Youth in Action

The Aftermath of Proposition 21


A series of ballot propositions have been passed recently in California that severely attack the democratic rights of youth, people of color, and the working class in general.

The worst one yet, concerning the rights of minors, was approved by voters in early March by 65 percent. This was Proposition 21, which makes many crimes that were misdemeanors now felonies. The new law also allows the authorities to legally tap phones.

Proposition 21 gives unreasonably harsh penalties to those who are members of a “gang,” but at the same time, it gives an ambiguous description on what a gang is.This now can be a tool of the state to persecute any group of young people as a “gang.”

This is a severe threat to young activists fighting for social justice. The state could claim to be threatened by young revolutionaries and start sending the police to harass and even brutalize such groups-and this would be legal because officially these groups are “gangs.”

Most people I know who were against this proposition were shocked to see it passed by 65 percent of Californians. The young people who are radicalizing are feeling somewhat isolated and feel that the adult generation has no interest in the current struggle for justice.

The most resistance against this proposition have been small-scale protests with cultural themes. But the best way activists can pressure the establishment to repeal such a reactionary proposition is to build up actions that cannot be ignored!

For example, when radio station KPFA was shut down by the Pacifica management, and the workers locked out of their jobs, there were small-scale cultural protests every day. But finally, a large mass action was proposed, and on July 31, 1999, 15,000 people marched against the shutting down of KPFA. This created enough pressure that Pacifica succumbed to the people’s demand and reopened the station.

The same approach should be applied to the issue at hand. Attempting large actions that include the revolutionary potential of the working class is the best tactic young activists could take to fight for their basic democratic rights.



Student Victory in Minnesota!



On Monday morning, March 6, a determined group of about 30 students at Macalester College converged on front steps of the campus administration building, and then proceeded to occupy the front part of the building. This occupation was part of a ongoing campaign by students concerned over Macalester’s association with textile companies that use sweatshops.

Their campaign was part of a national surge of student activism demanding an end to the use of sweatshop labor in the manufacture of college apparel-a multi-million-dollar business.

Macalester College, located in St. Paul, Minn., has long been noted as hotbed of student activism. The occupation of March 6 dramatically confirmed this. Students took turns occupying the building, making sure that there was a sizable group present around the clock.

Organizers also went to great lengths to ensure that their protest was a peaceful one, and that no drugs, alcohol, or anything illegal was allowed in the “Liberated Zone,” giving the administration no opportunity to break up the protest.

The student protesters made three demands on the administration: (1) that no punishment be dealt to the protesters, (2) that Macalester College withdraw from the Fair Labor Association (the FLA, a phony “watchgroup” set up by the sweatshop operators to monitor themselves), and (3) that the college instead join the Workers Rights Consortium, a sweatshop watchgroup made up of labor organizations.

The college conceded two of the demands from the start-to not punish the protesters and to join the Workers Rights Consortium. It refused to leave the FLA though. In an attempt to diffuse the protest, the administration stated that it would consider doing so, but that it would not come to a decision until this summer.

The students responded admirably to this threat though, organizing a number of community rallies on campus in which various labor unions, community groups, and churches were invited. Notable support was received from the Teamsters Union and the Evangelical Church of America.

At the same time that this was going on, the protesters were doing everything they could to reach out to every student on campus to win their support, and a debate on the whole question raged within the pages of the student newspaper.

In the end, by showing their determination and by mobilizing broad support, Macalester College was forced to cave in and agree to withdraw from the FLA. The occupation has gone on for 11 days.

Youth for Socialist Action salutes the students of Macalester College, as well as the students across the country that have taken on their colleges and universities on this issue. We stand for a movement to end exploitation of workers everywhere, from Haiti to the United States, and are determined to build a movement that raises the bar for workers everywhere! 

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