilege. Would you like somebody teaching your children if an education major finds out they absolutely hate being a teacher! Exploration is an integral part of the American education. Our state politicians suggest “they want to make education efficient and effective,” and “the state should not underwrite exploration.” First, efficient and effective can sometimes be contrary to each other. If a student comes to my office with a problem, I can simply hand him a copy of the solution. That is efficiency. If I take the time to guide him to find the answer himself, that is effectiveness. Second, if the state does not “underwrite exploration”, it will make the education system look more like that of the rest of the world, and that is a sure way to lose the very edge that makes our education system not just unique but one that graduates the most competitive and productive workforce in the world.

Since 1976, “all students at USF with fewer than 60 semester hours of credit are required to earn at least 9 semester hours of credit prior to graduation by attendance during one or more summer semesters.” If the 15-credit hours block tuition proposal is imposed, then a student has enough credits to get his 120-credit hour degree in four academic (Fall and Spring semesters) years. You will have to drop the current summer residency requirement, and that itself would be a waste of physical and human resources of the university. The solution maybe to adopt a trimester system (Saturday Forum, January 17, 2004) creating its own problem of a shorter academic year and a four-month long summer semester. Faculty members, who are on academic year contract, conduct most of their research during summer. This means that they will have to find more local research or teaching opportunities in summer, as federal agencies do not allow support of faculty salaries of more than two months, no matter how many federal grants one has.

When I talked about my reservations about the block tuition plan, a handful of my colleagues mentioned, “You are from the old school; change is inevitable.” Although I take issue with the former, I could not agree more with the latter. It is the change in demographics of our students and the demands of the workforce our legislators need to recognize. There is an old German saying, “Before you change anything, know what you are changing.”

Just like marriage and family, a university is an institution and not a business. You do not penalize its members because it is not run like a business. Such action is reserved only if the members break its covenant. If a university wants to be a business, then a university needs to act like a business. As a business, a university should eradicate degree and athletic programs that are not profitable, should not ask anyone for charitable contributions, participate only in beneficial volunteer activities, make as few accommodations as required by the law to the disabled, play commercials after every eight minutes of a class period, and only allow scholarly activities that generate profit. If we adopt these business principles, just imagine what a fast food version of a university we will become. “Would you like fries with that?” would be the only question left unasked.

Monday, November 1, 2010

SDS Pierson Door-to-Door Blog

Saturday, Oct. 23rd -Seven SDS members traveled to Pierson, FL to engage in door-to-door canvassing for the campaign to elect Tony Ramos to the city commission. As we began our work around ten in the morning, we found out that Tony had been featured on the front page of the largest county newspaper. The article clearly showed Tony’s adversary, James Peterson, to be a traditional Southern incumbent who chooses to ignore his own constituency. He himself admits that he would not be talking to Hispanic voters because he believes that none of them speak English.

The incumbent’s apparent “racist” strategy, to ignore all non-white voters, will be his downfall as SDS moved into the neighborhoods that have been so long forgotten by the local government. SDS, along with Tony, Marcos, and two neighborhood boys, began by splitting the volunteers into three groups to target different segments of community. Armed with personalized letters to each of the voters and the enthusiasm that only comes from fighting against racist ignorance, we knocked on door after door after door.

As we greeted the voters, the overwhelming theme that moved them the most was the lack of representation that Hispanics and blacks in their local government. House after house, we found more and more people who were fed up with feeling ignored and who promised us their votes. The only thing more powerful than their desire to change things in Pierson was their overwhelming kindness. Although Marcos and Tony seemed to know every person like an old friend, many of us were strangers to the people we talked to, but yet we were treated with little suspicion and with plenty of compassion. We were invited to barbeques, offered drinks, and given the most delicious meals.

It is without a doubt that we faced much more success in the black and Hispanic areas than in the white areas, with minority households giving us their support virtually every time. The candidates’ campaign strategies reflected very well on their general plans for office. Peterson has chosen to ignore the minority areas because he has never had to paid attention to them before while in office. He is counting on the power of his wealth to defeat the power of the working people of Pierson. In our experiences in Pierson, we have witnessed firsthand how the general working folks view their city and government. They know full well that wealthy whites control the town and think they can control it forever. More important than this knowledge is their willingness to fight against the racist “good ole’ boy” Southern system and we in SDS have marched alongside them and will continue to do so.

With this, we wish good luck to Tony Ramos for November the 2nd, we’ll be rooting for you compañero.

-Students for a Democratic Society

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Phone Banking for Tony Ramos

With only 5 days until election day, members of SDS came together to give the City Council race in Pierson, Fl one final push towards descriptive representation.

Dividing almost 100 phone numbers was no hassle among compañer@s. The list of registered voters rotated between six volunteers, each using their own cell phones to make the calls. With script in hand, we set out to survey voter support for Tony Ramos, the first Hispanic candidate to challenge the perpetual incumbents of this evolving small town. We also inquired about the need for transportation, since SDS will be offering rides to the polls on election day to ensure high participation in the democratic process.

