J20 coalition hosts teach-ins on Inauguration Day

Alice Langford/Staff

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As President Donald Trump was sworn into office on the East Coast, four hours of teach-ins took place across campus in protest of the inauguration, intended to prepare people for the change in administration.

A total of 39 teach-ins took place Friday morning, each starting anywhere between 8 and 11:30 a.m., with topics ranging from political resistance in children’s books to analyses of Trump through a political science lens. Teach-ins are public educational forums where people can share political and social ideas, and include more discussion than a protest.

J20 — a universitywide coalition of organizations including the UC student workers union, student groups, faculty and staff formed to protest Trump — organized the series of teach-ins and published them on Facebook.

“We believe that participation in this mass action will build solidarities among our frequently atomized communities,” said an FAQ released by UAW Local 2865, the UC student workers’ union. “We must begin the work of building strong and empowered communities starting Day 1 of this presidential administration.

The coalition also called for campus departments to cancel classes Friday and support a walk-out from classes. Multiple departments canceled classes, including the history department, and professors in other departments chose to cancel classes on an individual basis.

Not everyone on campus, however, agreed with the demonstrations. David Craig, the treasurer for Berkeley College Republicans, has previously said he believes the cancellation of classes deprives students of the education they paid for.

“It’s a very interesting event, and we just hope that all viewpoints will be able to be addressed on such a momentous day,” said Branden West, a campus sophomore who stood behind the BCR booth on Sproul Plaza.

East Asian languages and cultures doctoral candidate Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda and community member and therapist Alice Phipps led a teach-in about hate speech, and they encouraged attendees to discuss productive ways to verbally combat logical fallacies in debates. Another teach-in, led by history graduate student Craig Johnson, focused on fascist strategies and compared the Trump administration to other historical right-wing parties.

“I personally argue against fascism as a failure of the left,” Johnson said at the teach-in. “It is in situations like this, when both political parties are seen as politically corrupt, that the far-right gains (votes).”

Others focused more on looking toward the future than to the past. One, led by political science graduate students Melissa Griffith and Joseph Gardner, considered the possibilities of a third World War and the Trump administration turning into a tyranny.

Griffith and Gardner advised attendees to continue to resist over a long period of time.

“I think there’s a problem with people thinking marches are just one time things … and we want to encourage people to think about, no, you go march, and then you go to a teach-in, and then you call your congressman and then you try to organize other groups,” Gardner said. “We want people to get used to this becoming part of their social routine.”

Teach-ins were well-attended, and audiences ranged from well-seasoned members of the UC student worker union to students trying to understand more about the controversies surrounding the new administration.

“I’ve heard everyone throwing around the term fascism and connecting it to Trump, and I thought that this might not really be true and I wanted to find out about that,” said Emma Kovak, a graduate student in biology.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.