My name is Tamara Jenkins, and I am one of the organizers of an Amnesty International sponsored event called "Get On The Bus". This event was conceived in 1996 when a volunteer from my local group made an innocent suggestion. She wanted to do more than just letter writing, so she suggested getting a small group of people together to protest at the Nigerian consulate on behalf of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist on death row in Nigeria. From this modest beginning, GOTB has grown exponentially. Last year, over 1,200 Amnesty members and other activists participated.
Every year, parents and school administrators contact us with understandable concerns for the safety of their children. Throughout all the years of GOTB events, we have not had any conflicts or incidents. I believe that this is due in part to the fact that we only ask Amnesty International members, or friends of AI, to join us. As members of AI, people understand that AI promotes non-violence and full cooperation with authorities. We could not hold the Amnesty banner if we behaved otherwise.
We have worked with the same New York police detective, Detective Bugoki, for many years. He knows us by name, and he walks with us from site to site, along with up to two dozen police officers. Students have always been cooperative and peaceful. If any students were to be uncooperative, adult Amnesty members would take them to the bus and sit with them until departure time, as well as call home. Our police escorts are our protectors, and they act as such. NYPD are very respectful and understanding, and they are proud of our active participation in our democratic system. The police will have borders set up at each demonstration as a buffer between the demonstrators and traffic.
Each student receives a bus packet, with information about the actions of the day, general information about the day in NYC, event expectations, and cell phone contacts of the organizers. Each bus has two bus captains that have the names, addresses, home phone numbers and contact cell phone information from each student/group. Most groups have adult faculty advisors in attendance. The adult to student ratio is approximately 15-1 during the day, not including police officers. I myself have been a high school teacher for many years, and have taken many field trips with students. Please be assured that the safety of everybody involved is our top priority.
Tamara Jenkins GOTB Organizing member of AI Group 133