As with most phone-banking efforts, we ran into the common hurdles of disconnected numbers and absent parties. The people we were able to reach, however, had an encouraging response. The few undecided voters were politely on the fence yet open to listen, we had almost no straight negative responses, and the higher tallied number of answers fell under the Yes category. Moreover, those who expressed their support for Tony sounded enthusiastic and eager to cast their ballot.

The results of November 2nd are hard to predict, but we hope our efforts will help Pierson, Fl bridge the gap between the people and their elected officials through the victory of Tony Ramos.

Hasta La Victoria!

- Compañera Diana Moreno
Related Articles:

The Daytona News Journal

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Like Monarch Butterflies?

Like Monarch Butterflies?
The Poetic Politics of Pierson, Florida

Terms like “monarch butterflies” and “birds of passage” have been deployed historically to describe the political experience of Mexican migrants in the United States. Like “homing pigeons,” Mexican migrants in the US were believed to be constantly looking south, migrating seasonally to the US to work, with the intent of ultimately returning with their earnings to their communities of origin in México. Politically, this meant that Mexican migrants were not interested in engaging in US public affairs, thus fomenting the image of a legally vulnerable reserve of labor at the whim of US capital. In the words of one scholar, Mexican migrants were: “always the workers, never the citizens.”

At the turn of the 21st century, that image has been radically transformed. With tremendous purchasing power, it has become abundantly clear that migrants are an important economic and political force on both sides of the border. On the US side, recent mass demonstrations have made it clear that migrants are more than ready to mobilize for their civic and political rights therein. Far from being a zero-sum relationship, migrants are increasingly demonstrating an interest and capacity to democratically engage in the politics of their home and host countries.

At the community level, an example of Latino political mobilization is unfolding in tiny Pierson, Florida. Tony Ramos, son of migrant farm workers from México and lifelong Pierson resident, is the first Latino to vie for city office in Pierson history. On a recent visit, SDS volunteers for Ramos’ campaign painfully realized the barriers to Latino political incorporation firsthand. With infectious enthusiasm, the campaign volunteers split up into cadres and set out to register as many voters in Pierson streets, stores and residences as they possibly could. At a local store, the campaign volunteers were kicked-out by store management, unsympathetic to the idea of a Latino running for office in their town. On the Mexican side of town, volunteers encountered the barriers to incorporation within the Latino community itself. Some eligible Latinos were rightfully skeptical that the political process would benefit their interest. “Why vote,” questioned one man. “Politicians don’t do any thing for us. Look at Obama,” referring to the current administration’s failure to act on immigration reform. Others were interested but ineligible to vote. “I can’t vote. I am a convicted felon,” said a young Latino Pierson business owner, who nevertheless volunteered to spread the word about Ramos’ campaign, seeing the value of a co-ethnic running for political office. “That is what we need around here,” he concluded.

Demoralized, the first cadre of volunteers returned to the de facto headquarters of the Ramos campaign, with only one completed voter registration form to show for their efforts. There, Tony made conversation with a middle-aged Mexican migrant who offered words of encouragement to the group of visibly tired volunteers. “Don’t lose hope”, he said. “Little by little, people will spread the word about the work you are doing and become informed and interested in Tony’s campaign.” Indeed, this very well may turn out to be a gradual process of political (re)socialization for Latinos in Pierson. An earlier incident that day provides a telling lesson. During the mid-day lunch break, when enthusiasm was still running high among the volunteers, Beto—a veteran of SDS—joined the group, holding in his hands a butterfly he found lying outside, unable to fly. Beto took the butterfly and delicately trimmed around her wings with a pair of scissors, as the rest of us watched in awe. “She can’t fly because her wings are asymmetrical,” he explained. Holding the butterfly up with his index finger, she tentatively began to flap her wings. “She has to learn to fly with her new wings,” said Beto. The work of the campaign volunteers is similar to Beto’s attempt to aid the butterfly. By insisting to register and mobilize Latinos to vote, Ramos’ campaign volunteers are attempting to get them to fly with a new set of proverbial political wings, and thereby challenge the asymmetric power relations in Pierson and, by extension, in the US south. This effort at migrant political mobilization can have far-reaching implications. If Mexican migrants, in particular, continue to act like “monarch butterflies”, that traverse political space, then they will likely challenge asymmetric power relations on a transnational, cross-border scale.

-Compañero Adrian Felix

Related Articles:

The Daytona Beach News Journal

Monday, October 18, 2010

SDS - Protest The Grand Opening of a Publix in Gainesville

Publix opened its thirteenth Gainesville branch this past Thursday, and the new store was welcomed by warm weather, blue skies and a group of activists with bullhorns. The demonstrators, coordinated by Gainesville Area SDS, were part of a state-wide movement asking Publix to sit down with representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to discuss contracts guaranteeing their farm workers a living wage.

The CIW demands that Publix pay its farm workers a penny more per pound of tomatoes, and the corporation has consistently dismissed requests to negotiate. This past week the CIW coordinated labor rights actions in cities across Florida, making it clear that they would not be ignored.

This is not the first time that SDS has worked with the CIW to effect change. Following a series of protests and boycotts facilitated by SDS, a coalition of organizers successfully negotiated a contract with Aramark, the food distributor for the University of Florida. This past February Aramark agreed to improve the wages and working conditions for the farm workers who supplied produce to restaurants and dining halls on campus. Because so much produce in the Florida area comes from Immokalee, the CIW has struggled to represent the interests of immigrant labor for over a decade. The group has uncovered and brought attention several cases of modern day slavery in Immokalee, and works to bring justice to laborers across the Southeast.

