David Bruce: Protests Anecdotes

• These days, many people—including students—are losing their rights. Fortunately, a few students (and lawyers) are fighting back. On March 27, 2007, four high-school students—two in Virginia and two in Arizona—filed a lawsuit against Turnitin. The students attended high schools that required them to submit essays to this anti-plagiarism service, which compares the essays against documents on the Web and then archives the students’ essays. Robert A. Vanderhye, lawyer for the unnamed students (who represented them pro bono), says, “Our clients have no problem … submitting documents for review. But when it comes to archiving, it raises a number of very serious issues, the first of which is copyright infringement.” The lawsuit asked for $900,000 in damages. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2009, although Mr. Vanderhye was thinking of filing a different lawsuit against Turnitin. Wendy Warren Austin of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania writes that the students were concerned about this important point: “Mandatory submission of student papers helps build Turnitin.com’s database without any monetary compensation.  Although licensing fees are paid for professional articles that are contained within the database, students’ papers are obtained with no compensation though they add considerably to the product’s profitability.  Furthermore, although these high school students digitally sign a “consent” form as they have their papers submitted, they are in fact “signing” these consents under duress, i.e. under penalty of getting a zero, and by virtue of their status as minors, lack capacity to enter into a binding contract.” Ms. Austin also writes that the student were concerned about this important point: “The presumption of guilt—The idea of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ prevails in this model of plagiarism detection, especially when the submission of papers is deemed as mandatory, not voluntary.’ By the way, two of the students were from McLean High School in Virginia. Some McLean High School students (and parents) created a Web site called Dontturnitin.com. 

• In February 2011 protesters massed in Madison, Wisconsin, in response to Wisconsin’s union-busting governor, Scott Walker, a Republican, who gave massive tax cuts to businesses, then declared a fiscal emergency and tried to make ordinary employees be the ones to pay for the tax cuts. His way of doing that was to remove the collective bargaining rights of many public employees. According to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, some public employees — the kind who tend to be Republicans — would still retain their collective bargaining rights. Being a protester means staying on the scene for long periods of time, and of course protesters get hungry. Ian’s Pizza in Madison, Wisconsin, received a request at 3:30 a.m., asking if it had any leftover pizza. It did, and so the hungry protesters got fed. Word got around that Ian’s Pizza had gone above and beyond what an ordinary place of business would probably do at 3:30 a.m., and soon orders flooded in from people who wanted to order pizzas to be given to the protesters — a way of showing support for them. On Saturday, February 19, Ian’s delivered more than 300 pizzas to the protesters. The calls to order pizzas for the protesters came from both near and far. The far places included Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UK. Ian’s Facebook page thanked the people who wanted to feed the protesters and added, “Believe us when we say we are not really accustomed to getting pizza orders from the entire country (let alone internationally!)”

• In 2007, while standing in line in Victoria station in London, a man named Gareth Edwards, who describes himself as a “big, stocky bloke with a shaven head,” noticed a well-dressed businessman cutting in line behindhim. (Apparently, Mr. Edwards is so big that the businessman did not want to cut in line aheadof him.) Some people politely remonstrated with the businessman, but the businessman ignored the protests. So Mr. Edwards asked the elderly woman who was behind the businessman line-cutter-in, “Do you want to go in front of me?” She did, and Mr. Edwards then asked the new person standing behind the businessman line-cutter-in, “Do you want to go in front of me?” Mr. Edwards did this 60 or 70 times, so he and the businessman kept moving further back in line. Finally, just as the bus pulled up, the elderly woman whom he had first allowed to go ahead in line, yelled back to him, “Young man! Do you want to go in front of me?”

• In November of 2010, tens of thousands of students protested in England over cuts in funding for education and higher fees for tuition that could keep them from getting a university education. Some students in London even attacked a police van, but a group of schoolgirls stopped the attack by surrounding the van and linking hands. Guardianjournalist Jonathan Jones wrote, “Some who were at the student protests this week accuse police of deliberately leaving a solitary van in the middle of the ‘kettled’ crowd to invite trouble and provide incriminating media images of an out-of-control mob attacking it.” According to <en.wiktionary.org/wiki/kettling>, kettling is “The practice of police surrounding a hostile mob (usually of protesters) and not letting them disperse.”) By stopping the violent students from attacking the police van, the schoolgirls helped prevent negative publicity about the student protests.

• In 1977, future punk critic Steven Wells and some other punks wanted to go to a Mekons concert. However, the student rugby player who was at the door did not like the way that the punks were dressed and so refused to let them inside. The punks formed a picket line without any pickets and informed everyone who came by what had happened and asked them not to cross the picket line. No one did. Twenty minutes went by, and the person who had organized the show came outside to find out why no one was going inside. The punks explained to him what had happened. The organizer then fired the student rugby player and the punks enjoyed a good concert. (Rugby in England is class conscious. In the South, Rugby Union is played by the posh. In the North, Rugby League is played by the working class. The Mekons concert happened in the South.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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