Pro-affirmative action group BAMN can add another foe to its enemy list.
Students who both advocate and oppose affirmative action have formed a new group known as The Coalition to Stop BAMN, By Any Legal Means. The group of about 30 students aims to raise awareness about BAMN, claiming that the openly communist organization uses racist and violent tactics to achieve its political goals.
“A lot of people are fed up with BAMN,” said group head organizer Dan Shuster. “And we want them to take a hike.”
But while members from both sides of the debate have slammed BAMN for its militant methods, some students are questioning the true intentions and inclusiveness of this new group.
“I have to wonder whether this organization will also be used as a backdoor way to discredit affirmative action and its supporters,” said Lisa Bakale-Wise, a member of Students Supporting Affirmative Action.
Criticism of BAMN on campus peaked last October when the organization transported hundreds of middle and high school students from Detroit to Ann Arbor for a rally against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, architects of a proposal that will appear on November’s ballot that would ban some affirmative action programs in the state.
Several student groups, including the campus chapter of the NAACP, allege that BAMN used the students, virtually all of whom were black, as tokens to legitimize the rally. Because the students shouted obscenities at anti-affirmative action protestors at the rally, the groups say the stunt was counterproductive to the cause of affirmative action.
BAMN’s actions at a State Board of Canvassers meeting in December have also drawn ire.
A Michigan court had ordered the board to put the initiative on the ballot. BAMN bused in Detroit high school students to the meeting. The students turned over an empty table and police arrested a 17-year-old student on a misdemeanor charge.
Shuster, an opponent of affirmative action, said the group formed on Facebook.com in reaction to the October rally. Earlier this month, some members of the group met to formally establish the nonpartisan group.
With BAMN escalating its efforts to recruit middle and high school students, Shuster said University students from both sides of the debate recognize that the group has crossed the line.
“BAMN is nothing without the kids,” Shuster said. “They are all just pawns in BAMN’s game.”
Group member Heather Wittaniemi claims she joined BAMN earlier this school year but quit shortly after the October rally.
She added that BAMN’s open endorsement of the use of violence along with its blind devotion to affirmative action and Marxist ideology, turned her off from its cause.
But Ben Royal, a BAMN organizer, said Wittaniemi is an imposter who infiltrated BAMN and attended its meetings to gain inside information to be used against it. Wittaniemi is also a member of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative group that opposes affirmative action.
Royal said the use of violence “has never been an issue for us,” but declined to comment further. He added that BAMN uses middle and high school students in their campaigns to follow in footsteps of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., who used children in his movements to end segregation in schools.
“People are actually against BAMN because they know that BAMN is the only effective defense for affirmative action,” Royal said.
Shuster said while the majority of the members are supporters of MCRI, the group has attracted support from a handful of members in pro-affirmative action groups like the College Democrats.
But Bakale-Wise said she is skeptical as to how encompassing the new group truly is.
She said of the organizations she has spoken to, “None of the very active, pro-affirmative action student of color organizations . were contacted by this purportedly inclusive anti-BAMN organization.”
Riana Anderson, president of the University chapter of the NAACP, said her organization was never contacted to join the new group, although she was personally sent a facebook message to join the group online. At the same time, while the NAACP has publicly condemned BAMN, the chapter is not actively working to uproot the group from campus.
“At this point we are simply trying to go about our purpose, instead of wasting time and energy to go against them,” she said.
The new group recently sent e-mails to the principals of various Detroit public schools whose students were involved in the October rally. The e-mails pointed out BAMN’s violent history and called for the principals to prohibit the group from their schools.
None of the responses they have received indicated the principals would make any changes, Shuster said.
Mattie Majors, a spokeswoman for Detroit Public Schools, said she has not received any complaints relating to BAMN.