The schools & police trampling on student rights don’t understand the true meaning of “trespassing”

The pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Oregon campus Friday, May 10, 2024, in support of a cease-fire in Gaza.
The pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Oregon campus Friday, May 10, 2024, in support of a cease-fire in Gaza. Photo: Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

The term “trespassing” has several definitions depending on perspective. In one sense, it means “entering a location unlawfully or without permission.”

I recently posted a meme on Facebook with the picture of a common camping tent and the caption: “Tents are Non-Violent, Let Them Stand, Let the Protests Continue Non-Violently.”

I created and distributed the meme as a way of expressing my support for students, faculty, staff, and community residents to demonstrate their opposition to Israel’s murder of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians primarily within the Gaza Strip and in areas of the West Bank.

A person on one of the sites replied under my meme: “Not on private property.”

I countered that “universities are homes away from home for students.” When I was an undergraduate student at San José State University in the 1960s and Governor Ronald Reagan closed our campus to all “non-essential workers” over our peaceful demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, I felt as if he had thrown us from our home.

State colleges and universities are tax-supported public spaces therefore, are not actually “private property.”

I also responded, “So, you are saying that property rights have priority over human rights?”

In this vein, I enter another definition of “trespassing” as “an unlawful act committed on the person, property, or rights of another.”

When university presidents and chancellors call in campus or municipal police officers to dismantle peaceful tent encampments and arrest demonstrators, they commit trespass against “the person” and their First Amendment right to “freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Automatic hypocrisy detectors

Young people contain automatic bullsh*t and hypocrisy detectors. They hone these long before they have thoroughly internalized society’s standards of what constitutes the “status quo” of maintaining the power of the privileged dominant classes.

Their detectors flash red, and screeching alarms ring when they step into the mere presence of hypocrisy. Though they may not yet be conscious of the specifics, social justice principles seep from their souls as the culture attempts to quell their consciousness long before it turns into the challenge of direct action.

I often reflect back to an earlier time to show how this mechanism of the attempted cooptation of youth plays out.

Late 19th-century Germany mirrored many aspects of other Western countries of the 1960s in which a great variety of social movements, many youth-based, emerged in challenge to the status quo.

The first homosexual emancipation organization – formed in part to combat negative perceptions and laws against queer expression and gender non-conformity in the newly unified German Republic – was the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, organized in 1897.

One of the founding members was Magnus Hirschfeld, a prominent Jewish sexologist. The Committee tried to include lesbians. “Uranian ladies,” said one spokesperson, “have become an almost indispensable and prominent component of all our events.” During this time, women also organized.

An active women’s movement assembled in Germany, much of Europe, and in the United States during the middle to the end of the 19th Century.

In Germany, the new draft of the Penal Code in 1910 proposed extending criminal status to sexual acts between women, as it had already criminalized same-sex acts between men. As such. many women’s emancipation groups joined the struggle.

On February 10, 1911, in Berlin, a meeting of the League for the Protection of Mothers adopted a resolution condemning the statute and calling any attempt to extend criminal status to female homosexuality “a serious mistake.”

Helene Stocker, one of the leading spokespeople for the emerging women’s movement and founder of the League for the Protection of Maternity and Sexual Reform in 1905, actively worked with the Scientific Humanitarian Committee to overturn the existing statute.

The kids are organized

A youth order also emerged called the Wandervögels or “migrating birds.” It was at first an all-male organization but opened to females. Estimated at around 50,000 by 1914, its members attempted to resist adult authority and escape the restraints imposed by a bourgeois German society.

Organized in autonomous cells around Germany, many Wandervögels practiced vegetarianism, alternative natural medicine and healing, and nudis. They also challenged restrictive forms of clothing prevalent at the time.

Wilheim Jansen, a homosexual youth and a leader in the German youth movement, broke away from the main movement with his supporters. They formed their own male faction, which they called the “Young Wandervögels,” encouraging homoerotic expression.

Soon after its takeover of the German government, Nazi leadership outlawed existing independent youth groups in June 1933 and established the Hitler Youth. While some former Wandervögels joined the new group, others joined underground resistance groups, such as the White Rose group composed of students from the University of Munich who conducted anti-Nazi leaflet campaigns.

After the fall of the Nazi regime, the Wandervögel movement reorganized, dedicated to its original goals.

Activism and identity formation

In her study of youth participation in social movements, researcher and professor Catherine Corrigall-Brown found that activism is directly related to higher levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy and is also associated with verification and crystallization of identity development.

Youth are transforming and revolutionizing society by challenging overall power inequities related to LGBTQ+ identity, oppression, violence, war, and the environment.

They are forming coalitions, and they are dreaming their dreams. They are sharing their ideas and visions and organizing to ensure a world free from deadly forms of oppression. Along their journey, they are inventing new ways of relating and existing in the world.

Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across the spectrums of diversity will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and repressive cultural norms.

Pat Parker’s poem “Legacy” puts the youth movement’s history into perspective:

…Each generation improves the world for the next.
My grandparents willed me strength.
My parents willed me pride.
I will to you rage.
I give you a world incomplete,
a world where women still are property and chattel
where color still shuts doors
where sexual choice still threatens,
but I give you a legacy of doers
of people who take risks
to chisel the crack wider….

We owe our gratitude to the young people who have taken the chisel and expanded that crack ever wider.

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