Socialist Alternative and Day X Walk-Outs

After the US military toppled the Taliban, Justice argued in a March 2002 article called “Washington Prepares for War Against Iraq” that the Bush administration was likely to wage war on Iraq, which would provoke a powerful wave of anti-war protests in the US and internationally. Seeing this over one year ago, Socialist Alternative early on began helping to organize a movement against a war on Iraq.

We helped build the movement within unions and launched campus anti-war coalitions. Above all, we played a central role in organizing student walkouts on “Day X” – the day after the war began. We helped popularize this idea across the country, particularly by getting resolutions adopted at the Campus Anti-war Network conferences.

In cities with Socialist Alternative branches, the walkouts were among the largest in the country. Our accurate analysis and perspectives, combined with concrete proposals for militant action, allowed us to begin organizing walkouts back in September 2002 and provide the political leadership to make the walkouts a success.

The reports below highlight the crucial importance of building Socialist Alternative. If our organization had been larger with more resources, the Day X walkouts in the US could have been much bigger. We need to build Socialist Alternative so we can organize even larger strikes and protests against US imperialism and capitalism when the next upsurge in struggle hits. Join us!

Seattle, WA
Greg Beiter
Seattle Central Community College Student
Outraged at the latest slaughter by the Bush gang, approximately 3,000 students poured out of over 30 schools across Seattle on Day X. Students rallied at the University of Washington (UW) and Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), despite both campuses being in finals week, before marching to downtown Seattle with energetic chants of “Books not Bombs!”

Socialist Alternative initiated the campaign for Seattle’s Day X walk-out by putting out the call when the school year began. We brought the idea to student, teacher, anti-war, and community organizations, as well as the UW and SCCC anti-war coalitions we launched and worked with them to build the campaign. Socialist Alternative coordinated the efforts of the different schools and activists by playing a leading role in organizing city-wide work parties and democratic planning meetings.

We distributed over 30,000 leaflets at all the major anti-war protests and to local high schools. Socialist Alternative members and supportive students distributed Justice as an educational organizing tool.

For Day X itself, Socialist Alternative members played leading roles in getting speakers, performers, and march permits, setting up sound systems, raising funds, negotiating with police, and coordinating march stewards. The police attempted to force the UW student march into one street lane, but we insisted on taking all three lanes. Despite the police’s riot gear and attempts to intimidate students back into fewer lanes with motorcycles, the march stewards kept the students safe from police clashes or arrests.

The press conference we organized and the press release we sent out contributed to the tremendous media coverage the walkout received. The day after the walkout, both Seattle dailies featured front-page stories about it. All the major TV networks’ local affiliates covered the walkout, along with both major Seattle weekly newspapers. Socialist Alternative members were repeatedly interviewed and quoted in the media and spoke at each of the three rallies.

Minneapolis, MN
Canyon Lalama
University of Minnesota Student
On Day X, over 3,000 students from at least 41 Twin Cities-area high schools and colleges walked out of class in protest. Nearly 1500 (mostly high school students) attended a rally at the University of Minnesota (U of M), while others organized their own local marches, rallies, and teach-ins. The turnout was amazing, especially considering the cold, rainy weather and that the U of M was on spring break.

After the rally, an alternative day of education took place with teach-ins and speakers. The 1,000-person capacity auditorium was overflowing with students starving for information and arguments against the war. We received many positive comments about the speech given by a Socialist Alternative member, and Justice and our literature were well received.

Afterwards, we marched to the downtown Minneapolis Federal Building to join the community rally. Over 5,000 took to the streets and marched for three hours, with the student contingent the loudest and most energetic.

Because Day X fell on U of M’s spring break, another walkout was organized for the following Monday. About 1,200 people showed up for that rally, and after the teach-ins over 200 U of M students marched to Senator Norm Coleman’s office to meet up with other students and community groups for another lively rally.

The local press extensively covered the walkout. The two mainstream daily papers included interviews with Socialist Alternative members and other activists. One featured the walkout on the front page of their website, highlighting an interview with a Socialist Alternative member and showing us tabling for the walkout using Justice. Socialist Alternative member Ty Moore was even quoted in a Time magazine article about the national anti-war movement.

Socialist Alternative played a key role in organizing the walkout and providing political leadership. We initiated the organizing for it last October, and postered and tabled weekly (sometimes daily!) alongside the U of M Coalition Against War on Iraq.

Oberlin, OH
Erika Blechinger
Oberlin College Student
On March 20 in Oberlin, Ohio, 1,000 college and high school students, workers, professors, and community members walked out of their classes and workplaces to protest the start of the war against Iraq. It was the largest demonstration at Oberlin, a college of 2,800, since the Vietnam war. The Day X walkout was proposed by Socialist Alternative members and adopted by the Oberlin Coalition Against the War.

The rally had speakers (including two from Socialist Alternative), performers, and food provided by student co-ops and local businesses. After the rally, a march to the high school was planned. However, the few high school students in attendance announced that the high school was on “lock-down,” with the entire Oberlin police force, including the canine unit, surrounding the building. The students were locked in the auditorium under supervision of the administration, which had permission to physically restrain any students from leaving the building.

A crowd of 700 marched to the high school to protest this repression. We gathered in front of the cops chanting “Let Them Out!” “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Whose schools? Our schools!” As we marched around the building, a few students were seen at the windows trying to get out. Teachers quickly locked the windows.

Protestors circled around open windows, and with the crowd chanting “In the windows!” one woman climbed in. She was promptly arrested on the other side and later charged with trespassing and burglary, with a $10,000 bond. Since then, other students, including a Socialist Alternative member, have been approached by police with photographs of people at the demonstration and told that the police are looking to charge others. These attempts to stop students from exercising our right to protest will not stop us from continuing our campaign for “Money For Schools, Not War.”

Boston, MA
Patrick Ayers
UMass Boston Student
Socialist Alternative helped organize a walkout at the University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB). Though UMB was on spring break on Day X, 250 to 300 students walked out the following Monday. We also helped initiate walkouts at other schools after proposing the idea to nine other Boston campuses in the fall.

On April 3, Socialist Alternative members in the UMB Socialist Club helped mobilize students against the arrest of Africana Studies professor Tony Van Der Meer.. Van Der Meer was arrested while defending a student wearing a shirt that read “Military Recruiters Off My Campus.” The student had been confronted by recruiters, one of whom had told him, “I hope you get shot in the head.”

New York, NY
Bryan Koulouris
A constant downpour in New York on Day X did not stop the demonstrations against the war. A few hundred high school students walked out of school and gathered in Union Square around noon. Socialist Alternative members helped a Hunter High School student organize a walkout of over a dozen students to attend the Union Square rally.

Later, Socialist Alternative members initiated a speak-out at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). We made speeches and held placards in the pouring rain. As students began to gather, we were harassed by campus security. Eventually, we were escorted off campus by BMCC security. 15 students left campus with us. The school newspaper, Voice of the Voiceless, interviewed us and took pictures. If not for the rain and police harassment, the rally and walkout would have been much larger.

At 5 pm, Socialist Alternative members attended a rally of thousands of energetic anti-war protesters in Times Square, along with many students from BMCC whom we had mobilized. Socialist Alternative members also intervened in a teach-in at Stony Brook University, selling copies of Justice.

Justice #34, April 2003