9.11-9.11: The Year in Youth Activism

News & Politics
rise up This has been a landmark year for youth organizing. On the one hand, youth around the country have been sparked to action. Their desire to educate themselves and others is more powerful than ever. Many young people feel a new sense of their role in the making of history. This is the good news.

On the other hand, Americans both young and old feel that their civil liberties are threatened. The Patriot Act, school censorship and racial profiling have combined to make many young people feel that dissent is not welcome. The country is polarized over the "War on Terrorism," and the proposed attacks on Iraq. These are difficult times to speak out. But, as you'll see in the timeline below, this hasn't stopped an impressive number of young people from organizing, responding and making their voices heard!

Today's youth activism is varied and diverse in scope, but the most savvy youth are connecting the dots among what may, until now, have seemed like unrelated issues. Whether it's the conflict in the Middle East, changing environmental policies, the corporatization of youth culture, oppressive labor practices here and abroad, or the growth of the juvenile justice system, this has been an important year. As it winds to a close, we want to recognize a handful of the young people who have risen to the occasion. If you have additions to suggest, please send them to editor@wiretapmag.org.

September : October : November : December : January : February : March : April : June : July : August : September


September 11
The World Trade Center and the Pentagon are hit (for a detailed account of what happened immediately afterwards, see the Alternet Time Line)

September 20
A group called Concerned Students for Justice without War, Wesleyan University kicks off a national anti-war movement by calling for a nationwide day of action on campuses across the country. Over 150 universities participate.rise up
The Students of Wesleyan release this "Statement for Peaceful Justice":

Recognizing the lasting effect of the United States' response at a time like this, we:
--Oppose retaliatory violence, which will only cause further suffering and hostility
--Affirm our commitment to thorough and peaceful justice through the appropriate channels of law
--Demand that civil liberties and human rights be upheld for all people, regardless of ethnicity and national origin
--Urge a consideration of underlying political and economic causes, including an examination of past U.S. actions and foreign policy

September 29
The International A.N.S.W.E.R. http://www.internationalanswer.org (Act Now Stop War & End Racism) coalition organize a rally and march in Washington, D.C. Anti-globalization organizers had planned a demonstration against the World Bank and the IMF that week. However, these meetings were cancelled and organizers refocused the demonstration on anti-war and anti-racism issues.

The "New York Times" reports:

"In the two months since the attacks of Sept. 11, federal investigators have contacted administrators on more than 200 college campuses to collect information about students from Middle Eastern countries, the most sweeping canvass of universities since the Cold War, the schools say."

In response, high school and college students across the country spend time handing out educational leaflets and organizing teach-ins about Islam and Afghanistan. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Michigan has the largest Middle Eastern population in the Nation) a group of non-Muslim women don head scarves on Fridays in solidarity with those who have faced discrimination.

November 7-9
Over 130 students at Occidental University in Los Angeles, CA initiate a national a fast to protest the Bombing in Afghanistan. Activists at the Universities of Texas, Hawaii and at least twenty other schools participated in the fast. Cornell Students for Peaceful Justice has organized a month-long rolling fast, in which more than fifty students take turns going without food.

November 9-11
Listen Inc. invites youth organizers from around the country to Washington D.C. for their
national meeting. Over 200 young people dedicated to leadership and organizing come together from New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Oakland, and other cities to share strategies and talk about the anticipated effect that Sept. 11 will have on youth organizing.

November 25-18
Demonstrators are arrested at an anti-war protest in Hartford, Conn. including students from Wesleyan, Yale and Connecticut College. Bail for the "Hartford 18" is set at $35,000 for former Wesleyan student Adam Hurter for "disturbing the peace" and three other misdemeanors. Said Hurter:

"Right now, the powers that be in this country are determined to squelch the peace movement. And they are determined to make people think that just about everyone supports this current war. The fact is, everyone does not support this current war. And the more people are made aware that millions of innocent Afghanis may die this winter, largely because of the U.S., the more people are made aware of how civil liberties are being trampled, the more people don't support this war."

