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Virtual student strike All Out September 30 demands accessible education, defunding police

Event takes place on Orange Shirt Day, includes teachins, panels, breakout sessions
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ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY
ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY

On September 30, students and student groups participated in All Out September 30 (AOS), a virtual protest in support of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) and against racism. The protest took place over Zoom and was live streamed on Facebook.

A number of student unions at U of T participated in the strike, including the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU).

The virtual event took place on Orange Shirt Day, a day when people wear orange shirts to commemorate Indigenous peoples who have been impacted by the residential school system in Ontario.

The organizers of AOS consist of a group of Indigenous, Black, and racialized student leaders and allies from campuses across the GTA who have led and organized campaigns against racism over the last several years.

Demands

Organizers set out a list of demands prior to the protest, including free accessible education for all, province-wide recognition of Orange Shirt Day, the defunding of police and their removal from campuses, specialized programs for BIPOC students, higher wages and job procurement programs for precarious workers, the removal of the Egerton Ryerson Statue, the collection of race-based demographic data, and additional services and supports for BIPOC students.

The strike’s demands are informed by the claim that postsecondary institutions were built for people who are wealthy and white rather than those who are Indigenous, racialized, international, disabled, low-income, or LGBTQ+.

The AOS also demanded the defunding and demilitarization of police. On its Instagram page, the AOS claimed that police, special constables, and security forces “terrorize and surveil… Indigenous, Black, and Racialised students and community members.”

In a post on its Facebook page, the AOS also asserted that “full-time faculty at… universities and colleges are overwhelmingly white” and demanded that more BIPOC faculty and staff be hired at all levels of Ontario’s education system. The AOS believe that BIPOC students deserve to be mentored by BIPOC faculty, and existing BIPOC faculty deserve to be better represented among their peers.

The strike also called for decent work and wages, including “a $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, and equal pay for full-time, part-time, contract, and temporary work.” Additionally, the AOS stressed the importance of provincial protections for workers and that campuses should “develop decent work procurement policies to ensure that all jobs on campus are good jobs.”

Programming of the strike

In an email to The Varsity, AOS organizers wrote that they chose to do the strike online because of the increasing spread of COVID-19 and because they “[know] that Indigenous and Black communities are disproportionately at risk.”

The event consisted mostly of speaker discussions, though participants were also asked to commit to signing and sharing a petition to remove a statue of Egerton Ryerson from the Ryerson University campus.

Recently, the university’s namesake has been heavily criticized for his involvement in the establishment of Canada’s residential school system, which facilitated the abuse of Indigenous children and removed them from their cultures. The proposed action would be similar to the 2019 renaming of the Ryerson Stream of the Vic One program to the Education Stream.

The organizers asked participants to use social media platforms like Twitter to address university representatives and demand that police be removed from university campuses. They also encouraged participants to reach out to provincial representatives and ask for free and accessible education for all.

Other events included an Orange Shirt Day teach-in and panels with grassroots community organizers and activists. The strike’s organizers also moved participants into breakout rooms where they could discuss campus issues and potential reforms.

In an email to The Varsity, UTGSU executives wrote that “beyond September 30th, [they] will continue to fight for these demands and look forward to organizing with students across campuses.”

In an interview with The Varsity, Sarah Abdillahi, President of SCSU, summarized that the strike was “in support for Black, Indigenous, and racialized students, faculty and staff who experience anti-Black racism, or anti-Indigenous racism on our campuses. And we’re basically saying, enough is enough.”