10th Annual UF Radical Rush
Ten years ago, a group of local politicos came up with an idea for an event, which not only opened up local activist groups for recruiting new members, but was also a satire of the Greek community's yearly rituals. The idea stuck, and Radical Rush was born.
Now in its tenth year, the annual event on UF campus has become a tradition in the Gainesville activist scene, where community and student groups come together in a festive atmosphere to table and put on events around the city in an effort to recruit new members to their causes.
"It was initially a joke, but then after the first Radical Rush, we realized that what the Greeks do actually works," recollects Joe Courter, a co-founder of the Civic Media Center and one of the editors of this publication. Within the first few years, groups like Student Peace Action (now defunct), the ACLU, the Civic Media Center and numerous other groups have recruited hundreds of new members, simply by setting up a table and "putting themselves out there."
Interestingly enough, the political climate of the day seemed to very much affect the turnout and interest amongst the student body. Courter recalls: "immediately following September 11th, there wasn't much interest in radical politics"(the event typically takes place in mid-September). The second year, in the run up to the 2000 election, so many groups participated that the event spread all across Turlington Plaza.
"In the beginning, the University administration didn't know what to make of us. In the second year, we had so many groups participate that I think we scared them. It was after this that the concrete tables in Turlington were built, ostensibly to open up free speech, but what it actually did was curtail it, in that no more groups were permitted to table than there were tables present," says Courter. For the last few years now, the event has taken place at the Plaza of the Americas, the University's least restricted "Free Speech Zone."
One of the initial guiding ideas was also to create a bridge across the "town vs. gown separation" that continues to define Gainesville's dynamics. In a sense, the event acts as a way for people new to Gainesville to become plugged into the progressive community, through volunteering opportunities, activism and in general, hearing the "word on the street."
Courter is optimistic about this year's upcoming Radical Rush, the tenth anniversary, which is set for September 17th through the 19th. "It sounds like a winner. I hope that students can come by on at least one of the days to find something interesting."
So far the groups participating include but are not limited to the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Gainesville local of the Industrial Workers of the World union, Campus NOW (National Organization for Women), the Civic Media Center, and Students for a Democratic Society.
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