From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
by Natalia Spiegel
There was a festive atmosphere in Cape Town, South Africa, as students, academics, members of political parties and ordinary residents witnessed the removal of the monument of racist imperialist and murderer Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. Once it was removed, students jumped on it, hit it with wooden sticks and covered the face with plastic. One student who had campaigned for it to be taken down said, “We finally got the white man to sit down and listen to us.”
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On March 17 the University of California San Diego administration posted a five-day eviction notice to the Ché Café Collective ordering them to vacate their space. The Collective still hopes that an appeals court will rule in their favor. A broad spectrum of individuals and organizations signed a petition in support of the Ché Café continuing to function as it has for the past 35 years as a unique and invaluable asset to the University, representing diversity at its finest.
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Turkey’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Suleiman Inan Oz Yildiz, was temporarily trapped inside a Beirut movie theater on March 18 as Armenian demonstrators held a protest outside. Approximately 60 members of the Armenian Youth Federation of Lebanon and the Zavarian Student Association held a demonstration at the entrance of the ABC Grand Cinema in Ashrafieh. Protestors yelled out “Genocide,” “Truth will triumph” and “We remember,” and held banners that read, “Recognize the crime of the century.”
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In Burma, now called Myanmar by its oppressive rulers, 65 students and activists were arrested in mid-March while protesting a new bill which would centralize control over higher education. They were cornered by police and beaten. President Thein Sein defended the police. The arrested could face jail terms of up to six years. Protesters called for higher educational institutions to have more autonomy, for the right to form student unions, and for teaching in ethnic minority languages.
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About 1,000 students and community members gathered at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville in mid-March to demand justice for third-year student Martese Johnson, who was injured during an arrest hours earlier, and appeared in a video with a bloody face as officers slammed him to the ground. Johnson’s lawyer said Johnson needed 10 stitches in his head. Bryan Beaubrun, a UVA student who photographed Johnson’s bloody arrest, said the officers acted with unnecessary force. “He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all.”