Riled: angry ethnic studies protest provokes angry response
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
An ethnic studies supporter (far left) lectures reporter Joel Waldman on objectivity after Waldman attempted to interview an opponent.
Protesting students take over the TUSD board room, grabbing the media spotlight and preventing a vote on the embattled ethnic studies program
Chaos: protestors and onlookers fill the small TUSD meeting room. Pima County public defender Isabel Garcia, an outspoken immigrant rights activist (lower center of picture) was at the head of the crowd as students were chaining themselves into place.
Meeting adjourned -- TUSD gives up and cancels the board meeting
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
This week students and adults fighting to save TUSD's embattled Mexican American studies program raised their voices in a loud, raucous, chaotic takeover of the school board's meeting room. If it were possible to hear raised voices through email, we'd be hearing that now in the response this event has evoked among KGUN9 viewers.
In Tuesday night's incident, some TUSD students chained themselves to board members' chairs. They succeeded in shutting down the board meeting, thereby preventing a vote on the proposal they were opposing. That proposal, if passed, would have turned the endangered La Raza program into an elective, which opponents say would effectively kill it. The proposal is an attempt to head off a showdown over a state law passed last year, which forbids programs that, among other things, teach "ethnic solidarity" or that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.
The protest was, in once sense, a classic demonstration of American free speech rights and peaceful civil disobedience, in the great tradition of the civil rights movement of the sixties. But in another sense it succeeded, if only for a week, in shutting down the very democratic process the students were attempting to influence.
9 On Your Side viewers on all sides of the issue are steamed. The whole controversy has resulted in more feedback to KGUN9 News than we've seen since SB 1070 was passed last year.
L R Bethea Jr. writes: "I really think the Ethnic Studies Program should be dropped until such time as there is no inflammatory signs or oratory.... I also feel all who come to this country should assimilate into the overall society as have millions who have proceeded them."
"west1890" writes: "A typical liberal temper tantrum. 'Give me what I want or I'll kick and scream and make your life miserable.' They've certainly had enough far left examples lately to learn their childish tactics from. We may even find a future Pelosi or Obama in this crowd."
"anni" writes: "Those students should all be thrown out of school for the remainder of this term. bunch of brats!"
"AZBarb" writes: "This is what those students have been taught... this is exactly why those programs SHOULD NOT be taught here. If they want to act that way, they should go back to Mexico."
"RoniJ43" writes: "What is out of control is racism in AZ. Especially when people tell these kids to go back to Mexico when you don't even KNOW where they are born! .... Wow, look at the comments here! Should be kicked out and Liberal tantrums? You know, this is a protest and is what the Constitution says we have freedom to do. So, it's ok for the Tea Party, but no one else? Give me a break! This is America and these kids are being Americans! Great day in AZ!!! You go kids!! We are with you everywhere across the USA!"
"Ginalily" writes: "I am so glad that these students know their rights and are willing to fight for what they believe in!"
"Madge11" writes: "Why in the world would they be allowed to take Mexican American studies instead of U.S. History? That makes no sense. Last time I checked we live in the US, making US history a logical core requirement."
"Yzzil2u" writes: "What the students did, is completely within their rights and power. It is truly no different then what happened in the Civil Rights movement during campaigns like the Lunch Counter one, in which African American students took up seats that was illegal for them to sit in and wait to be served even though a waitress never even allowed them to order. It is illegal to protest in a way that incites a riot, but sitting in the seats of the board (a board which controls the school) is perfectly with in the law.... It's time we are allowed to have our voices heard, and it is a crime against humanity that people do not support the idea of standing up for what we believe in or that we might care about our education."
"AZmouse" writes: "This just proves what these students are being taught. They all should have been arrested and suspended from school. They just showed all of Tucson and America just what they are and what they stand for. Ethnic studies bull, let their families teach them, don't throw my tax money away on a bunch of scum that want to over throw the USA. In case you haven't noticed this is the USA, not Mexico, try this in Mexico schools and see what happens. You all take this country for granted, instead of working to better it. If you love Mexico so much go back to it."
"mizchemteacher" writes: "They are being taught to stand up for what they believe in, rather than bow in deference to a discriminatory law like HR2281 [the Ethnic Studies crackdown]. If you had any actual first-hand knowledge about the issue, you would know that a large segment of the people at the action tonight, and of the youth who take these classes, are white. And by the way, what is really wrong with education in this country are people like you, who think you "throw tax money away (to educate) a bunch of scum." Trying to undo the ignorance you spew chews up a whole lot of tax dollars."
"experienced" writes: "So now the school board, elected by adults, is supposed to let belligerent, uneducated children tell then how to set the curriculum in the school district? It would be interesting to see the attendance records and grades of these students I remember how easy it is to get caught up in "defiant" behavior. Parents and adults should get control of their kids."
"Tangod" writes: "The behavior of the students was completely out of hand. It will just add more fuel to fire, helping the anti-ethnic studies people prove their point that these classes are producing rebellious hostile students that only want to overthrow the government. By them interrupting, heckling, being rude and disrespectful I am almost embarrassed to say I supported them before. This behavior puts a black eye on the entire program. They should all feel ashamed of their actions. They only made themselves look foolish. I do think Ethnic Studies should be taught in school, but embracing all ethnicities, not just Mexican. I originally thought the anti group was racist, but now it is clear that both sides are."
"Papoosie" writes: "Bravo young people. This is not about an "elective" class. It's about the continuous oppression of the AZ state legislature against people of color. We will not be dismissed."
Billie Jean Murchison (via Facebook): "Yet the liberal and LaRaza loving masses claim they teach 'Diversity'", and 'A rich culture' in these classes. All I see is anti-American rhetoric being force fed to the indoctrinated youth. The ethnic studies teachers are USING these students for their own agenda. They disgust me."
Whenever a controversial subject like this one hits the news, someone is sure to level an accusation that simply because KGUN9 news covered the event, we're biased. "Tim" made sure this incident was no exception, writing, "The complete outburst of uncontrolled behavior should have resulted in arrests. A well informed educated group of adults made an informed decision. Why does KGUN9 treat this like it's entertainment? Are they again displaying their bias! Shame on them, the police and any politician that dirties himself, by supporting this outrageous conduct!"
But don't get the idea that only those on the right side of the political spectrum are trying to stifle the voices of opponents. Not at all. On the night of the demonstration, when a protestor caught KGUN9 reporter Joel Waldman interviewing two ethnic studies supporters who'd shown up in a vain attempt to be heard, she tried to prevent it, objecting to the interview then heckling the interviewees. When Waldman challenged her actions, the protestor told Waldman, with a perfectly straight face, that he needed to work on his objectivity. She added, "They have a right to speak... I just don't understand why you're spending so much time talking to them."
Let's get this straight. The reporter trying to cover the news and interview all sides lacks objectivity. But those trying to prevent him from doing so don't?
It is a topsy-turvy world.
And by the way, what happened to all those cries for more civil public discourse that we've been hearing recently? Isn't Tucson supposed to be the center for that movement right now? How does that fit into each side trying to shout down the other in this debate?
But wait. Who says democracy is the best way to settle our affairs? Maybe the combatants in this issue have hit upon something better: he or she who shouts the loudest wins. You don't need a board vote or a ballot box to measure the outcome of that kind of contest -- just a decibel meter. It might make life simpler.
Just a thought.
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