After the November 2 walkouts, Youth Against War and Racism activists are in an excellent position to push military recruiters out of their schools. If you can mobilize the dozens or hundreds of students who walked out of your school for protests every time the recruiters show up in your school, it’s hard to imagine they’ll keep coming back for long.
Step 1: Antiwar Tables
For YAWR chapters just starting counter-recruitment work, the first step is to set up regular antiwar tables next to recruiters every time they set up. The first and most important thing is to make sure other students understand why we are protesting recruiters in our schools and to get their support.
Find out when the recruiters are scheduled to come to your school. Your administrators are legally required to give you this information, and you have the right to set up antiwar tables next to recruiters whenever they set up in your school.
Sometimes just getting this information will be a struggle – contact YAWR to help you mobilize community pressure to get your administrators to comply.
When the recruiters come, get as many antiwar students as possible to join your counter-recruitment table. Be sure to have plenty of counter-recruitment and antiwar leaflets and literature to pass out. Pass out leaflets for your weekly YAWR meetings and organize a teach-in (go to www.yawr.org to download antiwar literature and for ideas on how to start a chapter, run a meeting, and organize a teach-in).
Step 2: Protest the Recruiters
For more established chapters of YAWR and for schools where antiwar sentiment already runs high, we should organize bigger protests of 25, 50, or more students whenever recruiters come into our schools.
Whether recruiters set up in your lunchroom, at your career fair, or hide out in your counseling office, it’s critical to greet them every time with a strong and vocal opposition.
Build for such protest by finding out far in advance when the recruiters are scheduled to come to your school. Make a few hundred leaflets advertising the time and place of the protest and pass them out several days before the recruiters arrive. Be sure to bring antiwar and counter-recruitment literature and signs with you to the protest so other students understand why you are there.
In many cases, antiwar tables and protests may be enough to temporarily push recruiters out of our schools. But in the long run, we will need to fight politically for a school policy barring military recruiters, or the military will just worm its way back later on.
Step 3: Target Your School Board
Start a petition drive demanding your school board act to ban military recruiters from schools in your district (download petitions at www.yawr.org). This is a way to systematically approach your classmates, to organize hundreds of small discussions about the war and military recruitment, and to explain the need to get politically active.
Link up with students from other schools in your district and organize a protest and press conference at your school board’s meeting to announce your petition drive. Plan another protest at a school board meeting a month or two away, and set an ambitious target of how many signatures you will gather on the petition by that time. Ask everyone who signs the petition to commit to joining you for the school board protest.
The petition drive and pressure campaign on your school board can also be linked to more and bigger student walkouts. YAWR chapters need to discuss and carefully work out long-term plans to make our schools and cities military-free zones!
Military Recruiters are Coming Your Way!
Three thousand recruiters were added this year to the Army, Guard, and Reserve, bringing the total to 12,000. The Army’s recruitment campaign budget grew by $500 million. Still, the Army was over 6,700 recruits short of its target of enlisting 80,000 this year.
“We are short of where we need to be to grow the Army to 355,000” combat troops from 315,000 today, said Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey (Washington Post, 10/4/05). This is part of the Army’s plan to increase its number of combat brigades from 33 to 43 in two years.
Now the Army is lobbying Congress to increase the average signing bonus from $14,000 to $17,000, and double the maximum to $40,000. Ninety one schools will introduce new JROTC programs this year, adding to the 1,555 existing programs that train 271,000 “cadets,” up from 231,000 in 1999. Forty five percent of JROTC grads typically enlist after graduation (The Nation, 9/5/05).
But rather than a sign of strength, these moves underscore a mounting crisis in the military, brought about by the growing resistance they face in Iraq and popular anger at Bush and the war here at home.