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Milwaukee SDS raises banner of “Education, not occupation” in July 4 parades

By Jacob Flom |
July 7, 2010
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Milwaukee, WI - Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) jumped into multiple parades here this past Fourth of July weekend. The students carried banners demanding education rights, and an end to U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. This marks the third consecutive year that Milwaukee SDS has made a presence in area of July 4 parades.

Amidst thousands of red, white and blue clad families, SDS’s anti-war message received overwhelming positive support, from cheers to handshakes. Only a few people shouted angry responses at the pro-education, anti-war messages. As SDS members stepped into the parade procession between the high school bands and campaigning senators, the crowd was buzzing with baby boomers saying “Students for a Democratic Society?” Many parade goers cheered “Yes, education is a right!” and some former SDS members even stepped out of the crowd to thank the young activists for their presence.

After learning that anti-war veteran groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace were being denied entry into Veteran’s Day parades, SDS attempted to register for a Fourth of July parade in 2007. SDS was denied entry, but decided to take the anti-war message to the parade anyway, by jumping in with homemade banners.

In last year’s action, police detained eight SDS members for marching in a parade unregistered. The crowd was upset at the police response and some offered their support to the students, who were eventually released. This year the police made no attempts to stop the students as they marched with support of the community, even though they were unregistered.

As the education rights struggle continues to make gains and the Afghanistan war becomes more unpopular, SDS’s message sparked a lot of conversation and support. After marching in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, two stilt walkers approached SDS members to say, “Hey parade interlopers, keep doing what you’re doing, it will make a difference.”