“They make plans, we make History”

 “Ya basta! It’s enough! Another world is possible!” As I scan the innumerable  websites organizing the anti-G8 mobilization, the familiar alter-globalization rallying cries remind me that I am on friendly ground. Yet the somewhat sketchy information about the camps, transportation and events is not easy to find online even when one knows how to follow the white rabbit. Will there be enough space? Rides to the events? Showers and Internet access at the camp? No one really know but there’ll be (vegan, fair-trade) food and water, so there is no need to worry.

After Genoa, Evian, Gleneagles and Strelna, the leaders of the countries that are part of the exclusive G8 club are meeting in the little town of Heilidengamm, Germany. And as for the previous years, protest against the meeting is massive. “We do not want these self-appointed rulers of the world here or anywhere else,” says the statement for the International Mass Demonstration planned for June 2nd. Several tens of thousands of demonstrators from all round Europe are expected to make the trip to the Baltic Sea.

Strategies vary according to the  degree of radicalism of the organizing group: several demonstrations are planned, but also a Social Forum-type alternative summit, and a downright blockade of the Summit itself. It will not be easy, though, as a 12 km long steel wall has been built around Heilidengamm just for the occasion, and more than 15,000 policemen are mobilized.

It’s not hard to recognize the people who are going to the G8 camp on the train that crosses North-East Germany from Berlin to Rostock: they look like a bunch of Antiochians. The word goes that they think they can deter us from coming en masse if they choose remote places for these meetings, like foggy Scottish villages or industrial towns on the Baltic Sea. Yet I still have to sit the floor as the train compartment fills up at each station.

“The system is a joke, all they feed us is Coke!”

In Rostock, the chalk-drawn arrows on the asphalt guide the protestors from the tramway station to the camp. Large Cardboard signs greet us: Welcome to Camp Rostock, Police and Fascist Groups Not Allowed. Volunteers are welcoming the newcomers at the information point; access to the camp is free, a donation of 5 Euros per day is recommended. My ultra-confidential map in hand, (not to be distributed outside the camp at any cost), I walk down Rosa Luxembourg Alley trying to find a place for my tent. Some organizations have allotted spaces, such as Greenpeace or the German Anarchist Federation, and most of their main tents bare “NO PHOTOS” signs. I do not need to show my member card to install my tent in the ATTAC area.

The first camp gathering in the big circus tent resembles a huge Community Meeting, except without the ice cream. Principles for discussion and democratic decision making are put in place, a sophisticated sign language system is adopted to facilitate communication in large group discussions, and volunteers are called for different tasks. Sitting on the muddy hay, I volunteer as a translator in the french-speaking group, as the assembly is language-divided. The organizers emphasize the need to support the team watching constantly over the camp. We can be infiltrated at any time, they tell us, by the police or neo-nazi fascist groups that are gathering for a demonstration the next day. Be prepared to gather at any time of the day and night in case of an alert.

At the dining space, at the end of Carlo Giuliani Lane, a few wooden tables are set up on the lawn. Free vegan dinners are served to the protestors who sit on the grass and mingle, their reusable plates on their lap. There are baskets on the tables to drop donations, and volunteers are washing the dishes in a corner. The camp is starting to fill up, and as the night falls an excited murmur arises from the camp.

On the next day, a pilgrimage-looking crowd walks toward the tramway station a mile away from the camp. At the Rostock central station, rows of policemen in green watch silently as a uniform mass of protestors makes its way towards the exits, slogans bouncing loudly against the grey walls.

Outside, the crowd is gathering on the main square, around a stage bearing the words Another World is Possible. Multicoloured flags are flying around and creative hand-made banners cry out their revolutionary messages: “Your words don’t feed the world”, “The system is a joke, all they feed us is coke!”,“Solidarity not Precarity”. Others have more precise demands: “US out of Iraq”, or “Public Control for World Bank, WTO and IMF”. Groups are gathered and sing in unison, while others improvise dance routines. Looking up, one can see a helicopter overlooking the scene.

The cortege starts moving almost on time. Standing on the side, I watch as 90.000 people walk past me: paper giants on stilts, carboard faces, bras tied to floating balloons are among the most creative parts of the cortege.  atmosphere of celebration changes radically as tension builds up. Demonstrators are now all in black, with ski masks and sunglasses. They are walking as though in military formation, in tight rows forming compact squares. A few explosions can already be heard in the surrounding alleys and smoke is filling the air.

As I make my way to the docks, the final meeting point of the demonstration, I pass by a truck blowing out multicolored bubbles in the wind. Two young hooded alter-globalists are standing on the roof, and their song is going: “They make plans we make history.”

