Milwaukee, WI - Students gathered over the weekend of Nov. 12 for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) 6th annual National Convention at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Over 150 students from across the country gathered to participate in workshops, share organizing skills, and exchange experiences about campaigns and strategies practiced on their respective campuses. For over half the students in attendance, this was their first SDS convention.
The host chapter, UW-Milwaukee SDS, led a walkout of over 4000 students in the spring of 2011 during the famous occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest Governor Walker’s anti-union, anti-education and anti-people attacks.
On the campuses, there is an awakening of consciousness and opposition to the corrupt and oppressive economic system and to institutional racism, sexism and homophobia. SDS has risen nationally by building opposition to cuts to education as well as opposition to FBI raids against activists and the wars and occupations abroad. As students respond to the Occupy Wall Street movement, SDS has celebrated new chapters and chapter growth across the country.
SDS chapters traveled from Oklahoma; Milwaukee and Stephens Point, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Rutgers and Montclair University in New Jersey; UIC and Wright College in Chicago; Charlotte and Ashville, North Carolina; Gainesville, Tampa and Tallahassee, Florida and many other places.
Students participated in a variety of workshops and breakout sessions that provided space for education, skill sharing and constructive criticisms. Workshops included “Capitalism 101 for the 99%,” “Sexual and Gender Liberation,” “Coalition and Movement Building” and “Immigrant Rights.”
In the plenary, students discussed and voted on proposals to fight FBI repression, organize against racism and national oppression and to protest the Democrat National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. SDS is looking forward to joining protests at the NATO/G8 Summit in Chicago and they endorsed the Coalition to March on the Republican National Convention 2012 in Tampa, Florida. There are plans being made for a student day of action in the spring of 2012.
“All of the students who attended the conference are now deputized fighters in the struggle for higher education. The politicians and administrators who tell us to cut back are already organized. This weekend, students organized themselves to fight back together,” said Dave Schneider of University of Florida - Gainesville’s SDS.
SDS was honored to host speakers Carlos Montes and Stephanie Weiner, who were recently hit by FBI repression. Montes, a founding member of the Brown Berets, founder of Latinos Against War and a national organizer during the 2008 RNC is facing trumped up felony charges from a coordinated FBI and Los Angeles County sheriff raid. Weiner is a Chicago-based activist who organizes with the Palestine Solidarity Group, is an active member of AFSCME 3506 and is an advisor to SDS at Wright College in Chicago who was raided last September by the FBI and is subject to an ongoing grand jury investigation in Chicago. SDS has stood in solidarity with both throughout the last year and participated in national call-ins and days of action in solidarity with these activists and others who have been the subject of FBI attacks.
Kait McCintyre of University of Illinois-Chicago SDS said of the convention, “Overall, the convention illustrated the vitality of the student movement and we are excited to rise in these radical times.”