Day 4, night
There were two No. 7s by accident. I could go into a long statistical thing about the number of hours of sleep triangulated around the number of mistakes made in a given 29.6 hour period, but as you’ve probalby realized, it would be a lot of BS.
I would also like to apologize if you’ve gotten anything twice, or if you’ve missed some. You can let me know and I’ll try to remedy the situation.
Down to business: the SAS Occapation of Jessup Hall is now officially online!!! After some fiddling around, I’ve managed to hijack the phone line down here in the basement (mostly a matter of having the right cord, it turns out), so I’ve been catching up like crazy. We were thinking we should just get a computer up here with the UISAS website up permanently, but I’m not volunteering mine. (After all, we’ve been getting Warnings About Our Safety lately. We find this rather humorous. Then again, we’re starting to find many things rather humorous, which is perhaps the thing about being in a situation with so many dire issues at stake).
But enough on that for now: I’ve got some actual news for y’all.
Today continued with teach-ins like crazy, more handing out of flyers outside, more administrators avoiding us altogether or shooting us dirty looks. We’re all tired and a lot of us had been in the same clothes for days and eating random food and generally just feeling like we’re getting nowhere–not, I should add, that we have any plans to give up. Ha.
But this evening at 5 we had a rally. We had a BIG rally, 250 people or so, including (and this is the really kick-ass part) a busload of steelworkers who came in from Des Moines. Forty or fifty union guys from out there got on a bus and rode two and a half hours out here _just to come to our rally_. They all came filing in together (’cause we started inside, around the time we figured Mary Sue Coleman was sliding through her bathole) and you could just feel the energy level rise.
The rally moved outside for speeches, MC-ed by Heidi, who started out by asking for shouts from all the different groups represented. My God! It was amazing. COGS-UE (the grad student union, who have been terrific about letting us use their office and are generally a nifty bunch of people whom I’ll be joining next year) had their own little rallying cry going: “Who’re we? UE!” And the steelworkers–wow! Not to mention all the other unions who’ve come out, and various current and former City Council members (some of whom came to visit us yesterday, too–shouts out to Karen Kubby, Steve Kanner, and Irvin Pfab!). I should mention that the City Council has decided to do some looking into where City apparel is manufacturing. (Or did I say that already?) Anyway, we’re spreading.
Well, we all made a lot of noise outside of Jessup, and we heard some great speeches–a few notable lines (sorry for the lack of attribution in some cases; I’ll happily add it if anyone can remember):
- Back in my day, the teachers taught the students. But nowadays, it’s the students teaching the administration!
- And what is the definition of a corporation? A body without a soul! (Greta Anderson)
- Thanks again to the steelworkers! (Everyone)
We even got a new old labor song, specially adapted for us by
the guy Patrick Hughes from the Iowa City Federation of Labor (sorry I’m blanking on names again!!!)
And then Heidi said, “Well, we’re thinking about taking a little walk, since we haven’t seen Mary Sue all day. . . want to go over to her house?”
So we all marched the five or six blocks to her house, chanting about Mary Sue=Kathy Lee and the old standbys of Hey hey, ho ho, sweatshop labor’s got to go (changed by some to “has to go”–probably the same people who changed the Pennsylvania state license plate motto from “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” to “Keystone State,” whatever the hell that means) and Workers United Will Never Be Divided and Hey, Herky, take a stand, living wages we demand and of course Here, there, everywhere, sweatshops make your underwear!
Campus security was on site when we got there, so we all stood carefully behind the dotted line and made a little more noise (that little is a dramatic understatement, just in case that wasn’t clear). Tons of cars honked in support for us. And Ned made a fantastic speech. He said (as best as I can recall):
“I think we scared a lot of people on the way over here. And I think the reason that we scared them is that they know we’re right. [Cheers] Everybody has to draw the line somewhere on this issue, and we’re drawing it RIGHT HERE. [And now you’ve got to imagine the way we’re all standing spread out in front of the President’s house, which is this big mansion-type affair with pillars and red brick and all–I think it looks like a Southern plantation home, actually.]
(NB this next part is really paraphrased–I wish I had a tape of the real thing) “We’re not trying to cross over the line into disorder and violence, but we are not going to give up until our demands are met. That’s where we draw the line.”
“We’ve got a busload of steelworkers from Des Moines who came in today just to show solidarity with us. And I understand that they’re having a rally out there on April 29th to mark the anniversary of the second year of their strike, and let me tell you, SAS will be there with you on April 29th!” [HUGE cheers].
He talked about our sit in, about us talking to classes and students and using the time-honored methods of passive resistance and managed to hit that exact note between militancy and civil protest that we all strive for, the one that gets everybody fired up with out making anyone explode. I’m feeling so frustrated right now because I’m realizing the total inability of print (or pixels, if you want to get into that debate, which I recently wrote a whole article about and I’m actually getting kind of sick of it, but more on that later) to express the power of a really good speech–and Ned’s was the culmination of a whole evening full of them.
He ended, though, by saying, “For now, though, I’m going home, which for me means Jessup Hall.” And we cheered assent.
So we marched back, and on the way the steelworkers met up with their bus, and we all went around shaking hands with them. I had tears streaming down my face at that point, just telling them how much it meant to us to see ALL THOSE PEOPLE coming out to support us (and they’re steelworkers! I mean, that’s like the coolest of the cool!–at least to us bookish liberal arts wimp types). I told several of them, as I’ve been telling people over the past few days, about when I was 9 or 10 years and my mom took me shopping for school clothes one fall. I was trying on a new pair of jeans, and as I took them off, deciding that I liked them, she pointed out to me the union label and told me about why it was there and what that meant. Since then I’ve learned a lot more detail about unions and their history and all, but I still remember that day–it’s as vivid a picture in my head as the time I had a magician at my birthday party when I was seven or the day in August of 1990 that I moved back to Iowa City when I was fourteen and my best friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go to a meeting that night about opposing the stuff going on in the Persian Gulf.
So we waved the steelworkers off with a chorus or two of “Solidarity Forever” (we have got to learn the lyrics) and came back home.
Now a number of us have had the opportunity to go to our other abodes and shower and pick up some new clothes, and everybody’s pretty mellow (although actually I’ve been down in the basement working on e-mail stuff for the past several hours, so I’m not really sure what’s going on.
I had a great conversation with one of the janitors down here–she’s totally behind us. And someone from one of the business offices down here said some kind words to me on her way out. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us going–that and the steelworkers, of course. I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but they made our day. Really really really.
So that’s what’s going down around here. For those of you who’re in NYC, let me mention again:
Demonstration at Niketown
Sunday, April 9 at 11 am
57th Street and 5th Avenue
We’d love to hear a report–and if any of you heard anything about the one in Boston today, we’d love to hear about that, too. I’ve heard we were mentioned on WNYC and briefly in the NY Times, so maybe the national press is picking up on this. But keep your eyes peeled and let me know–it’s good to hear from you all, as I’ve said. Thank you SO MUCH again for the e-mails I’ve gotten, and I’m sorry if I haven’t responded to you personally. But I often read your stuff to people, and it makes us feel warm and fuzzy.
Yeesh. I’m thinking maybe I ought to get some sleep.