On Thursday, SDS helped garner awareness and support for Publix workers with a group of twenty-five students and community members. Activists came out for the morning’s grand opening ceremony, and returned in the evening to reach rush hour traffic. Stationed on the sidewalks outside the store, protesters held signs demanding living wages for farm workers while SDS leaders Dave Schneider and Diana Moreno used their megaphones to lead chants and ask Publix shoppers to bring up the issue to store managers. The group was positively received by customers and passersby, and some cars stopped traffic to shout words of worker solidarity through their windows. The local media in Gainesville documented the day of action, Moreno, explained to a newscaster that neither SDS nor the CIW were trying to demonize Publix, its employees or its customers. The demonstrators, she explained, were just asking the corporation to treat its workers with the dignity and respect they deserve. In its mission statement, Publix commits to being a responsible citizen of its community. SDS and the CIW will ensure they live up to that promise.

-Kelsey Antle

Monday, October 11, 2010

SDS Protests the 9th Anniversary of the Afghanistan WAR

As a crowd in white assembled in the Plaza of the Americas of the University of Florida on Thursday afternoon, many passersby approached to hear a much needed message. The war in Afghanistan has now been going strong for a full nine years, the longest war in U.S. history, and on this ninth anniversary, Gainesville area SDS took a public stand against it.

With a campaign consisting of wearing white shirts to show support for peace and an end to the war in Afghanistan, SDS recruited several hundred students across campus to participate. This day-long display for peace culminated in a rally in the late afternoon with eight organizations and many student and community supporters in attendance. Fact sheets were distributed at the rally informing those attending of disturbing figures regarding the war, and why it needs to be ended. The demands were clear: end the war now and bring the troops home. Speaking to a crowd of about 50 people, ten representatives spoke through a megaphone in support of these demands. Organizations showing solidarity with SDS in its campaign included both Code Pink and Campus Code Pink, Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Peace in Korea, ISO, the Farmworker Association of Florida, and Vets for Peace. All of the speakers had important and often moving things to say.

Fernando Figueroa of SDS affirmed the long-standing tradition of SDS demanding funding for jobs and education, rather than imperialist wars. John Fullerton of Vets for Peace reminded the crowd that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home. Michelle Harris from Code Pink reaffirmed their opposition to the false idea that this is a “war of liberation” for Afghani women. Speaking on behalf of SDS, Conor Munro brought to light the often unnoticed fact that the United States has been in Afghanistan for almost half of most college students’ lives, while a seventh of the population of the US lives in poverty. Mark Jaskowski of the Gainesville ISO also connected what often seems like a distant, irrelevant war to our situation here at home, reminding the crowd that it is our generation that is and will continue to be sent to war until it is stopped. Tying all of these issues together as interrelated, Dave Schneider (SDS) called for a renewed commitment to rebuilding the anti-war movement, a goal to which many who left the rally felt it was time to take seriously. This final note of optimism to rejuvenate the anti-war movement will surely lead many toward activism, and if necessary, result in a commanding presence in the rally of the ten year anniversary.

-Sean Larson

Related Article:

The Independent Florida Alligator

Friday, September 24, 2010

SDS Supports Farmworker Son Political Candidacy

Demography IS Destiny:

Political Dispatches from Pierson, Florida

By: Compañero Adrian

The farming town of Pierson, Florida is a microcosm of the transformations unfolding throughout the US south’s racialized political economy. In the last few decades, Pierson has gone from being a community of white farm owners and working poor Blacks, to a community of white farm owners and predominantly Latino migrant farm workers. For decades, these migrant farm workers, mostly from México and Central America, have toiled and lived in Pierson. They’ve experienced poor working conditions, including exposure to pesticides, and poor pay and living standards. Despite these adverse circumstances, migrant workers have raised families in Pierson, such that, today, the community is majority Latino. Lacking political representation, these migrant farm workers have relied on strategies of self-help to redress their needs: they’ve formed a farm worker association as well as established a credit union for their basic financial transactions, such as cashing their paychecks and remitting funds to relatives in Latin America.

To date, these demographic transformations have not led to political change in Pierson, however. A look at the ballot for the November elections for city government is telling. Three of the four city seats—all held by white men—are unchallenged, a common occurrence in Pierson politics. Disenfranchisement of migrant farm workers has in part helped sustain a non-competitive electoral environment characterized by incumbency advantage. When term limits are up, city officials simply rotate positions. And it is not that these public officials are being rewarded for their performance in office. When hurricanes struck the region a few years back, federal relief aid was driven out by Pierson city officials for allegedly keeping migrant workers from returning to the farms. Several city representatives are farm owners, raising concern of the use of public office for personal gain (e.g. altering city zoning codes for personal advantage). Some are also owners of the dwellings where migrant farm workers live. Recently, trash pick-up was eliminated from these living quarters, so as to cut taxes from the property owners, placing strain on tenants and potentially on the city.

