Four days, four actions, one FIST

By Q Allen and Dante StrobinoRaleigh, N.C.

Despite the overwhelming complacency among students at North Carolina State University, Raleigh FIST--Fight Imper ialism, Stand Together--has managed to break the chains of silence and refuses to be ignored. The group hosted four powerful events over the course of four days, affected a wide range of people and successfully introduced this new multi-gendered, multinational revolutionary socialist youth group to the South.

Every Wednesday, the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps performs cadet formations in a public space in the middle of N.C. State University's campus. This ritual has met its end.
FIST members arrived early on Sept. 29. Twelve students sat on the ground with signs of dissent, occupying the entire brickyard and effectively blocking the formations.
FIST stands against militarism; its members say they will not allow students to fall for the AFROTC tactics.

This public military display is an obvious recruiting tactic, considering that the AFROTC has an auditorium of its own. Students walk by and watch the formations and enjoy their beautiful, professional appearance. This presents the AFROTC as if it were some benign institution purely of good will, while in reality it is an inherently violent institution. It was AFROTC graduates who bombed Gren ada, Basra and countless other civilian populations. Yet they are seen as a kind force in the community.

President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" Act has a military recruitment clause. It requires high school administrators to release every student's contact information to the military or the school's funding will be cut. This is a violation of the tradition that required a parent's consent before presenting children with controversial material such as military recruiting deceptions. FIST members harkened back to this with their sign that read, "Stop military's invasion of student privacy."

Once the AFROTC cadets arrived in the brickyard, they acted in utter confusion and proved incapable of independent decision making. FIST's Dante Strobino approached Officer Delancey, the cadet leader, looked him in the eye and told him, "We denounce the militarization of our campus."

This was something Delancey was obviously not used to. So he simply frowned and led his group to another, less visible location nearby. The cadets formed with inadequate space and were forced to march into trees and brick walls in obedience to their leader.

FIST members followed them and sat amongst their formations holding placards, further disrupting the cadets' plans.

Eventually the campus police were called. FIST members were forced to stand outside little orange cones placed around the drill formations. With limited space, the cadets frequently walked outside the cones--and FIST members handed them literature.

Several cadets expressed genuine gratification at FIST's presence, and a desire for dialogue. FIST member Hussameldin Eltayed, from behind his "Military Free Zone" sign, said: "What we did was necessary. They got our point. Now they know there is opposition on campus and where to come for help."

Solidarity with Palestine

The next day FIST, along with the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association--MENASA--built a wall on NCSU's brickyard to represent the apartheid wall currently being built through Palestine.

Sept. 30 was International Refugee Day. As of 2003, there were over 4,055,758 documented refugees from Palestine alone, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Several of the refugee camps are surrounded by Israeli settlements and separated by a 25-foot-high wall. There is often only one road to the outside world, which is usually staffed by an Israeli military unit.

FIST and MENASA's wall, con structed of stacked tables, brought atten tion to the crisis and to the U.S. Depart ment of Defense's racist funding of Israel in the amount of $17 million per day. Many students said they had no idea this situation existed.

"Hate stems from ignorance and inexperience," said former MENASA Presi dent Aseel Elborno. "By building a mock wall we provided experience necessary to understand the strife of a Palestinian living within the occupied territories."

The wall was placed to block students from going to class, with only one hole representing an Israeli checkpoint. All students went out of their way to completely go around the wall but several stopped to talk.

The campus Republicans and Democrats both had tables in the brickyard that same day. So FIST activist Dante Strobino approached their tables with large pictures of mutilated Palestinians and asked them to place the pictures on their tables to explain what the candidates are campaigning for. Unkind and ignorant remarks were the return for this generosity.

The third day, Oct. 1, was N.C. State's homecoming march.

Every Friday NCSU activists host an anti-war demonstration. There is a bus stop nearby, so often workers will walk over and join the demonstration while waiting for the bus. This Friday was particularly special. FIST members stood on the corner of a street where the homecoming march was headed and held a 30-foot-long banner that read, "Stop the war machine."

The bar crowd across the street was entirely supportive. As the various student organizations strolled past, several shouted pro-Bush obscenities or waved "W" signs. However, there was a surprising number of supporters, including little kids on unicycles. The student body president rode by on his float and was emphatically excited about FIST's presence.

FIST activist Yolanda Carrington said, "Most student groups, whether they were conservative or liberal, got to see an anti-capitalist, anti-war message."

This Raleigh tradition was marked for the first time by the presence of a truly revolutionary voice.

Finally, on Oct. 2, the North Carolina Pride Coalition celebrated its 20th year in Durham, N.C. The annual parade brings most spectators--gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered or bisexual--out to the festival. Several thousand people participated this year in what was North Carolina's biggest LGBT Pride march in history.

Raleigh FIST helped bring out the message of equality and anti-LGBT oppression through a banner that read, "Money for AIDS and jobs, not war," and a series of chants that drew a positive response from the spectators and marchers.

Most onlookers were very supportive of the march. People cheered loudly when they saw the connections that FIST made among all types of oppression, whether sexual, military or economic, both at home and abroad.


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