On Wednesday morning, striking members of Student Workers of Columbia-UAW Local 2110 established picket lines at entrances on all four sides of the university’s Morningside Heights campus. They were joined over the course of the day by Columbia faculty, members of other labor unions, socialists, elected officials and others who wanted to show their support for the strikers and their demands for better pay, benefits and protections against workplace harassment and discrimination. Hundreds of people participated in the action.
“Picket line means don’t cross,” they chanted.
Most Columbia students and employees honored the picket line and the campus was effectively shut down for the day.
On Thursday, Columbia Provost Mary Bryce issued a statement denouncing Wednesday’s action. She claimed that the picketers had subjected individuals trying to enter the campus to physical harassment and had caused several injuries. She provided no corroborating evidence.
The Columbia administration is engaging in a type of civility politics that reflexively casts aspersions on collective resistance to an unjust status quo.
The Indypendent had three reporters on hand, none of whom saw instances of violent behavior by picketers. You can see all of our coverage on the Indy Twitter page.
I was present from 10 am to noon and visited pickets on the Broadway, 114th Street, Amsterdam and 120th Street sides of the campus. I saw no violent behavior from the protesters.
Indy videographer Lila Livingston was present from 9:30-4 and reports she did not see any altercations.
Indy videographer Sue Brisk was also on hand from roughly 9:30-4 and reports she did not see any physical violence. One one occasion at 9: 41 am, Sue says she saw a campus employee become angry when he was urged not to cross the picket line. The picketers tried to talk him out of doing it, but he entered the campus anyway, unharmed.
To address these claims is to go down a rabbit hole. Such accusations can never be fully disproven because in theory something could have happened somewhere at some point, even if no evidence is provided.
Beyond debating the details of what happened on Wednesday, we should understand that the Columbia administration is engaging in a type of civility politics that reflexively casts aspersions on collective resistance to an unjust status quo. It is playing shamelessly to the rightwing trope of “union thugs.”
In a world awash in disinformation campaigns, it’s dismaying to see the leaders of one of the nation’s most prestigious universities appear to engage in one as well. It is Columbia top administrators who are trying to starve their precarious workers into submission. If we want to talk about violence at Columbia, let’s start there.
John Tarleton is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Indypendent.