In the midst of Congressional debates to block President George W. Bush’s proposed boost of troops in Iraq, UCSB grassroots activists have organized a protest tomorrow in response to UCSB’s alleged political and technological support of the war in Iraq.

The student-led effort asks that UCSB students, faculty and staff boycott the university tomorrow by skipping class and work and assemble at Pardall Tunnel at 1 p.m for a rally and march around campus. Organizer Darwin BondGraham said the purpose of the protest is to oppose the war in Iraq, the increase of troops and the potential invasion of Iran.

Although the effort has received a response from hundreds of students on Facebook, many students have said they are concerned that the protest will not be effective, as UCSB does not have a clear connection with the war in Iraq.

However, BondGraham, a sociology graduate student, said a protest at UCSB matters because the UC system gets money from the government for weapons research through its nuclear weapons labs, such as at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He also said UCSB receives money from the government, and the government is running the war.

BondGraham said the main goal of the upcoming rally is to spark political activism amongst a unified UCSB student body by interrupting the university’s daily functions.

“Our objective is to shut the university down for a day,” BondGraham said. “That means no class and avoiding anything that is usual university business.”

The protest, which was created at UCSB, has inspired similar rallies, walk-outs and strikes at schools around the country including Columbia University; UC Berkeley; Sonoma State University; Occidental College; Fordham University; San Francisco State University; University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and Chicago’s Columbia College.

At UCSB, all Associated Students entities, in accordance with last week’s Legislative Council resolution supporting the protest, as well as the Women’s Studies Dept., will shut down completely in observance of the strike. The event will also kick off the “Peace-Out University” initiative, which will offer a series of anti-war activities in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park through next week.

Kelly Burns, a fourth-year global studies major, said the demonstration is the launching point for the “Peace-Out University” initiative, which will take place between Tuesday and Friday of next week. The initiative will follow up on the protest, offering a week of workshops, lectures and student-run programs reflecting anti-war sentiment.

Burns said Feb. 15 is the anniversary of the massive worldwide protests that took place before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, making it an ideal day for the UCSB protest to begin.

“How we can continue business as usual on campus while people are dying everyday in Iraq?” Burns said. “February 15 is an ideal starting point for political activism at UCSB.”
In conjunction with the protest, approximately 80 event organizers will man information tables before the rally, and provide participants the opportunity to write or phone their congressperson to express their personal concerns with the Iraq War.

“In addition to the 1 p.m. rally, there will be workshops […] available throughout the day to everyone,” Burns said. “We want to establish a dialogue with students about the war and address all the issues.”

Fourth-year Spanish major Cricket Clark said it is very important for students to realize the power of a student-led anti-war assembly.

“I feel that our generation has been quiet because we feel like we cannot make an impact,” Clark said. “We all stress not stepping on campus [Thursday] and placing people in an environment for dialogue about the war.”

Sociology Professor Thomas Scheff is one of several faculty members who have pledged support to the student activists in their cause. Scheff, who was involved in the brainstorming the idea of a UCSB campuswide protest, said it is important for students to take the demonstration seriously.

“Faculty and students around UCSB mostly seem to be against the war,” Professor Scheff said. “This [protest] seems to be the best way to penetrate [the] mass media.”