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Here’s the entirety of the only passage in President Obama’s speech in Tucson after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in 2011 that even implied advocacy for governmental action against gun violence:

“We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.”

Here’s the analogous passage from his speech in Colorado after the Aurora shootings in July:

“I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.”

And here’s the analogous passage from his speech tonight in Newtown:

“This is our first task, caring for our children. Our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live our their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

“Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings. Fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. Fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. In between there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children in small towns and big cities all across America. Victims who much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this. If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

Should be an interesting next few weeks.

Representatives of the Darfur Student Association say that 140 students were arrested and 180 injured in protests at the Omdurman Islamic University on Tuesday when government agents and ruling party supporters attacked activists and burned dormitory buildings. Dozens of students are reportedly still missing.

As I reported on Tuesday, that day’s clashes followed an incident last week in which four Darfuri students were found dead at Al-Gazira University after participating in a sit-in against the university’s refusal to waive their tuition fees as mandated by peace agreements in effect in Sudan since 2006. Their bodies were found in a local canal where witnesses say protesters were chased by supporters of the regime.

The Darfur Student Association says that 450 dorm rooms were destroyed in Tuesday’s attack and that hundreds of laptops and mobile phones were looted. They say that police, troops, and supporters of the ruling National Congress Party delayed fire trucks and ambulances’ attempts to gain access to the campus, and that harassment of Darfuri students continued on Wednesday.

Students were also reportedly beaten and tear-gassed in simultaneous protests in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Amnesty International on Wednesday said that “Sudanese security services have clearly used excessive force since the first peaceful murmurings of dissent at last week’s student sit-in,” demanding that the government “respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

A US representative echoed Amnesty’s statements, calling the students’ deaths “shocking.” Given the government’s failure to live up to its obligations, Ambassador Dane Smith said on Wednesday, “it’s quite reasonable, it seems to me, that Darfuri students are protesting.” The United States has been, he said, “very unhappy about the excessive force used against Darfuri students demonstrating for their rights under the agreement.”

Student protest has been swelling in Sudan since the Friday discovery of the bodies of four student activists from Darfur, with reports now saying that one university’s dorms have been burned to the ground today.

The four students were reportedly found dead in a canal after their participation in a sit-in protesting Al-Gazira University’s refusal to waive their tuition fees as mandated by peace agreements signed in 2006 and 2010.

Eleven students were arrested in the anti-tuition protests on December 2, but the demonstrations continued. Witnesses say that when police broke up a sit-in on December 5, they pushed protesters toward the canal where the four students’ bodies were later found. Administrators say the students drowned, but authorities have refused to release medical examiners’ reports, arresting one student’s lawyer when he requested it.

Police say 47 students were arrested in protests on Sunday, and on Monday the administration of Al-Gazira University announced that it was suspending classes indefinitely.

Protests have continued, however, and today reports charge that supporters of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have burned the dormitories of Omdurman Islamic University.

10:45 am Eastern Time Update | Twitterer @SuperMojok is on the ground at Omdurman Islamic University (OIU). He reports that the dormitory fire was blazing for an hour before fire crews arrived, but that many students likely got out safely because they had been driven from the buildings by tear gas before the fires began. He reports that students say the number of arrests today is “very very high,” and that in the last hour police have left the scene, replaced by representatives of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

12:30 pm ET | Reuters reports that police have used teargas today on student protesters in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. They also quote a student leader as saying that demonstrators at OIU were driven to the dorms by police and NCP agents using teargas and batons before the fires at the dorms broke out. Meanwhile, a representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday described Sudanese government attacks on students as “a worrying trend,” and called for an independent investigation of last week’s murders.

Earlier today I read your “Open Letter to Khalil from Gaza,” the one in which you conjured up an imaginary Palestinian, someone like yourself — a loving husband and father, trying to do right by his family — and informed him that tonight his seven-year-old daughter would die.

“You’ll wake up in the middle of the night,” you wrote, “to a deafening explosion. Your whole house will tremble. Parts of the ceiling will fall on you. You’ll run to your daughter’s bedroom, and find the northern wall gone, your daughter lying on the broken floor, a charred husk.”

You went on to explain that although it will be your government, the Israeli government, that fires the missile that perpetrates that atrocity, Khalil mustn’t be mad at them, or you, because it will be Hamas, not Israel, who will have placed his daughter in danger, Hamas who will have condemned her to death.

And so I have a question for you, Boaz. My question is this.

Even if I accept your fictional narrative of the murder of Khalil’s child, and the moral calculus you impose on it, what about the other Palestinian children?

What about the children killed by your country’s wayward missiles, and its jumpy border guards? What about Hamid Younis Abu Daqqa, shot down earlier this month by a stray Israeli bullet fired by a soldier who never knew he existed?

Is there no room in your response to such tragedies for ambivalence, for doubt, for taking up the moral burdens of your own country’s actions?

Can you honestly imagine no other way to reach out to a Palestinian who has just lost his daughter than to chastise him? To chide him? To lecture him? Is that where your moral imagination, your capacity for humanity, ends?

Is this actually what you would want to say to a person whose child your government’s army was about to murder? To a person, an innocent, whose life was about to be destroyed as the side-effect of an attempt to keep your family whole?

Is that it? Is that really it?

And if it is — if you were speaking from the heart in your open letter, if it represents the truest and best of who you are — then tell me this, please: Why on earth should he not hate you?

Why on earth should I not hate you?

A student was shot and killed, apparently by police, at a protest against tax hikes and university privatization plans at the Dominican Republic’s largest public university.

William Florian Ramírez, identified in some news reports as Wilfredo or Willy, was a 22-year-old medical student at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, where the protests broke out on Thursday morning. According to witnesses, he was not a participant in the demonstration.

The students were protesting a newly-enacted increase in sales taxes from 16 to 18 percent, as well as plans to privatize the university, which enrolls nearly two hundred thousand students. Activists charge that the nation’s budget deficit is a result of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling Dominican Liberation Party.

Some demonstrators threw rocks at police during the clash, as police fired tear gas and automatic weapons on the crowd. Police say they have video evidence that at least one protester fired a gun at their officers. (Spanish language link.)

One union leader said the fatal shot came from an AK-47, and activists said other students were also injured in the incident. (Spanish-language link. Warning: Graphic images.) A bullet taken from Florian Ramirez’s body has been sent for testing, and police say they are investigating the incident.

Classes at the university have been suspended through Saturday. (Spanish language link.)

About This Blog

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

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