Organizing against military recruiters in Seattle, USA
north america / mexico |
imperialism / war |
Monday August 08, 2005 22:48 by Lucas - Northwest Anarchist Federation
About Seattle Central Community College Students Against War
Why are we opposed to military recruiters on our campuses and in our communities? For the last five months, Seattle Central Community College Students Against War (SAW) has run a campaign against military recruiters on campus. We initiated the campaign after an action on January 20th, inauguration day, that resulted in a mob of 200 or more students surrounding military recruiters on campus.
From the War in Iraq to the War at Home
We are Fighting
Stop the war abroad. Fight the war at home.
Why are we opposed to military recruiters on our campuses and in our
communities? When we look at how the war manifests itself in our
lives, what do we see? We see money that should be spent on education
being thrown away on the militaries ever- fattening budget. We see
K-12 schools closing and tuition rates at colleges rising. We see the
war sucking away money that is intended for basic social services,
healthcare, social security, and unemployment. We see our access to a
decent living being cut out from beneath us and given to both the
military and the corporations invading Iraq.
And then we see military recruiters. We see military recruiters
selling lies with the language of dreams, fully aware of the fact
that they are selling desperate kids on fighting a war that could
likely maim and potentially kill them. The cost of war is the reason
that tuition is rising and that times are hard for young people. Yet
this war is taking a higher toll on the youth than just grossly mis-
spent tax money. It's also about the growing human cost of this war.
1,720 U.S. soldiers have died, while another 12,000 have been maimed
in one form or another. Meanwhile, casualties among civilian Iraqis
has shot upwards of 22,000.
This war is the institutional theft of our future, and mil- itary
recruiters are complicit. They are asking us to risk our lives in
their war to further their ends at our expense. But it doesn't have
to be this way. If the government spent just 10% of the military's
budget on social services, we could have free education and free
healthcare for everyone. Does this mean we're living in a first world
version of a kleptocracy?
Military recruiters have us fighting people who aren't our
enemies for people that are at our expense. This is why we are
against military recruiters. They are the physical manifestation of
war in our schools and our communities. They are also a strategic
target for those of us who really want to stop this war. Why
strategic? Money is one resource that the war relies on. But bodies
are more important. They need bodies before they need money. Shutting
down military recruiters is about shutting down the militaries
ability to wage this war.
A case example:
Organizing against military recruiters in Seattle
The First Action
For the last five months, Seattle Central Community College
Students Against War (SAW) has run a campaign against military
recruiters on campus. We initiated the campaign after an action on
January 20th, inauguration day, that resulted in a mob of 200 or more
students surrounding military recruiters on campus and physically
expelling them. The action in question resulted in a media blitz that
put SAW in the negative spotlight both of right wing and so called
'liberal' media for about two straight weeks.
After seeing the student population spontaneously stand up
against military recruiters, we concluded that the most effective way
to consolidate student opposition to the war would come from
challenging military recruiters on our campus. We recognized the
unpopularity of rising tuition costs and that military recruiters
were directly linked. Additionally, the negative response that we
received from our administration and the right coupled with the
positive response we received from students proved that this issue
was a strategic nerve center in fighting the war and building student
The campaign began along two key points: first, that we could
pressure the administration to meet our short term demands in
limiting military recruiters access, and second, that we could
directly target the recruiters on campus. The short term goals that
we set included changing the opt-out policy, limiting military
recruiters campus access, and building student power. Ending
military recruitment on campus altogether and creating a ripple
effect through our organizing were both long term goals of the
We began by circulating a petition among SCCC students asking for
their support in expelling military recruiters from our campus. We
intended this to be largely an educational endeavor to build mass
student support for our campaign. After two months of petitioning two
to three times a week, we accumulated over 1,000 signatures, or
roughly 10% of SCCC's student population. In the process of doing
this, we also had three separate encounters with recruiters tabling
on campus where we harassed them until they left.
Our campaign had reached the point where we needed to start
putting direct pressure on our administration rather than
recruiters on campus. Recruiters had started breaking the schools own
rules by showing up without notice. With the recruiters no longer
scheduling their campus visits, targeting them no longer was an
option. After researching the issue, we found out that the
administration had the power to both limit their access on campus and
to change the opt-out policy. We took the cautious first step of contacting the president of the college to negotiate the issue of
military recruitment on campus. Months before, she had publicly
stated that she was sympathetic to us and wanted to work with us in
whatever capacity she could. The sympathetic support she claimed to
have for us never materialized. She never once returned any of our
phone calls, emails, or office visits. Instead, we sent her and the
entire school's faculty a letter addressing the issue and drawing out
our basic demands. To back up our demands we prepared an action that
both the administration and the faculty of the school would have to
The Second Action
We organized an action on May 12th that would simultaneously
educate people about military recruitment and give people an
opportunity to act on that education. We hosted a teach-in where
various members of SAW addressed key issues related to recruiters
presence on campus. At the end of the teach-in, we took a crowd of
thirty students armed with picket signs to the president's office.
Much to our surprise, we found ourselves in a situation far more
favorable than we had originally anticipated. The president of the
college was not in her office, but in a meeting on campus with the
entire board of directors for the community college school district.
We packed their meeting with students, publicly embarrassing the
president in front of her superiors and colleagues. Two of our
members spoke at the board of directors meeting and presented our
1,000 signed petitions outlining our demands. She had no choice but
to agree to meet with us and start negotiating our demands.
After invading the presidents meeting, we all marched up to the
faculty union's meeting to ask for their support in our campaign.
Being progressive educators, the union was extremely supportive of
our demands and agreed to send us a letter of public support.
Our second action accomplished the goals we had set. It put
pressure on the administration, won the faculty union's support for
our cause, and put the president in a position where she had to talk
to us. Our work is definitely not finished. We have taken the initial
steps and begun negotiating with the various bureaucrats who make
policy for the school. However, it is unclear what direction this
negotiating will take and whether or not it will serve our purpose.
Over the course of the campaign we have had victories and failures,
and learned from them. Now the challenge is applying those lessons in
the continuation of this campaign over the next year to make a real
institutional impact on recruitment and the war.
Fight To Win
Fighting this war means fighting this Bush administration and
the government they have tried to impose on the world. War is innate
in any state. However, the U.S. state in particular has track record
of starting imperial wars on a grand scale all over the world. Right
now, the most important way that youth can fight the war is to fight
its domestic impacts and its physical manifestation. Military
recruiters are the physical manifestation of the war at home.
As anti-recruitment and anti-war organizing continues, a few
key goals should be at the forefront of our organizing. The first and
foremost goal should be building student and community power against
the war. Not just protest in the streets, but strengthening and
demonstrating our independent power over our communities and schools.
The second should be pushing for our power to not succumb to the
assimi- lating process of the democratic party and other more
sectarian leftist parties. Whatever we achieve will be through our
own action and not through the misguided leadership of political
parties. The third should be maintaining and building grassroots
direct democracy within the movement. Last of all, we should always
be fighting to win in every campaign we engage in.
Lucas is a member of the Anarchist-Communist Union of Seattle,
a Local Union of The Northwest Anarchist Federation.
Democracy * Solidarity * Direct Action * For revolutionary change in
* From Unfinished Buisness issue 2: Agitational publication of the
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