This election cycle, there is a possibility that the political status quo might change in Pierson. The sole contender for city council is determined to usher this political change. The son of migrant workers from México, Tony Ramos was raised in Pierson. A graduate of Stetson University with a major in political science, the 31-year-old Ramos has returned to live and work in Pierson ever since. He is well known and respected in the community, participating in non-governmental organizations and in the city’s Little League. Politically, Ramos is a viable candidate. For one, he is a political outsider. Unlike the incumbents, Ramos is not a career politician. As a community member, Ramos has a keen awareness of the issues important to Pierson residents, citing, for example, the need for paved sidewalks where children walk to school. At a recent meeting with volunteers for his campaign, Ramos comfortably conversed in English and Spanish to a diverse group of SDS and local community members. “Personally, I just want to express my gratitude to all of you,” said an unassuming Tony Ramos. “I think we’ve got a good shot at winning this.” The enthusiasm was palpable among the volunteers, who plan on conducting voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns in the coming weeks. These foot soldiers of political change in Pierson are determined to show that demography is destiny.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gainesville SDS Stands Against Islamophobia

In anticipation of the planned Qu'ran burning by the Dove Outreach World Centre, the Gainesville SDS, in conjunction with other progressive groups in Gainesville, as well as Florida and the United States, joined together to stand up against Islamophobia and bigotry. Under pressure from these groups as well as political and military leaders and protests in countries like Afghanistan and Indonesia, the pastor of the Dove Outreach World Centre, Terry Jones, canceled the event. However this does not mean that the Dove Outreach World Centre represents a problem that not only plagues Gainesville, Florida but also the United States.

Despite concerns that the news of the cancellation would discourage people from coming to the protest as well as the alternate events provided, the protest saw more than 300 people, some arriving as far as New York and Chicago. The protest began with a rally at the Possum State Park, where speeches given by both student leaders, religious figures, and others, inspiring the crowds. Following the rally, the people marched towards the Dove Outreach World Centre, chanting and bearing signs that spoke against religious intolerance and hatred like "All the world, come and see. We won't stand for bigotry". Upon arriving at the church, the crowds were greeted by a media frenzy who documented the massive protest outside the door of the Dove Outreach World Center.

Media Coverage:


The Washington Post

Fight Back

Tiger Review (High School Newspaper)

St. Augustine Record


The Gainesville Sun

El Mundo

La Razón

CNN (censored online version where they took out the SDS part-after it was broadcasted nationally)

Ahmadiyya Times

Workers World

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leading activist group to spearhead protest demanding authorities shut down illegal Qur’an burning.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)—who rallied the Gainesville community in favor of immigrant rights and protests against police brutality—will lead a protest against the controversial Qur’an burning event planned for 9/11 by the Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC). The protest will begin on September 11 at 5PM at the nearby Possum Creek Park from which protesters will march to the DWOC and picket the event.

The DWOC called for an International “Burn a Qur’an day” to coincide with 9/11, which was subsequently met with widespread condemnation from the American public and global community. Although the DWOC was denied a city burn permit twice, they have vowed to illegally burn Qur’ans.

SDS maintains that the DWOC’s Qur’an burning is an illegal hate crime, equivalent to the burning of crosses by the Ku Klux Klan. They are leading a protest of hundreds of people from all over the country to the doorstep of the DWOC to demand and ensure that authorities prevent the crime from occurring. The DWOC’s hate crime sends a message to the Muslim world that the United States lacks any respect for their faith, which only serves to fuel military conflict in the Middle East and Central Asia.

SDS believes that the DWOC’s illegal hate crime must be confronted peacefully but directly by the Gainesville community and the entire American people. This protest is the first step in building a national movement to combat Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism in the United States.

Who: Students for a Democratic Society, the Arab and Muslim community, the Gainesville community and their progressive allies across Florida.

What: Protest against the organized burning of the Qur’an by the DWOC.

Where: Possum Creek Park, 4009 NW 53rd Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32653

When: 5:00 PM—9:00PM September 11th, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

States Attorney’s Office Occupied!!!

Gainesville, FL - Students and community members joined a third rally, April 20, demanding justice for Kofi Adu-Brempong, the African student shot in the face by university police. Over 120 people showed up at the protest, which started in the Plaza of Americas, on the University of Florida campus, and ended at the State Attorney’s office. This took place after several meetings between the Coalition for Justice Against Police Brutality and the University of Florida administration - including the chief of the university police department, Linda Stump and the president, Bernie Machen.

Despite a 50/50 chance of rain, the protest kicked off with a few speakers from Students for a Democratic Society and Michael Leslie, a black professor at the University of Florida. From there, the protesters marched off of campus and into the streets, taking a lane of traffic while chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” Marching to downtown Gainesville, the protesters chanted outside the state attorney’s office and shortly afterwards occupied it. The plan was to present a list of demands to Bill Cervone, the state attorney. However, Cervone had left town earlier.

During the occupation, the angry crowd used megaphones and shouted to bring a representative of the attorney’s office out of the back rooms to answer questions. The dialogue ended with a future meeting with him. Afterwards, the Coalition went outside and continued the protest. Gainesville police, who were waiting outside, sat on the sidelines while protesters yelled, “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” The day ended with several speakers and media interviews. The Coalition’s purpose for the rally was to present Cervone with the promise that if he does not side with the demands of the community then he will not keep his job as state attorney for long.

