There are a bunch of new allies in the criminal justice reform movement, and they’re a force to be reckoned with. No, we’re not talking about conservatives like Newt Gingrich or the deep-pocketed Koch brothers. We’re talking about millennials. On Monday, student organizers at nine universities are joining forces to make it clear they care deeply about the movement to reform our country’s criminal justice system. In particular, this week’scampaign will tackle the solitary confinement of juveniles. Organizers hope to catch the attention of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “We’re going for the big fish,” said Savion Castro, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the campaign director for the Student Alliance for Prison Reform.
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Student activists have occupied a historic hall at Swarthmore College, the alma mater of the United Nations climate chief, demanding the university cut its ties to fossil fuels. The sit-in at the liberal arts college in Pennsylvania launches a new wave of protests by campus divestment campaigners across the US that will culminate in an old-style teach-in at Harvard on 13 April. Some 37 students and six alumni entered the finance and investment office of the university at about 9am on Thursday. “We are in,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a political science student. He said the students planned to stay until university administrators agree to return to negotiations on a divestment plan. “At this point we have no plans to leave,” he said. Swarthmore, founded by Quakers, helped launch the campus divestment movement, now active at hundreds of universities across North America, Europe and Australia.
Zellie Thomas was at a meeting with members of the activist group #NJShutItDown Tuesday afternoon at Montclair University where participants reflected on the 9-second video that captured members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon chanting racist epithets. As the ten or so mostly college students began recalling racist incidents on their own campuses, they decided to lead a Twitter conversation about it using #NotJustSAE. “We know that this topic is relevant to a lot of students, especially at predominately white institutions,” Thomas, 30, the lead on conceiving the hashtag and advisor to #NJShutItDown, told AlterNet. “All of the racism they face and experience and the micro-aggressions get swept under the rug. It doesn’t get in the news, it doesn’t get its own hashtag. They just have to deal with it.”
College students are being urged to scrap plans for beer bongs on sunny beaches, in favour of a serious-minded spring break in Ferguson, the Missouri town that was roiled by protests and unrest following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old. Six months after the death of Michael Brown, activist leaders in the St Louis suburb are looking to sign up 250 young people for a grittier week of “community service and civic engagement” including registering new voters, running food banks and cleaning up streets. “Maybe there were some people who had planned to go down to Miami or Acapulco, and now see that there is something bigger,” said Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman for the town and a co-founder of the Ferguson alternative spring break programme.
The battle over building the Keystone XL pipeline is having an impact far from its proposed route. One of those places is the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a city of 100,000 known for its educated and engaged citizens. The city currently purchases the electricity that powers its municipal buildings from TransCanada, Keystone XL’s parent company. But now its city council has passed a unanimous resolution advising city manager Richard Rossi not to do business with the company once its current contract expires at the end of 2015 and to look at acquiring the city’s electricity from clean, renewable sources. The measure was sponsored by councillor Dennis Carlone.