13 December 2013

Drop Charges Against CUNY Protesters!

Over the past semester, the City University of New York (CUNY) administration has been on a tear to suppress leftist political activity. Its latest reprisal was to bring criminal charges against Khalil Vasquez and Tafadar Sourov for their role in protesting the closure of the Morales/Shakur Center at City College of New York (CCNY) on October 24. The administration had shut down the center, a meeting space for leftist, minority and other student and community groups, after weeks of demonstrations against war criminal David Petraeus teaching at CUNY and the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps to campus.

Vasquez and Sourov, both of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, had already been suspended from CCNY following the October 24 protest, as reported in our Young Spartacus pages (see “Rescind Suspensions of CCNY Protesters!”, WV No. 1034, 15 November). On November 22, at a CCNY disciplinary hearing regarding their suspension, both students pleaded “no contest and no admission of guilt.” As a result, they will be allowed to return to CCNY next semester, but the suspension will only be expunged from their record provided they stay in line by the lights of the administration.

Vasquez and Sourov have a court appearance scheduled for January 9, the same day as several of the CUNY 6 protesters who face bogus misdemeanor charges stemming from a September 17 anti-Petraeus protest that was brutally attacked by city cops. We urge our readers to send letters demanding that all charges against the CUNY protesters be dropped. Statements can be directed to: New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., One Hogan Place, New York, NY 10013; telephone: (212) 335-9000; fax: (212) 335-4390. Donations to the CUNY 6 legal defense fund can be made at defendthecuny6.wordpress.com.

We print below a letter sent by the Partisan Defense Committee to District Attorney Vance on November 23.

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The Partisan Defense Committee denounces the outrageous prosecution of student activists Tafadar Sourov and Khalil Vasquez. The two City College of New York (CCNY) students face a year in prison for exercising their right to free speech and assembly while protesting the closure of the Morales/Shakur Center at CCNY. We demand that all of the charges be dropped.

In an effort to silence Sourov and Vasquez, and also send a message to other student protesters, the CUNY administration has pressed charges against the students for “rioting” and “inciting to riot,” at an October 24 protest against the closure of the Morales/Shakur Center. They have also accused Sourov of attempting to assault a campus police officer during the protest. These charges are classically pulled out of a hat to stifle dissidents or cover up police misconduct or both. The fact is that the CUNY administration is blatantly punishing students for voicing dissent on campus and using any means necessary to silence them.

The vendetta against Sourov and Vasquez is part of an ongoing campaign to stifle dissent after weeks of protests across the CUNY campuses. Students and activists have been protesting former CIA director David Petraeus teaching at CUNY, the return of Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to CUNY campuses and the sinister closing of the Morales/Shakur Center at CCNY. At one such protest against Petraeus on September 17, six activists were brutally attacked by police, arrested and charged with several bogus misdemeanors, such as “riot in the second degree.”

We demand that all of the charges against Sourov and Vasquez and the CUNY 6 be dropped immediately.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1036, 13 December 2013)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.