Begrudgingly, I awoke this morning to attend a “mandatory” 9 AM class because the instructor had written me an email specifically asking me to attend. My attendance record is substandard at best. While walking along the empty streets of Telegraph Avenue, I was well aware that today was International Workers’ Day
and the anniversary of the Great American Boycott of 2006
, but my main objective was to get my name on the class sign-in sheet and then promptly zone out. From the estimates I’d read in most major newspapers, I was doubtful that this year’s protests would bring out millions
, shut down major freeways
and make the voices of 12 million undocumented immigrants and their allies heard around the world like the protests of 2006.
However, despite my low expectations I was surprised by the paltry attendance of this major event by the students at the supposed activist capital of the world
, UC Berkeley. Last year I remember the campus was nearly shut down as hundreds of students crowded Sproul Plaza, chanting “Si, se puede
!” and holding signs that declared: “The Pilgrims Didn’t Have Green Cards!” and “No Human is Illegal!,” all in solidarity with the protests rocking the nation from March to May in 2006 – the largest protests in American history. Instead, this year’s contingent was a jumbled group of 30 or so impassioned students imploring walkers-by to join the boycott. People ignored them, figuring that it was just another ineffectual “Berkeley thing.” Embarrassed and slightly ashamed, I grabbed a flyer and sauntered off to class.
As I shuffled through the door, the graduate student instructor smiled and said with more than a hint of sarcasm, “I’m glad you made it.”
Racked with guilt coming from all sides, I looked at him and said, “Uhm, you know, there’s a boycott of classes today…”
He looked at me incredulously and said, “Dude, are you serious? Don’t walk out. I used to do that shit all of the time and there’s nothing more useless you could do to help immigrants than walking out of class. Trust me.”