Fellow students, we are thrilled to report the action of SDS members at Columbia University, who were able to capture the attention of the nation after their dramatic occupation of University facilities. We also deplore the violent action of the NYPD in their use of force to remove students who were protesting, as well as the students and faculty who stood in sympathetic support of their actions.
Columbia SDS discovered that the University was associated with Institute for Defense Analysis, which is a thinktank that has served as one of the architects of the war in Vietnam. Additionally, members of the Student Afro Society (SAS) were protesting the University’s plans to build a gym in Morningside Park that would limit access to local Harlem residents. Six members of SDS protested the University’s association with the thinktank, over the expressed objections of Columbia’s administration. These students faced disciplinary action, including suspension.
On April 23, SDS and SAS members occupy Hamilton Hall, along with three academic Deans. On the morning of the 24th, SDS members moved their protest to Low Library at the request of SAS, who want to conduct an all black protest.
250 white SDS members occupied the Presidential suite of Low. Although the Dean’s would be released after a 24 stay, students would occupy three more academic buildings and maintain their stand in Low.
SDS Chairman Mark Rudd would appear before faculty and administrators the following Saturday, and declare that any conciliatory efforts by the University were “bullshit.”
On Sunday, a group of 2000 students calling themselves the “Majority Coalition” formed a cordon around Low to prevent the resupplying of the students protesting inside.
The following Monday, 1000 NYPD entered various Columbia buildings to forcibly remove protesters. Many of the removals were violent, with multiple injuries and hundreds of students being charged by the police.
Despite it’s violent end, the Columbia occupation helped to make SDS a household name, and brought national attention to the War and segregation.
The Columbia Strike Steering Committee would later issue a statement of purpose, explaining why they were motivated to take action. Here is an excerpt of that statement:
“…But why do students, predominantly of the “middle-class,” in effect, reject the university designed to integrate them into the system and instead identify with the most oppressed of this country and the world? Why did the gymnasium in Morningside Park become an issue over which Columbia was shut down for seven weeks? Why pictures of Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and red flags in liberated buildings…
…Basically, the sit-ins and strike of April and May gave us a chance to express the extreme dissatisfaction we feel at being caught in this “system.” We rejected the gap between potential and realization in this society. We rejected our present lives in the university and our future lives in business, government, or other universities like this one. In a word, we saw ourselves as oppressed, and began to understand the forces at work which make for our oppression. In turn, we saw those same forces responsible for the oppression and colonization of blacks and Puerto Ricans in ghettos, and Vietnamese and the people of the third world. By initiating a struggle in support of black and third world liberation, we create the conditions for our own freedom – by building a movement which will someday take power over our society, we will free ourselves…
…The Democratic National Convention killed electoral politics for young people in this country and the Chicago Police Dept. provided an alternative – to fight. So did Columbia this spring. So does it now, along with every other university in this country. The struggle goes on. Create two, three, many Columbias, that is the watchword!”
The protest received extensive press coverage. But it is just one of the many committed protests so far in 1968! With the continued efforts of SDS and other organizations like it, we can make our presence felt, and make the establishment pay attention! Fight now and help end the brutal war in Vietnam!