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Last week six UC Berkeley students went on trial on charges stemming from a March occupation of Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall. Unlike the Irvine 11, their fate was decided by a judge, not a jury. And unlike the Irvine 11, they were found not guilty.

The acquittals of these six students, however, were followed just two days later by the arrests of two more, at the campus’s “Day 1” protests marking the start of the fall semester throughout the UC system.

Police say that protesters on September 22 threw chairs, bottles, and chunks of concrete at cops, and that members of the group used oversized book-cover props as shields and offensive weapons. But one officer’s claim that “we respect people’s right to protest, but we ask that they do it safely and peacefully” rings hollow in light of UC’s recent history with nonviolent protest.

As I noted earlier this week, hundreds of student activists have been arrested on UC campuses in the last two years, many in situations in which no protester violence was even alleged. (In the most egregious case, sixty-six students were woken from their sleep and arrested in the unlocked building they were peacefully and non-disruptively occupying, just hours before that occupation’s scheduled end.) One student journalist was not only put through the wringer of the campus judicial system — in an incident I’ll be writing about tomorrow — but forced to pay court costs when a legal challenge to the university’s procedures failed.

Berkeley, and the UC system generally, have systematically criminalized nonviolent confrontational protest over the course of the last two years. The result has been a wave of questionable arrests and prosecutions, a ratcheting up of student tactics, and a dramatic increase in police violence. With students chaining themselves together on high ledges and police officers pointing guns at angry crowds, the whole situation is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Something’s got to give.

Late last Saturday night, at about 3 am, there was a shootout at a Georgia college student’s apartment.

Charles Bailey, who was present but apparently not one of the shooters, says that two masked men burst into a party, intent on robbery and rape, and that one of the partygoers fought them off with a gun he had in his backpack. By the end of the altercation, one of the outsiders, a man named Calvin Lavant, was dead and one of the women at the party had been shot several times.

Although the incident did not take place on campus property, supporters of campus concealed carry legislation are trumpeting it as evidence of the effectiveness of armed self-defense among students.

Others aren’t convinced. A lot of Pandagon commenters, for instance, think the story doesn’t quite make sense

Was this a massacre averted? Maybe. A drug deal gone wrong? Perhaps. Could be either, could be something else. But I have a hunch we’re all going to be hearing more about this story.

8 am Thursday update: Pandagon has been down since last night, so that link above doesn’t work.

8:30 am update: Police have arrested a man named Jamal Hill who is suspected of being the other perpetrator of the home invasion. An article on that arrest identifies Charles Bailey as living in the apartment.

An excerpt from my dissertation:

President Nixon revealed the US invasion of Cambodia on April 30, 1970, in a televised speech. At a news conference the next day National Student Association president Charles Palmer, flanked by ten collegiate student body presidents, denounced the invasion and Nixon’s “odious disregard of the constitution” and called for his impeachment. 

The nation’s first student strikes in response to the invasion had already been called by the time Palmer spoke, and by Monday walkouts had begun, with NSA’s enthusiastic support, at dozens of campuses. Throughout the weekend NSA staff worked with an impromptu national strike center at Brandeis University to coordinate, encourage, and publicize strike activity as best they could.

Many campuses closed as the protests escalated, but Kent State in Ohio stayed open, and that state’s governor — facing a deteriorating situation on campus in the final stages of a tight re-election race — called out the National Guard. On Monday, a little after noon, Guard troops on the campus fired on a crowd of protesters. The gunfire killed four people, including two students who were walking past the protest on their way to class.

This was not the first time, or even the first time in recent years, that American students had been killed by agents of the government in the course of a campus protest. In early 1968 police had fired on anti-segregation activists at South Carolina State University, killing three. And it would not be the last — nine days after Kent State, two students at Jackson State College in Mississippi were killed in circumstances similar to those of the South Carolina shootings.

But unlike in South Carolina and Mississippi, the students killed at Kent State were white. And crucially, the Kent State killings were documented on film — a Kent State photography major took two rolls of photos of that day’s protest and its aftermath, and his photographs went out over the AP wire that night. One image — of a young woman kneeling over the body of one of the dead, screaming with arms outstretched — appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the country the next day. The Kent State killings unleashed an unprecedented wave of protest, forcing hundreds of campuses to close for the semester.

Students and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin are going to walk out of classes at 11:30 this morning and march to the Texas State Capitol in protest of a bill to allow guns on campus.

Today is the second anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, in which a student shot and killed 32 people before committing suicide.

Under the terms of a bill under consideration in the state legislature, Texas residents with concealed-carry permits would be allowed to bring their weapons onto the campuses of the state’s public universities. The UT student government came out against the law in a lopsided vote earlier this semester.

(Via @thedailytexan on Twitter.)

Friday update: Two hundred students participated in the walkout and rally. The Daily Texan has the story.

The campus concealed-carry debate is heating up in several state legislatures right now, and I’m trying to get up to speed, so I’ve just started reading “Pretend ‘Gun-Free’ School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction” — an article by David Kopel that argues that laws prohibiting faculty and adult students from carrying guns on school campuses are “irrational and deadly.” (I found the article through the National Review‘s Phi Beta Cons blog, here.)

Kopel says that for most of America’s history “it was not uncommon for students to bring guns to school.” He cites a column in which John Lane reminisces about his youth in the 1940s and 1950s, and says that he “attempted to find a ‘school shooting’ from that era,” but “came up empty.” On the following page Kopel goes further, passing on the claim that “before the 1990 [Gun-Free School Zone Act], there had been only seven shootings at an American school in the previous 214 years,” and that “in the 17 years following the GFSZA, there were 78 such incidents.”

Each of these claims — that one might search for school shootings in the 1940s and 1950s and find no examples, and that there were only seven shootings at American schools before 1990 — struck me as unlikely, so I decided to check them out.

I fired up the search engine for the archives of the New York Times, looking for articles published between January 1, 1940 and December 31, 1959 that included the words “shot” and “school.”

The search returned 4,940 results.

Read the rest of this entry »

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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