Panelists discuss violence from the '68 strike
October 31, 2008 3:08 PM
The 40th anniversary of the 1968 strike is not only about equality and social justice, but also extreme force and violence which was discussed at “The Strike, the Arrests, the Defense and the Lessons for Today” event on Thursday.
Panelists Laila Al-Arian, Terrence Hallinan, Hank Jones, Margaret Leahy, Roy Harrison and Tony Serra discussed and shared their stories about how the use of police affected the struggle of the strike. In addition, Al-Arian and Jones also talked about the growing repression today.
Leahy, who worked for the Legal Defense Department, called the strike “a powerful struggle that has continuity and was for democratic rights.”
Yet, critics of the strike say that the violence was not justified.
A video sponsored by the Ethnic Studies Department called “SF State ’68 Strike – Arrest & Court” gave the audience a glimpse of what took place over the time span of five months. A collection of black and white clips showed students protesting and colliding with the SFPD, who used horses, sticks and pepper fog for their defense.
Moreover, the SFPD introduced a new unit at the time, called Tactical Squad, who “seemed to enjoy what they were doing,” Hallinan, a retired lawyer and former district attorney of San Francisco, remembers the beating of multiple students.
“Everything the SFPD did was a tactic to quell the rebellion,” Leahy added.
Leahy was one of the key figures during the strike, bailing many people out of jail, which she calls “a part of the [strike] that is often times forgotten.”
With the help of faculty members putting up their houses in order to collect money, the Legal Defense Department was able to bail out as many protesters as 457 in three days.
Bail during the time was set between $125 and up to $15,000 depending on the crime protesters were arrested for.
“Everyone knew the Barry's Bail Bonds number during this time,” Leahy said while some audience members nodding and laughing.
The legal defense was primarily seen as a work that no one wanted to do, Harrison stated. “But it was crucial to the long distance running of the strike.”
Harrison was a self-proclaimed loner at SF State and “politically very ignorant and naïve.” Yet, after he was bailed out following his arrest he joined the Legal Defense Committee and “found much needed support and friends” in the fight for justice and equality.
All panelists agreed that the arrests during the time were “chilling.”
The SFPD was stationed all over the campus, with many sitting on top of buildings with binoculars always looking for students violating any kind of law, Hallinan recollects.
“One of their techniques was to push, surrounded and trap people and then arrest them,” he adds. “We first thought that they can’t arrest all of us, but we were wrong!”
Al-Arian, who came in lieu of her father Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who has been convicted in the United States of conspiracy to help Palestinian Islamic Jihad, said that even though we have made progress, much repression and inequality still remains today.
“We continue to have to fight democratic rights till this day,” she said relating it to her father’s continues struggle for his freedom and justice for being falsely charged of supporting terrorism because of his political activism.
However, the panel shared the notion that in the forty years since the strike of ’68 “seeds have sprouted and continue to influence others.”
For more information go to: http://www.sfsu.edu/~ethnicst/fortieth.html
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