The Coalition will still continue to fight on behalf of Kofi and against police brutality.

By Jared Hamil |
April 21, 2010
Fight Back News Paper

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Farmworkers March 22 Miles for Better Wages & An End to Slavery.

Lakeland, FL – Over 1,500 farmworkers and their allies gathered throughout the weekend of April 16-18 to fight for an end to slave-labor practices and for higher wages in South Florida.

Participants of the march gathered first in Tampa and marched over a period of 2 days to Lakeland, ending the march in front of the Corporate Headquarters for Publix Supermarkets. People from Texas, California, Minnes

ota, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida and other parts of the country marched in solidarity with the farmworkers. Members of Students for a Democratic Society and the Student/Farmworker Alliance traveled from Gainesville, FL to participate in this historic “Farmworker Freedom March.” The participants marched over 22 miles in their quest for justice.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been struggling for several months to make Publix sit down with the farmworkers and sign onto a contract. Such a contract would would make Publix pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked by the farmworkers, as well as ensuring that human rights abuses and cases of modern day slavery in the fields came to an end. The Farmworker Freedom March came less than a month after the CIW won their battle against Aramark, a major food service provider, and forced Aramark to sign onto a penny more per pound of tomatoes and a

n end to human rights abuses.

The CIW brought a moving truck that had been converted into a museum to the march. The truck was part of the “Modern Day Slavery Museum” the workers had been bringing throughout Florida as they built for the Farmworker Freedom March. Inside the truck were stories, pictures, and exhibits about the farmworkers who had been chained up at night in such trucks and forced to work, often at gunpoint, as slaves. A group of workers cut through the chains and breeched the roof of the truck before escaping and exposing the wretched conditions their bosses had subjected them to, leading to the prosecution of 7 separate cases of modern day slavery.

Morale was high as the workers concluded the third day of the march by speaking out at rally about why their struggle against Publix was just.

“We from Immokalee may be poor, but we're not alone,” coalition member Lucas Benitez said to the crowd that had gathered from all over the country. The CIW has never lost a campaign.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SDS participates in the justice for Kofi march.

Gainesville students protest police shooting

By Jared Hamill |
March 17, 2010

Gainesville, FL - Over 400 angry protesters - a coalition of students, local residents and university professors - rallied and marched to protest the racist police shooting of Kofi Adu-Brempong.

Adu-Brempong is an international graduate student from Ghana who was shot in the face by a University of Florida policeman. After receiving a call from a neighbor concerned that Adu-Brempong was screaming, due to stress over his studies and his immigration status, campus police stormed his apartment, tased him three times and then shot him in the face with an assault rifle.

Adu-Brempong is hospitalized in critical condition, having lost his tongue and jaw. Incredibly, the police action took less than 30 seconds. Having suffered a case of childhood polio, Adu-Brempong was unable to walk without a cane. To add to the outrage, the University of Florida police charged him with a felony for ‘resisting arrest with violence.’

Gainesville Area Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led the campus action. Beginning with a rally and speakers at Turlington Plaza, the mass of protesters marched through campus to the Board of Trustees in the Emerson Hall Alumni Building. The Board of Trustees governs the entire university. Since the building was closed to the public, the protesters pulled the doors open, pushed past security and took over the building.

They presented the board with a list of demands, including dropping all charges against Kofi Adu-Brempong. The other important demand is the firing of Keith Smith, the officer who shot Kofi in the face. In 2008, Keith Smith was given a verbal warning by the Gainesville city police department where he previously worked. Smith and three other police officers were throwing eggs and harassing African Americans in the local community. The university police ignored this warning and hired Keith Smith.

As the students settled in, waiting to see how the Board of Trustees would respond, tension rose inside the boardroom. After a half hour, a trustee came out to speak to the protesters. Following his lead, the students proceeded to give speeches about stopping police brutality and continuing the fight for Adu-Brempong. An hour later, the protesters decided the demands of the coalition were clearly received by the board and left the building.

Then the protesters marched to the Tigert Hall Administration Building for another rally, targeting University President Bernie Machen. Unfortunately President Machen was “out of town.” The students chanted, “Justice for Kofi!” and “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”

Fernando Figueroa, of Gainesville SDS spoke: “We will not let up until we gain justice for Kofi. We are taking a stand against police brutality and racism on our campus and throughout the country.” Figueroa continued, “It is astounding to see so few reporters covering the point blank shooting of an African man in the face here. This is the same campus where you could not walk ten feet without bumping into a reporter or TV crew following a white student’s famous ‘Don’t tase me bro!’ incident.”

Late in the afternoon, the student protesters attended a student government meeting to demand a resolution calling for a grand jury investigation of the racist cop. With some persuasion, the resolution passed. With protests heating up in Gainesville, the Coalition for Justice Against Police Brutality vows to continue the fight for Kofi Adu-Brempong.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

How We Beat Aramark.

It is slightly old news by now, but after about 6 months of work, we were able to get Aramark to sign an agreement with the CIW that will help improve the lives of thousands of farm workers in Immokalee Florida. It is definitely one of our biggest accomplishments, and one we are definitely proud to have played a large role in.

