Rutgers group stages protest against Columbus Day
After Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, one Rutgers student argues that the navigator launched a centuries-long genocide of Native Americans, and has a national holiday to show for it.
Don Courter, along with a group of students in the All Marxist-Leninist Union (AMLU), sought to raise awareness of the mostly unspoken history behind Columbus Day with a protest on the steps of Brower Commons on Monday afternoon.
The organization aims to create a forum on Columbus Day for organizations that represent oppressed peoples of all backgrounds, said Courter, the AMLU's general secretary and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
They were accompanied by Norman Markowitz, a professor in the Department of History, who gave a brief monologue over a megaphone.
The AMLU stands for anti-imperialism, which is the reason Courter said the group decided to host this Columbus Day protest.
“We believe it is abhorrent to sanctify the legacy of a man who initiated a centuries-long genocide against the Native American peoples — particularly the Taíno Indians — and historically-revisionist to claim that he discovered a land already inhabited by millions of people,” Courter said.
The AMLU also stands in opposition to “modern imperialist countries that continue to mercilessly exploit and pillage the third world,” he said.
Rutgers University does not cancel classes on Columbus Day, after a series of controversies that arose a couple of years ago regarding the nature of the holiday.
The AMLU supports the University’s decision to hold classes, Courter said.
“To do otherwise would spit on the memory of millions of Native Americans who were exterminated during the Manifest Destiny era and those few Native Americans who remain to retain their peoples' cultures," he said.
But the University does not educate students about Christopher Columbus' crimes or about one of the largest genocides in world history, Courter said. Rutgers continues to ignore the country's imperialist policies.
As Communists, Courter said AMLU members are “astonished” that the University has whitewashed its own history of black enslavement and claims to uphold "revolutionary" values for 250 years.
Courter said if Paul Robeson, the third African-American to graduate from the University were alive today, he would cringe at the University’s policies. Robeson was a man who was dedicated to Marxism-Leninism and liberation of oppressed people.
“Our University uses his legacy to promote its own image while signing fat cat business deals with imperialist corporations and doing nothing to make students aware of our country's life-long imperialist policies," he said.
The organization was not surprised by the deals. Courter said the business deals are reflective of the country as a whole.
"(The country is) administered by capitalists whose interests are irreconcilable with those of working-class people and students," he said.
Universities should be administered by students and workers who understand the work that makes the school's operations run smoothly and who are affected by the institutions' well-being, he said.
Courter said Columbus Day celebrates imperialism, the precedence of profit over working class people and the hyper exploitation of the world's resources.
“We stand for national self-determination, solidarity between these self-determining nations, the overthrow of the profit incentive in favor of the human incentive, and the rational organization of our planet's shared resources — for the good of humanity," Courter said.
Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @bushrafhasan for more.