MIT Students Protest Bombings
MIT students and faculty protested the U.S. military bombings of Afghanistan on Thursday by staging a humanitarian demonstration in Killian Court and a sit-in on the Student Center steps. Similar protests were coordinated at almost 100 other college campuses across the nation.
“The coordinated simultaneous sit-ins that took place were aimed at drawing some moral outrage from American who have too long been complacent to the fact that millions of people will die from our government’s actions,” said Sanjay Basu ’02, one of the event’s organizers.
Several props were erected as part of the protest, including a banner reading “No War” that was draped from the big dome in Killian Court. Makeshift refugee tents resembling those being used in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps were scattered across Killian lawn to demonstrate the plight of homeless Afghani refugees whose homes were destroyed by U.S. bombs.
Roughly 40 students and faculty members were involved in the sit-in outside the Student Center, which began at noon and lasted for an hour.
“A lot of people were coordinating this,” said Basu. “There was a large group of students and almost 100 schools that participated, which shows that a lot of people share this opinion.”
Other schools that staged similar demonstrations on Thursday included Harvard University, Boston College, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Stanford.
Protesters want end to bombings
The demonstrators demanded a complete halt of the bombings, which have not only damaged International Red Cross facilities, but have also interfered with groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the World Food Program.
“The protest was to demand an immediate end to the bombing of Afghanistan and a legitimate concerted humanitarian effort to provide food and services to the refugees that were displaced,” said Brice C. Smith G.
Students also called for a recognition of the suffering that the refugees and internally displaced persons must suffer, especially though the upcoming winter.
“About 7 million people will probably starve to death by the end of winter. Given that the U.S. bombing is the only thing that has displaced them, their safety is also our responsibility,” Basu said.
To effectively aid the refugees, demonstrators called for an increase of aid through ground-based food and medicine delivery.
“It is very clear that the so-called aid being brought there is of negligible value,” said Basu. “[The food drops] are mainly a propaganda tool.”
Many of the protesters believe that a halt in bombing would greatly improve the humanitarian effort in Afghanistan.
“The system for distribution is in place and several organizations are on the ground in border countries and have people trained to distribute food, but they are being prevented by the bombing,” said Smith. “If the United States stopped bombing, the situation would increase almost infinitely.”
According to Basu, cluster bombs dropped by the United States are the same color as the food packages, and many Afghanis are walking into heavily mined areas to get the aid packets. “You’d think that a giant superpower would have money to buy a different color bag in two weeks, but that hasn’t happened,” he said.
Onlookers react positively
Several faculty members approached the demonstrators and expressed positive reactions to the students’ views. Reaction to the demonstration was positive, and many people stopped throughout the day to observe the demonstration by reading the flyers and signs.