Antioch Students Attend SDS Revival Convention

This Summer, Detroit, Michigan hosted the second national convention of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) since 1969. Between July 27-31 at Wayne State University, nearly 600 students from around the country converged for four days of workshops on direct action tactics, communicating effectively, high school organizing, and media and facilitation trainings around the infamous student organization of the 60’s.

In an attempt to procure a national structure that would provide more transparency and stress accountability within the recently revived SDS, the Antioch delegation Aimee Keener, Rachel Smith, Lowen Gordon, and Jessica Rapchik, sat through fifteen hours of mediated discussion a day.

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Postcard from Co-Op

The date of departure draws near, and my passport, for which I applied three months in advance, fails to arrive. Calling the Department of State only lands me in voicejail. I pester my local congressman, whose kindly-sounding office ladies assure me that they’re writing stern words on my behalf. Listening to them, I imagine a flurry of limp, kindly-sounding emails. I do not count on them.

The government has decided that travelers to Mexico and Canada must have passports, and underestimated the surge in demand. Across the country, people are getting their passports one, two days before their trips, or not at all. Lines at the passport office in DC begin at 4:30 in the morning. Meanwhile, public transportation—my only kind—starts at 7 AM. So three days before my plane leaves, I pack my sleeping bag and head into town to bed down in front of the office.

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Rising Concern about Struggling Library

The announcement of the Board of Trustees meeting in June to suspend the operations of the college sparked another series of serious staff cuts. It has left the remaining members of the college staff and faculty scrambling to cover workloads far greater than in years past. In February, the struggling college already had to eliminate twenty non-faculty positions.

As Jill Becker, Associate Professor of Dance, mentioned at the open meeting of the Board of Trustees on Saturday, services such as housekeeping and security have been cut, as well as the hours of the Olive Kettering Library on campus. While the library was formerly open Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 11:00pm, staff cuts have reduced the available hours considerably. Students and faculty now have to do without the library in the evenings and Sundays.

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First Impressions

Between mandatory meetings, the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, the Racial Discrimination Prevention Policy, partying, registration, going to class, and trying to keep the school open, the first week at Antioch College has been a baptism by fire for the first years.

Students arrived for orientation and move-in on Thursday, the 23rd. They were given an eleven item check list, and went from station to station getting room keys, filling out paper work, and being handed bags of free stuff. Carmen Atlee-Loudon described her first impression of Antioch College as “slightly disorganized but really welcoming.” When Gina Potestio, arrived at Antioch her first thought was “this is going to be interesting”. Eric Kobernik’s first impression of the college was “hardcore.”

After the first day came the mandatory meetings scheduled back-to-back, sending students from one building to another. Friday was the most tightly scheduled, with both the SOPP and RDPP meetings being held that morning. First years were anything but overwhelmed with the myriad activities planned for them. “I was stoked to do everything; that’s why I came here,” said Kobernik.

That evening a community gathering was held to prepare for the Board of Trustees meeting, and at six o’clock in the morning the next day students, alumni, and villagers gathered outside of Antioch Hall to join the caravan to Cincinatti. Among the students who woke up early that Saturday morning, there were more then a few first years, a number of which also had the opportunity to address the board at the morning meeting.

“It was one of the most amazing demonstrations of solidarity among a group of individuals that I had ever seen,” said Jay Casale, one of the first years who spoke to the board on Saturday, “It struck a really deep chord in me.”

The effort to keep Antioch open was very visible to all the first years.Some even felt a little lost in the hustle and bustle surrounding the issue. “It was kind of overwhelming, in the way that you want to get involved but you’re not really sure what to do,” said Atlee-Loudon.

While stopping the college in which you just enrolled from closing is not the normal freshman concern, fitting in is, although first-years at Antioch seemed to be taking that in stride. First years were being shuffled around together, and had plenty of time to socialize, something they found easy, because, as Atlee-Loudon put it, “everyone is so welcoming and friendly that it easy to start conversations.” Even socializing with the upperclassmen (usually represented as big and scary in cliché) came easily to the members of the entering class. “[at Antioch] they want to be your friend, in other schools upperclassmen shit on the freshmen, [but] here it is much more social,” said Kobernik.

Maybe the biggest challenge posed to the class of 2011 is answering the question “Why did you come to a school that you were told would be closing in a year?” This year’s entering class is here to make the most of this year and do everything that is quintessentially Antioch. Students want to get in their last walks in the Glen, engage with the SOPP and RDPP, attend Board meetings, and take advantage of their classes. The climate of solidarity on campus and the exceptional community mobilization since the June announcement might also have weighed in the balance. As Eric Kobernik put it some students are here because of the closing, and they might not have had a shot at such an exhilarating orientation anywhere else.