World Can't Wait–Hawai'i Sponsors "Festival of Resistance" at UH Manoa

wcwhawaiisept2012
From World Can't Wait, Hawai'i 

On September 12th World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i held its annual “Festival of Resistance” at the University of Hawai`i. The Festival has been held at the beginning of each school year for the purpose of introducing students to community organizations and promoting an atmosphere of resistance.  

 

Each year, for the past thirteen years, it has been progressively more difficult to sponsor a vibrant Festival in the face of the university’s many rules and regulations.  This year proved to be even more challenging!

World Can’t Wait Hawai`i is a “registered independent organization” at UH-Manoa and had filed for a permit for the Festival 6 weeks prior to the event.  Festival posters with the slogan “Humanity and the Planet Come First” had been posted throughout campus.

Two days before the event we were informed that the permit had been denied because organizers hadn’t provided the University bureaucracy with copies of ALL of the signs that would be posted at the event and of ALL of the leaflets that would be distributed by the various organizations involved.  This was the first time that such an onerous demand had been made, and there was nothing in writing or in the permitting process to indicate that these submissions were necessary.   

Such a demand from the University was outrageous and went up against everything World Can’t Wait stands for.   We refused to comply and began making plans to expose the university and rally faculty and students against such blatant censorship, while at the same time negotiating with the university administration.    A representative of the university said they were concerned that the festival wouldn’t maintain proper university “decorum” and that the word “resistance” in the title of the festival had raised by itself a redflag of concern to administrators.   However, they ultimately backed down.

On the morning of the Festival, tents went up at the “Sustainability Courtyard” on central campus.  Fifteen groups had tables:  World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i, UH National Organization for Women (NOW), Makawalu (a Hawaiian independence group), Revolution Books, BAsics Bus Tour,  Support Bradley Manning, Down to Earth, Label it Hawaii (GMOs), Food Sovereignty Hawai`i, ACLU, (de)Occupy Honolulu, Men Against Violence,  Stop Patriarchy, Save Pagan Island, and Drug Policy Forum.   Banners and signs covered the tents, the sidewalks and the grassy areas.   For a single day the area was infused with the energy and passion of people determined to make the world a better place.

Students and faculty visited tables, signed banners and petitions, gathered in groups to talk about issues they were concerned about, and signed up for more information.    Cell phones recorded pictures of the banners and signs and people posed beside the image of Obama holding a bomb with the slogan: “Is it Really Okay if Obama Does it?   Debates broke out about patriarchy, Bradley Manning, GMO’s, communism, and the Occupy Movement.   Many were puzzled.   “What are you trying to do?”   “Where’s Pagan Island?”  “Who is Bradley Manning?”  “Why isn’t there a voter registration table?”  “Are you voting for Romney?” 

At the end of the day employees of a food cart operating in the courtyard said we should do this more often – that the day had brought some much-needed energy to the campus and “real education.”  Organizers agree.   Students at UH-Manoa are seldom challenged with a spirit of resistance.  In fact, as the university administration so aptly proved in its initial refusal for the permit, a spirit of resistance is actively opposed.   Bulletin boards have been removed.  “Free speech” areas have been eliminated.  Regulations and permitting requirements make it very difficult for progressive groups to gain access to campus and even campus organizations are discouraged.  Hanging a banner is prohibited. Approved banners for special events are pre-screened for their message, and even need to have the proper font sizes.  You can’t leaflet in the Student Center.   Chalking has been criminalized.    When challenged about its intention to create a rarified atmosphere free of the real issues facing the people of the world, the administration hides behind the need to “create a safe space” for students - free of passionate debate around issues like war, religion, reproductive rights, discrimination, inequality, and environmental concerns.

An atmosphere of resistance is desperately needed at the University of Hawai`i campus. It’s easy to blame the students for being apathetic, but people seldom point to the University of Hawai`i administration.  World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i is proud that it was able to back the bureaucracy down and hold this festival, and is challenging other organizations to do the same. Humanity and the planet depend on it.