Students Defend Human Rights

They say we’re disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we’re disturbing the war. — Howard Zinn

Calls for “campus safety” fill the corporate media airwaves as students around the country speak out against the unfolding genocide in Gaza. Yes, safety at school is important — for everyone. But here it is twisted into a cudgel to cancel speeches, enact police violence, and otherwise suppress the voices of students and educators of conscience.

These same forces that claim concern for Jewish students also lead the charge to arrest and censor Jewish students who advocate for collective liberation. What’s more, these flurried discussions of “campus safety” omit the fact that there are no safe campuses left in Gaza. None.

Chicago students organized “peace talks” at high schools across the city in the wake of a walkout protest demanding a ceasefire to the war in Gaza in January 2024. (Pat Nabong/Sun-Times)

As Jesse Hagopian writes in the Teach Palestine issue of Rethinking Schools, “The grim reality is that not even the schools have been saved from being turned into cemeteries.” His piece, “Israel’s War on Gaza Is Also a War on History, Education, and Children,” connects the attacks in the United States on teaching about race and gender to Israel’s attacks on children, schools, and historical memory in Palestine.

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People’s History of Student Activism

Denver police and a crowd of about 300 people, many of them students, on the steps of West High School on March 20, 1969. Source: Denver Post

Throughout U.S. history young people have protested to demand justice in the United States and around the world.

We share stories of K-12 and college student activism from Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Jackson and McComb, Mississippi; Prince Edward County, Virginia; New York City; and many more cities.

Without exception, they faced violence from police and vilification by the corporate media. Ask students to examine photos from each of these protests. What commonalities do they notice in the demands, strategies, and the response by the authorities?

Student Activism

See more examples of youth organizing.

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