November 30
Activists at the University of Massachusetts stage a 24-hour fast to call attention to hunger in Afghanistan. Student Lisa DePiano tells the Nation Magazine: "We always see the same people at teach-ins. The fast is a great way to get a wide range of people involved who are concerned about hunger. We are attracting not only typical anarchist lefties but conservative Catholics."
November 27-15
Students and staff members at UC Irvine set up a "tent city" in the middle of campus -- in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the 1.5 million refugees who have been displaced in Afghanistan. Sponsored by the campus group Act for Global Justice, the action also includes a rally and a screening of documentaries about refugee camp conditions.
December 17
Liza Featherstone writes in "The Nation":

"This new peace activism, which has already touched at least 400 campuses, builds on networks and habits of dissent established by the student anticorporate movement, which has focused largely on economic justice, whether for the garment workers sewing college sweatshirts overseas or the dining hall workers students see every day. Many of the organizations ... prominent in those campaigns are equally visible in antiwar organizing. But whereas recent high-profile student campaigns (those against sweatshops, for example) have tended to attract students from elite private schools and large state schools, the peace movement has extended to less predictable quarters, including rural Southern schools, historically black colleges like Morehouse; community colleges from Boston to Hawaii; urban public universities like CUNY and the University of Illinois, Chicago; and high schools and middle schools. A newly formed National Youth and Student Peace Coalition will startle anyone who imagines that all peace activists are white folk-music fans; it includes the youth division of the Black Radical Congress and the Muslim Student Association."

January 31- Feb 4
Hundreds of youth travel to New York City to protest the World Economic Forum. Representatives from the WEF says their meeting will focus on ways to "reverse the global economic downturn, eradicate poverty, promote security and enhance cultural understanding." Activists, like the organizers with the
Another World is Possible" coalition, on the other hand, believed that: "They'd be looking to rescue failing corporate giants, exploit working people, clamp down on dissent, and puree the diverse communities of the world into a single, American-style consumer culture." An estimated 10,000 protestors show up to brave the cold outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

January 31- Feb 4 brazil

As many as 40,000 activists gather in Porto Alegre for the World Social Forum in Brazil -- a people's counterweight to the WEF Forum in New York. Activists finish the summit with a march protesting the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Thousands of protestors march and dance through the streets of the Southern Brazilian city in a carnival-style parade, waving red flags and banners against the trade deal. Youth from around the world populate the WSF youth camp.

February 2002
At Sissonville High School in West Virginia 15-year-old Katie Sierra High is suspended for distributing anti-war fliers at her high school and is forced to stop wearing a T-shirt that criticizes the president's declaration of war on terrorism. A lawsuit is still pending.

February 8-9 brazil
The first Democracy Matters Conference takes place at Vassar University. Students from 30 colleges across the country come together to talk about campaign finance reform.

February 12-15
Liberation Now, the first animal rights conference for young people, takes place in Washington D.C. The conference was organized by SARA, a nonprofit group founded by Patrick Kwan, a New York student.

More on Animal Rights from PETA : "Following the attacks of September 11, students and young people have looked for ways to be more compassionate. We heard from many young people who let us know that after the attacks they realized that they needed to be more proactive in their efforts to educate their friends, families, and communities about the importance of tolerance and compassion for all.

Many students as well as the general public found a way to extend compassion to ALL living beings by going vegan. Our requests for Vegan Starter Kits, and other educational materials, have increased dramatically following 9/11."

YNC-based non-profit Global Kids hosts
Everything After: A 9.11 Youth Circle, an online project that brought together almost 400 young people aged 14 - 18 for sustained discussion of the ongoing emotional, social, and political impact of the terrorist attacks and subsequent events. Participants came from urban, rural, and suburban areas in forty-eight U.S. states, plus nineteen other countries.

15-year-old Stephanie Grobb publishes a
first person account in the Los Angeles Weekly of her expereinces in a conservative high school:

She writes: "My grades have not been affected; I have not been sent home from school. Instead, I experience the more subtle ways dissent gets shut down in the classroom, by humiliation and name calling. What's worse, however, is the fact that I, a progressive-minded teenager, am not heard as an equal. Whatever I have to say conservative adults regard as garbage, too ridiculous to be taken seriously; they tell me it is un-American."

April 9answer
At UC Berkeley a rally by hundreds of Palestine supporters coincides with a Holocaust remembrance by Jewish students. Scores of pro-Palestine students and other activists occupy Wheeler Hall. Police cite and release 79 protesters, including 41 students, for misdemeanor trespassing; six of them also are cited for resisting arrest. One man is arrested and jailed for biting a police officer. This is just one in a series of clashes between these two groups.

For more, see "Tension and Tolerance at UC Berkeley: A Chronology."

Also, see Living Contradictions, Miriam Markowitz's article on Jewish-American activists hopes for peace.

April 20

An estimated 75,000 people attend the Stop the War rally in Washington D.C

Among the youth organizations that attended were the following: The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, Black Radical Congress-Youth Division, Campus Greens, Just Act: Youth Action For Global Justice Student Environmental Action Coalition, Student Peace Action Network, Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment, United Students Against Sweatshops.