Gainesville Area SDS had been involved before with the CIW, back when they were focusing on Chipotle and Subway. I attended a protest with some CHISPAS people outside Chipotle, and several of us gave letters to the management of Subway next to the old Civic Media Center, but that's about it. We didn't really kick things off till the Fall of 09, when some of our people went down to Immokalee Florida. They would come back and form a chapter of the Student Farmworker Alliance.

One of the first things we did to kick the campaign off was to submit a piece of legislation to Student Government asking for Aramark to sit down and meet with the CIW. It met with fierce opposition from some members of the majority party, and was unable to get the necessary 2/3 requirement for it to pass. After the election cycle was over, we resubmitted and got the necessary support the next time around. It was a major victory for us, one that other campuses would replicate and something we would put on a lot of our literature.

Our first major protest happened on October 24, 2009. The Alligator reported “over 100” people were at the protest, but it seemed more like 150 to me. It was a Saturday morning, which made it slightly more difficult to get students out, but older community members and a bus load of people from the CIW more than made up for it. We marched from the Plaza of Americas to the Reitz Union, where we heard speeches and went to the Gator Dining offices to leave information. We then went to Gator Dining and chanted outside there for awhile, before going to Publix. It was an exciting day, and got a lot of us pumped up to do more.

At later meetings, we would frequently discuss the idea of how to escalate our tactics to the next level. One of the more powerful ideas we came up with was to create a pamphlet directed towards the Preview students, informing them about the nature of Aramark services on campus and directing them to other sources of food, including free food (which there is a lot of in Gainesville). Some of our people were asked to leave the first couple of time we did this to the Junior level transfers, but Aramark didn't seem to take this very seriously until we did it to the incoming group of Spring Freshman. I had the cops called on me by two different people when I refused to leave.

We had another major protest on February 10th, following a failed meeting attempt with the local Aramark representative. We chanted and marched around the Reitz Union, and refused to stop when one of the Reitz Union managers tried to grab our people. Though smaller, this protest was more militant than the last one and I believe played a large part in showing the administration we were dead serious about our threats of escalation.

When we finally met with the “Big Whigs” from Aramark, they realized we weren't just a group of stupid kids who they could make go away. Shortly afterward, we were informed that their cave was imminent. Aramark apparently cited us as a significant source of pressure for why they caved to the CIW.

The lesson, I think, people should take away from this is the need to continuously escalate. Raising awareness about the issue isn't simply enough: you have to be prepared to demonstrate and to take some direct action against your target that will hurt them financially. Every person we convinced with our fliers not to buy the meal plan cost Aramark $2,000, and our conservative estimate is we convinced about 20-30 students not to do it. Money is the language these people speak, and paying $20 extra for every ton of tomatoes they purchase is a lot cheaper than ignoring a campaign like the one we waged going nation-wide against them.

I would recommend campuses everywhere replicate our campaign. Many people told us our Aramark campaign was hopeless, as they were a pretty stubborn company. It only took us 6 months to force them to meet with the CIW. It probably won't take very long to take companies like Sodexo down with these same tactics, especially if practiced on a much wider scale than our single campus.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Minutes--March 1 Meeting

I. Washington DC, March 20
• Saturday, March 20—Washington DC protest against the war in Iraq hosted by the ANSWR Coalition.
- Discounts with AVIS, 7 passenger van for $122 (including limited liability and unlimited mileage) for the entire event.
- $35-40 per person to get to and from Washington DC
- Shoot for 14 people
- Travel time: 14 hrs and 45m
Lodging and Food—Fern
- In contact with a couple friends who could possibly offer lodging
- Food estimates—$20-25
Networking and Outreach—Justin
- Need volunteers to go to interested groups (IOC [Karim], SJP [Dave/Justin], HWA [Alan Brooks], Amnesty [Jeremiah], ISO [Diana])
- People should see if they have obligations on Friday, because tentatively we would be leaving Friday morning
Facebook event/Fliers—Diana, Jerimiah
- It will be up tonight.
• $10 non-refundable commitment fee due by final planning meeting on Tuesday, March 16th

II. Summation of Saturday’s Protest
• Titusville rally in opposition to potential NASA privatization by AFL-CIO national office.

III. New terms of affiliation with YAYA
• Youth and Young Adults (Farmworker Group) wants to affiliate with SDS.
• Beto read off several conditions, which SDS already meets.
• The group agreed to allow YAYA to affiliate with SDS in Gainesville.

