Tonight, on College Street, I will be arrested for the first time in my life. A month ago, I could not have imagined being where I am now, about to do what I am now ready and determined to do. Tonight, I could not imagine remaining on the sidewalk.
Since arriving at Yale, I have worked to become informed of and involved in the complex and troubling issues that shape and are shaped by the relationships within the Yale community and between Yale and New Haven. I have watched as a university with an endowment growing by $5.4 million a day, faced with reasonable demands from people working second jobs to stay afloat, has chosen to respond by evading, threatening and slandering them. I have watched as a university, which ostensibly strives “to foster the development of the community,” has refused to apply the same energy it directs toward international leadership towards true local leadership in a city which has only grown poorer over a decade in which the University’s financial resources have soared.
Tonight, I have watched enough. Tonight, with hundreds from all parts of New Haven, I will participate in the largest civil disobedience action in Connecticut history. Together tonight, we will protest Yale’s refusal to deal justly with its workers, and we will advocate for a new social vision and a truer partnership between a city and a university that depend on each other. Together, we will peaceably block traffic and together, we will peacefully be arrested.
Civil disobedience, as articulated by Martin Luther King Jr., presents a singular opportunity to pursue just ends by just means. Tonight, we will remember his warning to seek not “a negative peace which is the absence of tension” but rather “a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” Tonight, I’ll wear a Yale T-shirt because I come not to distance myself from the University, but to accept the burden of full membership in the institution and the city which have each become my new home. I’ll wear a Yale T-shirt because I’m proud and lucky to be a part of this community. I’ll wear a Yale T-shirt because I want Yale’s administration and workers to know that support for progressive labor policy comes from both sides of Phelps Gate. I want the administration to know that if it lets its own workers get arrested for speaking out at their place of work, it will have to watch its own students get arrested as well. I’ll be standing in the street tonight because I’d rather explain to my parents why I got arrested than explain to my children why I didn’t.
Josh Eidelson is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College.