[Marxism] Counter-Recruitment movement grows despite repression
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 15 09:17:18 MST 2005
Counterpunch, March 15, 2005
The Counter-Recruitment is Gaining Strength
Military Recruiters Target Campus Activists
By HADAS THEIR and KATRINA YEAW
On Wednesday, March 9, three students from the City College of New York
(CCNY), Justino Rodriguez Nicholas Bergreen and one of the authors of this
piece (Hadas Their) were brutalized and arrested by campus security guards
for peacefully protesting the presence of military recruiters at CCNY's
"career fair." We were charged with misdemeanor counts of assaulting an
officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace, among other things.
Hospital records from Mt. Sinai confirm that Bergreen and Rodriguez
suffered multiple contusions and post-concussion syndrome. A court date is
set for April 5.
What was the reaction of CCNY's administration to these events? Without so
much as a phone call to see if we were alright, or to find out our side of
the story, Gregory H. Williams, the president of our college, sent an email
to the entire faculty and student body repeating the allegations against us
as if they were facts. "The confrontation escalated and several of the
demonstrators grabbed and hit the officer. At this point, the three
students involved in the attack on the officer were arrested," he wrote.
Perhaps his previous job experience as a small-town sheriff filled him with
an innate sympathy for security forces. Nevertheless, Williams is now the
president of an institution of higher learning. Debate, dissent, and, yes,
even protest, must not only be tolerated in education, they should be
nurtured and encouraged.
On the same day, Students Against War at San Francisco State University, a
chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network, along with other student groups,
organized a demonstration against military recruiters on our campus. Two
hundred students rallied in Malcolm X Plaza and then marched inside the
Cesar Chavez Student Center to confront Army and Air Force recruiters. For
over 3 hours, students chanted down the recruiters and then surrounded them
with a peaceful teach-in. The Army recruiters left within forty-five
minutes. The Air Force recruiters held out longer, but ultimately gave up
and left-without any new recruits.
The following day, March 10th, military recruiters returned to the SFSU.
When two activists attempted to hand out anti-recruitment leaflets by the
recruiters' tables, eight police officers surrounded them and forcibly
removed them from their own student center, pushing them and twisting one
activist's arm. When the other activist asked why she was being forced to
leave, she was pushed into a doorway, told she was causing a fire hazard by
standing there, and then kicked out of the building.
The military recruitment debate is heating up. With unemployment for black
men currently standing at 50 percent in New York, Harlem -- and CCNY in
particular -- is bound to be a priority target for military recruiters.
"Counter-recruitment" has become a national issue (see "Counter-Recruiters
Shadowing the Military," USA Today, March 7), and it's working. Between
these efforts, and widespread anger about the war, recruitment is down.
According to a March 6 Reuters report, "The regular Army is 6 percent
behind its year-to-date recruiting target, the Reserve is 10 percent
behind, and the Guard is 26 percent short." The military newspaper Stars
and Stripes reports that African-American recruitment is down 41 percent
Counter-recruitment efforts have taken off from New York to Seattle and the
military has clearly become concerned. At William Patterson University in
New Jersey, an activist was arrested for simply handing out
counter-recruitment leaflets. Twice last semester, CCNY student protesters
drove military recruiters off of Colin Powell's alma mater with peaceful
protests. This time campus security was ready.
"We didn't even get through one round of chanting," according to Tiffany
Paul, a junior at CCNY and a member of the Campus Anti-War Network (CAN),
who was one of the protesters. "We were completely peaceful. It was the
officers who were violent."
On Friday, March 11, Hadas Their was informed that she had been suspended
from the University for "posing a continuing danger," and was banned from
even setting foot on campus, pending a hearing to take place sometime in
the next seven days. On the same day, Carol Lang, a CCNY staff member, was
picked up in her office and arrested in connection with Wednesday's protest
and also charged with assault.
At SFSU a university spokesperson informed reporters that groups involved
in the protest will be suspended and some of the individual students will
also face discipline.
Sean O'Neill, a veteran who returned from Iraq last year after serving with
the Marines, spoke out in defense of the SFSU students who helped organize
the counter-recruitment protest, saying, "Do students have the right to
protest? Of course they do! Are you saying that people can't protest
anything now? Anyone who's taken even a cursory glance at the Constitution
will tell you that we have the right to protest whatever we want...As a
vet, I don't take any offense! Anyone who doesn't want me over there is a
friend in my book."
Bush claims that his occupation of Iraq represents "democracy is on the
march" in the Middle East. Will that include the right to protest?
Certainly not for the 100,000 Iraqis killed by the U.S. since the March
2003 invasion, or the more than 1500 dead American soldiers. Blood and oil
don't mix and they don't create democracy.
Here in the U.S., high school and college student activists all over the
country can take up the fight for peace and democracy and organize to kick
recruiters out of their schools. Like the lunch counter sit-ins in
Greensboro 45 years ago that challenged segregation in dozens of
communities across the nation, you can get started opposing the recruiters
at your school with just a few friends. Getting the military out of our
schools and replacing them with real educational opportunities is our
generation's fight. No one will do it for us. We owe it to ourselves, the
Iraqis, and the American soldiers dying for a lie.
To find out what you can do to help, write to cityfreespeech at earthlink.net
and SFSUfreespeech at gmail.com or go to CAN's website www.campusantiwar.net
Hadas Their attends City College of New York and Katrina Yeaw attends San
Francisco State University.
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