Not too many personal accounts have been posted online about the sit-in/occupation at The Evergreen State College for the reinstatement of Olympia Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It started Wednesday, May 21st around 4pm and has continued since. Just before the sit-in started, 150 students, staff and faculty gathered in Red Square for a planned Free Speech Rally where speakers from SDS, MEChA, CISPES and the Evergreen Animal Rights Network spoke about the free speech fight at Evergreen and made connections to political repression in the Green Scare, against MEChA in the Southwest and the FMLN.
Shortly after the rally started, SDS's last appeal with the college took place elsewhere on campus. When the rally ended students marched toward Vice President of Student Affairs Art Costantino's office in the Sem 1 building. He was outside of the building instead of in his office. Students confronted him and chanted "Free Speech!" and "Reinstate SDS!". Students attempted to have a discussion with him, but Art refused and walked away. The students then decided to march up the stairs in the Sem 1 building and sit-in outside of his office. Around 60 students started the sit-in.
Students, both SDSers and supporters, have kept a continuous presence outside of Art's office, rotating in shifts where 5 to over 20 students will be there at any given time. Over 100 people have come by so far, including faculty, residents of Olympia, parents with their children, alumnae (including one alum who was involved in an occupation at Evergreen in the past) and Iraq War veterans from Seattle, a Navy veteran from Olympia, and Scott Beiben from Lost Film Fest who showed several films and then held a discussion with the students at the sit-in. People continue to donate food and other needed supplies for the sit-in.
Art and the police have stopped by on several occasions. Students have invited Art to go into his office on numerous occasions but Art has refused every time. The students have engaged Art in several discussions about the status of SDS, free speech, dissent on campus and the fallout of the Valentine's Day uprising. Students also asked Art why he told local law enforcement to investigate the Hip Hop Congress, SDS and prominent port protesters to which he replied he did not do. At one point, Art threatened to have one of the students arrested and also hinted at using police to break up the non-violent sit-in and to have some of the students involved in the sit-in face possible suspension but did not go into specifics.
On Friday, one SDSer involved in the sit-in and who spoke at the Free Speech Rally was shocked to find that she was fired from her job on campus because she was deemed a "security threat" by the Evergreen police where she works at Parking Services. She was notified by Evergreen Chief of Police Ed Sorger of this. Other students who support the sit-in have not been involved with it for fear that they too may loose their jobs.
The sit-in continues into its fourth day and Olympia SDS is not backing down. Operating under its concept of dual power, Olympia SDSers decided to use the space they are occupying to create alternative and liberatory education and space. On Memorial Day, Olympia SDS is calling for the first day of classes to start at the "People's University". In an effort to create an educational environment where liberation and democracy are the primary objective, Olympia SDS will be hosting a series of educational events that will include radical queer theory, a discussion on security culture, a screening of the film "The Take", and a talk on radical labor history given by labor organizers from Seattle. A few concerts will also happen in the coming week and revolutionaries Ed Mead and Mark Cook from the George Jackson Brigade will come to campus on Tuesday for a discussion that the Sabot Infoshoppe, MEChA and CISPES are helping out with.
If anything, this sit-in is turning the theory of participatory democracy into practice. It started off as an action to demand that SDS be reinstated but it's much larger than that.
People are encouraged to come by the sit-in any time they like. People outside of the area are encouraged to call Wendy Freeman, who will make the final decision about the status of SDS next week, to tell her you support SDS and demand the group be reinstated. Feel free to also call Art and Les to complain.
Director of the Career Development Center
Vice President of Student Affairs
-This was written by Brendan Dunn from Olympia SDS and represents his own views, not the views of the entire group. Pleas email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.