Saturday, December 12, 2009

More on the California Student Protests

Twenty-six students were arrested at San Francisco State University when they barricaded themselves inside university buildings and refused to leave.  More than three thousand students apparently take classes inside the affected buldings.  Sit-ins were important catalysts in the civil rights movement.  They were a popular repertoire of contention in student protests of the 1960s.  Lock-ins or occupations raise the level of contention and disruption.  As they did during the civil rights and anti-Vietnam eras, the students at SFSU locked themselves inside the classroom buildings such that no one else could use the facilities.  Their removal and arrests are, of course, perfectly appropriate.  It is not likely that the tactic will have any effect on the budget cuts that motivated the students.  Note that the student groups presented a list of demands that went far beyond bugetary concerns, including an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This not only renders the students' demands impossible to meet; it reduces the seriousness with which administrators and the public view the protest.  An effective protest has to stay "on message."

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