April 30CUNY
Hundreds of high school students walk out of their classes and join their collegiate peers in marching against ongoing budget cuts at the City University of New York (CUNY). Although protestors emphasize the threat posed on their education by budget cuts, the demonstration express a broader theme -- the injustice and peril of downsizing public education in favor of militaristic measures, such as the building of youth prisons, racial profiling and funding war.
June 4

Hip Hop for Education. Russell Symmons, Puff Daddy, Eryka Badhu and Chuck D joined the Teachers Union, parents and kids to demand that Mayor Bloomburg not cut Education. The rally takes place at City Hall under heavy police control.

Tent City

"For 114 days at Florida State University, students from our school's chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops erected a tent city in protest of our president's refusal to join the Worker's Rights Consortium (WRC). The WRC is an independent labor rights enforcement group that investigates the conditions of factories that make university products. It also issues reports to its member schools.

We went through hard rains and unbearable heats, until July 16th, 2002, day one hundred and fourteen, when we reached a compromise with our administration. The president of our university agreed to meet with representatives from the WRC, as well as drop the threat of suspension or expulsion for the twelve students who were arrested. During the reign of the tent city, lines were drawn between sides on the issues.

It was difficult to sway students who were not on our side to begin with. Many saw our actions as either unnecessary, or too political. It's become evident that on this campus, which was once known as 'the Berkeley of the South', protest has become more and more socially unacceptable, especially after the events on September 11th.

Students seem less likely to become involved in issues that are deemed progressive or radical, in the fear of drifting away from the mainstream. Gone are discussions on globalization and militarization. They've been replaced by larger intramural teams and even larger weekend parties.

"Tent City," might have gained more outspoken support, and we might have seen more students willing to join the 60 who decided to pitch a tent. It is useless, however, to wonder, 'what if?' The reality for progressive-minded students across the country is that now our work will be much more difficult, and have many more obstacles. Restrictions are currently being put in place that will limit our ability to speak out about the issues that concern us. However, the greatest challenge will come when we go head to head against the governments and businesses that seem to have a stronghold on the decision of the court of public opinion. All of us concerned for social change must take this into consideration when moving our campaigns into the limelight, if not, almost every action we take may prove to be unsuccessful."

--Gabriel Pendas is a junior at Florida State University. He is now on the coordinating committee of United Students Against Sweatshops.

June 21-23
A diverse group of young activists spend three days visiting the offices of the Bay Area based groups and attending workshops on organizing strategies, tactics and campaign issues at the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing Exchange, Oakland, CA.
Read WireTap's coverage of the event.

June 21-28
Young activists gather to protest to G-8 conference in Alberta, Canada.

Aug 4
Bay Area groups like Books Not Bars and the Youth Force Coalition stage Not Down With the Lockdown II to remind Oakland residents of their opposition to a new prison in Alameda and to respond to the use of a proposed $70 Million for added security measures that promise to add to the criminalization of young people.
So far, this year, the residents of Oakland have seen 67 people killed on the streets of Oakland and the community is demanding a response. But the city council's decision to add 100 new police officers the streets is not exactly what many of them had in mind. "One hundred new cops isn't going to stop the violence," Venus Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Oakland resident told the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead, she proposed, "an increase in jobs, job training and spending on youth and after-school programs." See the WireTap Story,
Still Not Down With the Lockdown.
August 6
In a survey of 1000 high school students, ABC news reports that:

"More than two-thirds of American teenagers feel closer to their families since the Sept. 11 attacks and remain hopeful about the country's future.

Two-thirds of teens also said Sept. 11 was the most significant event of their lifetime, the survey found. The same proportion of students said that after the attacks they prayed, meditated or spent time in spiritual reflection."

August 24

At the International Public Hearing on Workers' Health and Safety, injured workers and other members of the "It's About Time! Campaign for Workers Health and Safety" Speak out. This is just one step in the NAFTA lawsuit that is designed forced U.S. politicians to take notice of sweatshop conditions.
Hundreds of injured workers united to speak out before the Mexican government, international human rights organization, and politicians about the delays and the mistreatment by the Workers' Comp Board.

August 24
Youth Come together in Oakland, Calif. for the National Digital Storytelling Workshop sponsored by Third World Majority/Active Element. Read more in "Tell it like it is": Digital Stories from the Youth Movement"

September 2002vigil

Young people everywhere attend vigils, memorials and peace gatherings. In New York City The September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows co-sponsor a dusk to dawn vigil at Washington Square Park in Manhattan in commemoration of the terrorist attacks that took the lives of their lost loved ones, as well as others who have lost their lives to violence.

Miriam Markowitz, Stephen Baxter and T. Eve Greenaway all contributed to the creation of this Timeline.
Photo at th top of the page is used with permission from

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