IV. SJP Event, Wednesday
• This Wednesday at 1130 AM in the Plaza of the Americas
• Guerrilla Theater event representing Palestinians roped off in Gaza from international aid
• Try and show up in red, green, and/or black

V. Quick SLAP Update
• SLAP chapter being started up to link Students with Labor (part of the AFL-CIO)
• Essentially a subcommittee taking on SDS’ labor issues.
• Meeting after Spring Break

VI. March 4th Day of Action
• To defend education rights and oppose budget cuts
• Richard will head up the planning on the Day of Action.
• Justin will contact the Alligator on getting press on the event.
• Meeting to discuss this further will happen tomorrow at 8PM at Beto’s place (Diamond Village on 13th St.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SDS-SFA Meet With Corporate ARAMARK Representatives

Tuesday, Feb. 16 -At 2pm, a six member delegation of SDS-Student/Farmworker Alliance(SFA) met with two ARAMARK corporate executives and two local operation managers: Robert Dennill (Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility), Rick Martella (C.V.P of Corporate Affairs), Bill Zemba ( Resident district manager), and Terry Stevens (Vice President of Florida Higher Education Sales), respectively. The meeting went as expected-nothing productive was accomplished and the truth was obfuscated. The officials tried to pacify the delegation though rhetoric with claims of "working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)."

However, we are in direct contact with the folks in Immokalee and we know that nothing meaningful has come out of these meetings between the CIW and ARAMARK and that ARAMARK is just stalling. We learned what pacification sounds like coming from eloquent corporate lips but in the end we always stand with the workers over the bossman. In solidarity with the CIW, we promised to escalate the campaign, along with national SFA, until the three demands of the CIW are met:

1) A Penny per Pound increase in pay for tomato pickers
2) An enforceable code of conduct in the fields
3) Workers having a seat at the table

All we offered to these suits was our promise to fight against the racist exploitation of farmworkers and we made it clear that we won't be satisfied until there is justice for farmworkers.

-El Flaco, J-Miah y El Beto

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SDS and SFA protest Aramark, escalate immediately.

Today (2/10/10) members of SDS/SFA were scheduled to meet with an Aramark representative regarding the demands of the CIW but it was canceled at the last minute. Aramark decided to jerk around the CIW last week so the campaign against them is escalating nationally. Seeing how they were doing the samething to us we decided to escalate our tactics immediately by turning a cancelled meeting into a rally and protest in the Reitz Union!

Around 35 people showed up to confront Aramark about cancelling the meeting. We decided to keep our end the deal and hold the meeting at Terry Stevens office. His secretary accepted our letter on his behalf after we read to the staff a list of our demands. We then told them that if they did not meet them, we would act accordingly. We did so immediately by walking up the stairs and chanting "No more slaves! Pay a living wage!" We got the attention of all the students eating lunch in the Reitz Union, and told them who we are and how Aramark refused to meet the demands of the CIW. We then walked around the Reitz Union chanting. Employees of the Reitz Union tried to stop several of us but, knowing our rights, we ignored them and continued our protest.

Several students joined us in chanting and the march around the Reitz union. Several more came up to us to learn more about our cause and we invited them to come to our meetings. The Alligator and the Gainesville Sun were also there, so expect some more updates tomorrow with links to their stories.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SDS & SFA fight for farmworker rights!!!

February 9th, 2010 06:18pm
UF students pressure Aramark to boost farm wages

Nathan Crabbe from the Gainesville Sun published this (there is a link in the bottom):

Students are putting pressure on the University of Florida’s primary food provider to raise wages for farm workers.

UF students want Aramark to meet with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to consider a one-cent raise for every pound of tomatoes picked by workers. UF’s Student Senate passed a resolution in October supporting the effort.

An Aramark official scheduled a meeting Wednesday on campus with the students before canceling, said Jose Soto, a doctoral student in food and resource economics who is part of the effort. The group still plans on meeting at 11 a.m. at the Reitz Union Amphitheatre to rally and try to force a meeting, he said.

“We want to tell Aramark that we plan to escalate our campaign,” he said.

The coalition has previously been successful in getting Burger King and other fast-food chains to boost wages for workers, although a growers’ association has prevented its members from implementing the increases.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

In one of the most hostile cities toward homeless, SDS and Muslims make a difference.

On Saturday, February 6th, Gainesville SDS teamed up with the local Muslim organization Project Downtown to serve a free meal to the less fortunate in the Gainesville Community.
SDS members met on Friday night and cooked a nutritious meal of chicken casserole and fried rice.
On Saturday at 1pm in the downtown Bo Diddley Plaza, SDS and PD members worked together to serve more than 40 people lunch.
Gainesville, ranked the 5th meanest U.S. city for homeless by the National Coalition for the Homeless, is notoriously pro-business and anti-homeless. The City government has pursued anti-homeless tactics ranging from prohibiting "pedestrians from receiving money from motorists" to imposing limits on the number of meals the St. Francis House can serve a day. The National Coalition for the Homeless report can be found here.
Project Downtown Gainesville is a local community service organization, based on Islamic principles and inspired by the national Project Downtown initiative, that contributes to the well-being of the greater Gainesville community by providing necessary services to its homeless, indigent, and disadvantaged members while fostering a positive image of Islam through cooperative social work and outreach.
Gainesville SDS plans to work with Project Downtown to serve more meals in the future.
- Karim Khan

Friday, February 5, 2010

Meeting Minutes - Feb 1st + More

The following minutes were taken at our Feb 1st meeting, and additional notes from the trip some SDSers made to Scott Camil's house follow.

