[Marxism] Counter-Recruitment movement grows despite repression

Louis Proyect 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 
since 2000.

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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