NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 10 — “Harlem: not for sale! Hunger strikers: not for sale! Our homes: not for sale! Our jobs: not for sale!” chanted a multi-racial crowd of 250 angry community residents, students and faculty marching today on Columbia University’s main campus and at President Lee Bollinger’s house.
Protesters gathered at the Low Library to hear speakers express their outrage — in English and Spanish — over Columbia’s racist expansion northward into Harlem, displacing 5,000 black, Latino and white working-class residents. Then everyone marched to Bollinger’s house, rhythmically accompanied by a radical marching band. He wasn’t home, but the crowd demanded community residents not be displaced or have a hazardous biological agent research facility near their homes. Student organizers and hunger strikers spoke of Columbia’s long history of supporting brutal U.S. imperialism and exploitation, responsible for genocide against millions of Native Americans. One explained it was the profit system that made Columbia not give a rat’s ass about workers and students.
PLP members and friends made several new contacts from Columbia, Hunter and City College. Black and Latino workers eagerly grabbed all 50 copies of CHALLENGE faster than we could keep up. One marcher exclaimed, “Hey, is that CHALLENGE? Give me a copy!” saying that he first encountered PL as a Columbia student participating in the big 1968 strike. We also helped distribute community leaflets exposing the utterly racist nature of Columbia’s actions and as an institution.
The students have four demands: administrative reform, ethnic studies, community involvement in Columbia’s expansion into Harlem and core curriculum. In the 1960s and ’70s, some colleges instituted such reforms after similar protests. While we support the anti-racist actions of the students, such demands won’t change the basic nature of Columbia or of U.S. college education, the essence of which is as racist and pro-war as ever.
There will be another mass protest on December 1. We’re working with other campus student organizers as well as raising these issues in the graduate schools. We’ll also struggle with our friends over the necessity of exposing Columbia and capitalist higher education (with or without ethnic studies) as essentially racist, anti-working class and pro-war.
We must fight for students to accept leadership from the multi-racial masses of workers in Harlem, who have been fighting Columbia’s racist expansion for decades. We in PLP organize for a worker-student alliance based on fighting racism, imperialist war and all other monsters created by capitalism. Our aim is to fight for a communist society based on need, not profits of a few bosses, like the owners of Columbia.