Feb. 1st Meeting Minutes - SDS

I. ISO Stuff
A. Haiti Panel – emphasize imperialism, Haitian relations with U.S. – Thurs. Feb. 11th 6pm @ Presbyterian Student Center
B. Call Joe Richard

II. The Blog
B. Anyone can post

III. Anti-War/Camil
A. Scott Camil, Veterans for Peace
B. Make a list of questions on anti-war activity – meet @ his house on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd 8pm or any time during weekend
C. NO SMOKING @ Scott’s house!!!
D. Call Jose Soto
E. Conference Call 4 SDS Anti-War Working Group on Thurs. Feb. 4th @ 10pm

IV. Project Downtown
A. Every Saturday, free meal 4 homeless @ downtown plaza, 1pm
B. Feeding 60 people – lots of cooking!
C. Call Karim
V. Farmworker Awareness Week
A. Possible workshop on Feb. 19th on activist tips related to farmworkers by Larissa
B. Call Jose

VI. March 4th & 20th
A. Actually on March 2nd – Education Rights Action – Plaza of Americas – weekly subcommittee meetings, time TBA
B. March 20th – Anti-War Action
C. Call Justin

VII. AFL-CIO Report Back
A. In Jacksonville, a 200 man rally for worker’s rights and immigrant rights

VIII. CIW/SFA Report Back
A. @ Immokalee, free sweatshirts!
B. Publix is not giving in to CIW’s needs at all
C. April 16th – 18th, a march from Tampa to Lakeland for CIW rights
D. Oscar says hey!
E. Call Richard
F. Internships are available
G. A possible road trip to farms around Gainesville, maybe on the weekend of Feb. 13th
H. SFA meetings, Wed.’s @ 7:30pm, Anderson 32

IX. Civil Rights/Black History Month
A. African Heritage Month
B. Call Dustin Ponder

X. Students for Justice in Palestine
A. Film Screening– Paradise Now – it’s a really frickin’ good movie
D. Monday, February 15, 2010 – Pugh Hall Ocora – 7pm

XI. Ayn Rand Awareness Day
A. In the plaza, tomorrow @ noon thirty


Notes from Trip to Scott Camil's house:

Scott Camil has been a veteran anti-war activist for over 40 years. He has agreed to let us use his house as a base for making some pinback buttons and T-Shirts for SDS. We hope the pinback buttons and the T-Shirts help promote unity in SDS, make our presence in future actions and protests more visible, and generate a small surplus of cash that will be used towards activist supplies. We are going to start this project on Friday, February 12th. Contact for more info.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The following article is reprinted from Fight Back! News, and covers an action members of Gainesville Area SDS participated in.

Jacksonville Workers Rally Against Construction Bosses

By Fernando Figueroa |
January 31, 2010
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Workers rally at the City Hall steps in Jacksonville, FL
Workers rally at the City Hall steps in Jacksonville, FL to demand jobs from Turner Construction. (Fight Back! News / Fernando Figueroa)
Workers  protesting unjust treatment from Turner.
Workers are fenced off from the site of the Duval County Courthouse building project where they were once promised jobs, but that doesn't stop them from protesting this unjust treatment from Turner.

Jacksonville, FL - Over 200 supporters of Jobs for Jacksonville rallied to protest Turner Construction's unjust and unlawful labor practices, Jan. 26. Union members from the Carpenters, IBEW, Boilermakers, Sheet Metal Workers and the Teamsters are waging a campaign against Turner Construction. Turner refuses to hire out-of-work construction workers in Jacksonville for the Duval County Courthouse building project. This is a blatant breach of Turner Construction's contract, which promised to provide many jobs for the economically hurting building trades people in Jacksonville.

After the workers rallied at the construction site, they marched over to Jacksonville's City Hall chanting, “Mayor Peyton sold us out, Turner get the hell out!” They rallied one more time on the steps of City Hall before flooding the City Council Chambers with red shirts reading “Jobs for Jacksonville!” During the meeting of the Jacksonville City Council, workers from many backgrounds and nationalities spoke, denouncing the council's failure to take action against Turner's breach of contract and threatening to return to the chambers with hundreds more if justice did not prevail and the workers' right to jobs was not respected, as per the contract that managers of Turner Construction signed.

The workers were joined by members of Gainesville Area Students for a Democratic Society, who traveled to Jacksonville to support them. The students came armed with demands that money go towards building jobs and education, not wars and occupation. When asked for the reason why he supported the rally, SDS member Jared Hamil replied, “These workers work harder than most, aren't given a living wage and are the first to lose their jobs during an economic recession. To not support these workers would mean turning your back on people who are struggling for the same things we're all fighting for. Companies like Turner Construction want to divide people so they can get rich while we fight each other. That's why students and workers should support each other in their struggles."

While some of the workers present at the rally were led by the managers of Turner Construction to believe that it was immigrant labor that kept them from being hired for the building project, leaders of the rally were quick to point out that unions should organize workers of all nationalities if they wanted to win and be treated with respect by companies like Turner Construction. If there was a problem getting jobs, then it was a problem the bosses created, not other workers, leaders of the rally said. John Parker, President of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local #435 in Jacksonville, proposed that unions should organize all workers regardless if they are immigrants, because that's the only way to make sure the bosses hire people fairly and pay a living wage to everybody.

Overall, the rally proved how powerful workers can be once they band together. The workers of Jacksonville are one step closer to justice because of it.