Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society

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Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society was an Alabama affiliate of New Students for a Democratic Society.

Leaders

In 2009 Jenae Stainer was a member of Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society.[1]

In 2007 Chris Oswalt and Chapin Gray were leaders of Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society.[2]

FRSO connection

Around 25 student activists and organizers from seven cities throughout the southeast came to Asheville, North Carolina, April 4, 2009 for a conference called “The Crisis of Imperialism and Building a Revolutionary Movement.” This regional student conference was hosted by Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Laura Langley, an organizer in Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society from Tuscaloosa, Alabama said, “I left Asheville not only feeling more empowered and solid in my Marxist-Leninist views, but also inspired to put those views into action. I am excited to be a part of this movement’s future, and to see FRSO’s part in that.[3].

"Tuscaloosa 4"

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In 2008 the "Tuscaloosa 4" anti war activists were : Christine Jackson and Alyse Deller, Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society, Jeremy Miller, UNC Students for a Democratic Society, Jason Hurd Iraq Veterans Against the War. [4]

Four protesters from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) were arrested here, Feb. 29, at the University of Alabama for performing a mock raid meant to demonstrate the effects of the U.S. occupation on Iraqi civilians.

No one was harmed during the protest that lasted only a couple minutes, and employees were notified of the performance 30 minutes beforehand. After protesters dressed as Iraqi civilians were ‘arrested’ by protesters in military costume and hauled away, Jason Hurd, president of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of IVAW - who was invited by the Tuscaloosa SDS chapter to speak on his experiences in Iraq, gave an impromptu speech, explaining that the purpose of the action was to demonstrate what life in Iraq is like under the occupation. Hurd also invited stunned and curious onlookers to his talk scheduled for that evening.

However, the talk had to be cancelled, because as four of the protesters - Hurd, Alyse Deller and Christine Jackson from Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society, and Jeremy Miller of UNC Asheville SDS - were approached by campus police, then taken into a building on campus, where they were detained for over four hours before finally being charged with disorderly conduct. The were then hauled away in handcuffs to the Tuscaloosa City Jail. Bail was set for a total of $2,500. Hurd and Miller were also charged with trespassing and banned from campus property.[5]

Acquittal

According to Chapin Gray May 6, 2008, Tuscaloosa, AL - Applause and cheers erupted in the courtroom at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse, May 2, when the judge threw out the charges against four anti-war protesters. “As I was waiting outside to give my testimony, I heard the roar of clapping from behind the door,” remembers Tom Keenan, a member of Tuscaloosa Students for a Democratic Society . “A mass of people flooded out of the court room, saying ‘We won!’”

The Tuscaloosa County District Court judge threw out the case after hearing what he called “vague and unclear” testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses. The prosecution attempted to prove that the anti-war demonstration was ‘disruptive’ and constituted disorderly conduct.

Since the arrests, the Tuscaloosa SDS chapter and lawyers from the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyers Guild worked to build a campaign to drop charges against the ‘Ferg Four,’ as the protesters became known, and to fight back against the repressive actions of the university.

David Gespass, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild who represented the Ferg Four pro bono, was excited by the acquittal, but frustrated by the attempts of the university to criminalize protest. “It is sad that we have reached a point in this country where exercising freedom of speech becomes a chargeable offense,” lamented Gespass, “and that a decision vindicating that basic freedom is seen as a victory and not the natural birthright of a free people.”

Before the trial, dozens of members of SDS and supporters picketed outside the courthouse, chanting, “Hey, hey, U of A! How many kids did you jail today?” and holding up signs demanding an end to the war in Iraq.

“This acquittal sent an important message not only to U.A. officials but also to all who think they can silence protest,” said Joshua Weiss, a member of Tuscaloosa-SDS. “They can’t keep us from speaking out against the war.”

“We are very happy with the outcome of this trial and hope that this will encourage others to speak out against injustice without fear,” said Jenae Stainer of SDS-Tuscaloosa, one of the organizers of the campaign to drop the charges. “We are also so thankful for all of our allies in SDS and in the anti-war movement who have supported us since day one and helped make this victory possible.”[6]

References