Sam Diener, editor of Peacework Magazine, muses on global thought and local action. He will also highlight the online musings of the authors of Peacework Magazine. Please read the guidelines of Peacework's blogs and forums to participate in the discussion.
Despite being in a distant building at Wayne State University, and being in a room that took me half an hour to find once I arrived at the building, a team of us from the National Network Opposed to the Militarization of Youth (including primarily the American Friends Service Committee's Youth and Militarism Program, the War Resisters League, and Peace Action Wisconsin) facilitated an introduction to countering military recruitment workshop today for 16 participants at the US Social Forum in Detroit. The participants arrived at the Social Forum from places including San Antonio, which a few years ago had the highest per capita military enlistment rate of any metropolitan area in the country, to Chicago, with the worst concentration of JROTC units in the country, to Somerville, MA, Houston, TX, Guam (also very heavily recruited), and a good contingent from Minnesota. Participants included at least one veteran and several military family members.
Unfortunately, Jesus Palafox from Chicago AFSC, who had coordinated the planning for the workshop and was going to co-lead it, was delayed in the airport and then stuck in a plane on a runway in Chicago for two hours, and so didn't arrive until a few minutes after the workshop was over. In Jesus' absence, Liz Klaitnot from Peace Action Wisconsin started us off, and later focused on the group's innovative efforts to stop ASVAB in the state, following on the movement for students' privacy rights victory in Maryland in April. Maryland became the first state to mandate that all schools who choose to administer the ASVAB test in the state choose Option 8 and thereby not hand over the test data to military recruiters (see below).
We heard from Robert, a high school age activist with YouthPeace in Norwich, CT, and Joanne Sheehan, the WRL New England staffer in Norwich, about their efforts to insure the struggle in the school is led by student activists, and starts every year in September with a campaign to get students to opt themselves out of the NCLB lists handed over by schools to the military recruiters. Joanne stressed that we don't ask for permission when we work with an insider to the school to gain access to schools equal to that of military recruiters. We assume access (it is our right), and contact school officials to discuss how to arrange the details and schedule for the access.
AFSC donated a projector to us and I used it to illustrate many of our points. It's the first time I've had access to a projector during a countering military recruitment workshop, and I think it really helped, with videos illustrating the data, maps helping us visualize the data, and the ability to direct folks to valuable resources on the web by showing people the sites themselves.
For those of you not present, among the sites I showed:
- Excerpts from Military Recruiting Lies Caught on Tape Video Compilation to illustrate how military recruiting fraud is pervasive, which is not a surprise given the enormous pressures placed on military recruiters to make their quota, called their mission.
- The webpage of the GI Rights Hotline.
- To illustrate the power of being able to do organizing in a focused way on the areas most heavily impacted by recruiters, I showed a Map of CA Latino Accessions. We can create similar maps of other states and other demographic groups. For Army data on military recruitment, see the important work done by the National Priorities Project.
- When Liz did her segment on ASVAB, I showed the websites: Resources for countering ASVAB - The Armed Services Aptitude Battery test; the Philadelphia Inquirer ASVAB data - For 2006-2007 by school and state; and the ASVAB map by state - Data acquired throught a FOIA by Peacework Magazine, 2004-2005.
- When we discussed the planned expansion of JROTC units into new schools, I showed the map created by Katherine Fisher, formerly of AFSC, of JROTC Targets & NNOMY map - 2009 data acquired via FOIA by Peacework Magazine. A participant from San Antonio mentioned there was a new public school JROTC military academy opening nearby, in which every student is expected to take JROTC, and later mentioned to me the free speech struggle against San Antonio's fearsomely unconstitutional anti-parade ordinance.
- When we discussed Opt-Out organizing approaches, I showed the quotations proving that Students Can Opt themselves out - of military recruiting databases and schools must legally accept their request.
- When discussing mobile military recruiting trucks, I showed a video from the US Army's website showing students using tank and machine gun simulators in this video of Mobile Military Recruiting Trucks.
- Sgt. Abe - From Quaker House NC - breaks down the military recruiting contract for you.
We also broke into smaller regional groups to discuss next steps and shared ideas with each other about what we'll do first to counter military recruitment when we get back home. Thanks to all the participants, the co-facilitators, and especially Jesus, who led the workshop even though he wasn't yet in Detroit.