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Have We Learned Nothing? Nonviolent Protest Wins

Last Monday afternoon, I rode my bicycle to UCLA from Burbank, while taking advantage of the Metro subway train to get over the hill to Hollywood, to try and meet some of the student protesters on that campus.

I attempted to make the point to them, as a former college protest organizer against the Vietnam War back during the late 1960s, that nonviolence and respect for others is a necessary strategy for achieving their goals.

Unfortunately, when I arrived on the UCLA campus, I was prevented from entering the area taken over by the student protesters (with their many pup tents) who had announced that nobody, including the media — even CNN cameras that go into the world’s most dangerous war zones — would be allowed, and no interviews would be given. There was not even a reason offered as to why the protesters were cutting themselves off from the outside world!

Since Monday, there have been scuffles at the UCLA protest site between differing sides and even fireworks exploding near students. The great disappointment for me is that my generation of student activists, who had the teachings of Martin Luther King and Gandhi passed on to us by the Civil Rights activists of the early 1960s who registered voters in the South at great personal risks to themselves, have failed to pass that legacy forward to the young protesters of today.

If I’d had the opportunity to offer my advice to the UCLA protesters last Monday, it would have been, simply, to “stay organized, remain nonviolent, and be respectful towards those you disagree with.” That’s not just the correct moral position to take, it is the only one that can achieve long-term success.

Doug Weiskopf


First published in the May 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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