Students for a Democratic Society - Parkside
Chrystul Kizer protest
According to Ethan Costello of Kenosha, Students for a Democratic Society - Parkside (SDS) organized a #FreeChrystul rally at UW-Parkside on February 5 2020 that saw 40 protesters attend. The demonstrators congregated outside the building where District Attorney Mike Graveley, Chrystul Kizer’s prosecutor, was teaching his first class of the spring semester, on criminal law.
The group began with chants that echoed across the campus thanks to the excellent acoustics between campus buildings. Coinciding with the start of the class period, speakers from different organizations and backgrounds shared their messages. These included Adelana Akindes, a leader with SDS; Annia Leonard, from Uplifting Black Liberation And Community (UBLAC); Michael Bell, Sr., the father of Michael Bell, who was shot and killed by the Kenosha Police Department in 2004; and Devore Taylor, Chrystul’s mother.
Taylor said that Graveley “had evidence about not only Chrystul but a whole bunch of others. It wasn’t just her. And the fact it took for her to do something because she was tired of it.” She added, “He is trying to sweep the whole problem under the rug but it’s so much bigger than her.”
“The system is racist. The system is sexist. The system is classist. So for Chrystul, a young black teenage girl, from a working-class family, the system cares the least about her and it shows,” said SDS leader Adelana Akindes. “The injustice is profound. Chrystul deserves justice. Chrystul deserves to live a free life. She deserves to heal from these atrocities.”
The demonstrators then marched to the doors of the hall in which Graveley was teaching a class not more than 100 feet away, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho! Graveley has got to go!” and “When Chrystul Kizer is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
In case Graveley could not hear or was attempting to ignore the protesters outside his classroom, SDS organizers plastered his classroom with flyers saying “Chrystul Kizer defended herself” and left copies of the Lawyers Guild letter on desks so that his students knew who was teaching their class. This was only the first among what is sure to be many actions on campus against DA Graveley as the students from SDS attempt to get him removed from teaching there.
On October 9 2020, student and youth activists held a webinar to launch a national campaign to fight for police accountability, on and off campus, under the headline, “Students and Youth Demand Police Accountability.” The main organizations represented were New Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), AnakBayan USA, and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Speakers promoted the demand for community control of the police and for convictions of killer cops. Then they called for campus police departments to be defunded, disbanded and in some places even held accountable by campus civilian police accountability councils.
Michael Sampson from the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said, “People have a democratic right to control the institutions that affect their lives. Community control is about oppressed people taking power.”
Adrian Bonifacio from AnakBayan USA compared the tactics of the police here in the U.S. to the military and police tactics used by the U.S.-backed Philippine government of Duterte, which has responded to the pandemic with door-to-door military brutality in place of health care and testing: "As a youth organization fighting fascism and state terror, we know that the police are one of the most dangerous tools for maintaining political repression and violence. Not just Trump, but every president before him has deployed the police to terrorize poor and working class people here in the United States, most particularly Black folks.”
Student activists from SDS and AnakBayan said university police are used to harass student activists and have profiled and even killed community members. Victor Garcia from the University of Students for a Democratic Society - Parkside pointed out that Rusten Sheskey, who killed Jacob Blake in Kenosha, was actually a university police officer up until 2013.
Nadia Shaarawi from the University of Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota chapter said, “Our university president has tried to co-opt the language of 'accountability.’” Shaarawi added, “but where the concessions stop is at community control because they'll do anything to maintain the status quo.”
Enya Silva from the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society chapter asked, "If they aren't here to serve the people, why do they need this money?" Katelyn Scott from the UNF Students for a Democratic Society chapter compared this to other wasteful expenditures taken on by the university, pointing out, “UNF says they don't have the money for things on campus and for community resources, but they have $8 million for a pool.”
Kyle Burroughs from Denver Students for a Democratic Society made this point crystal clear. “"The governor didn't care about the Elijah McClain case for over a year, and he didn't reopen it out of the kindness of his heart. He opened it out of public pressure. As you fight for justice in this way, the people will come to your side. You just need to be loud enough.”