Reader Rant: Supporting youth resistance to militarism, so where’s the peace movement?

by on June 13, 2008 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights, Education, Media, Organizing, Peace Movement, Reader Rant

This is the second in a series of Reader Rants – be sure to go on to the accompanying article and its video.

San Diego High School Students Are Standing Up to JROTC But Without the Larger Peace Movement’s Support

by Rick Jahnkow

Over the last 9 months local high school students, supported by a few teachers, parents and community groups, have been waging a valiant campaign against rifle ranges in San Diego schools and the tracking of students into military training programs that serve as recruitment tools for the Pentagon (i.e., JROTC).

They’ve leafleted, created a PowerPoint presentation, demanded meetings with principals, demonstrated nonviolently, walked out of school, spoken to the media, and testified at school board meetings. Some of their parents have taken off work to testify in their support. (See photos at

In response, they’ve been publicly attacked by one principal and San Diego’s JROTC program coordinator. They’ve been falsely accused of lying and being manipulated by adults. Their right to leaflet was interfered with at Mission Bay HS, where the principal also leaked to a reporter some confidential medical information on one of the student protesters (see this recent San Diego Reader article: .

These students held another protest and presented testimony at the last school board meeting, June 10. In advance, an appeal was circulated to the SDCPJ list and others asking individuals to come to the board meeting and show their support; yet, out of the thousand-plus members of the larger peace community in San Diego who were sent the appeal, only ONE showed up (besides the handful who have been consistently supporting these youths). Yes, it was 3 pm on a workday–but only ONE could make it?

Almost all of these students are youth of color, mostly Latino, who would like to go to college. But they come from non-affluent, working-class families and are the prime targets of military recruiters. Organizing resistance to militarism in their schools is not easy for them, yet it is a development that is critical to any strategy to stop current and future U.S. wars of aggression.

It really should be obvious to everyone how important it is for the peace movement to embrace these students and actively support their activism–but, apparently, it isn’t. So I highly recommend reading the article that’s linked below. The author, Roberto Lovato, has written for The Nation, Utne Reader and various other key publications.

Issues You Won’t Hear about During the Campaign: The Pentagon’s Lust for Young Latino Bodies

by Roberto Lovato / June 12, 2008

Here’s an issue we can safely assume the candidates will conveniently ignore: the massive recruitment efforts of the U.S. Pentagon. This video doc by Jorge Mariscal and my friends at Project Yano details the machinations of the U.S. war machine in its efforts to not just survive to fight another day, but to simply survive.

As I’ve said previously, given the vastness of the U.S. military presence abroad, we can expect the Pentagon’s multi-billion (yes BILLION) dollar effort to recruit young bodies to intensify at home. Because of the rapid decline in the number of young blacks and women opting out of military service, the Pentagon has taken an unprecedented and very expensive interest in young Latinos.

So, if you want to destroy the Empire, you can do so non-violently by supporting anti-military recruitment efforts like those of Project Yano, the AFSC and a growing galaxy of organizations doing their part to bring down Sauron’s tower by bringing down the number of our kids doing Sauron’s bidding.

[For the rest of this article and the video, go here.]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Oliverio Gonzalez June 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm

I had a similar experience at Poway High School. During the may 2006 protests for immigration reforms we were threatened with disciplinary action for walking out. I formed an activist club aimed at bringing the youth into the limelight of the progressive activist movement. One of the events we attempted to host was a truth-in-recruiting educational campaign that gave students alternatives to joining the military and told them the all too hidden truths about life in the military. After much negotiation, the administration reluctantly granted us our right to have speaker come on to campus, only after i showed my principal the California Educational Code. Even then, we were told that our event could not be held in a location that was “in plain sight” and instead we had to use a room away from public view. This is in complete contrast to recruiters privilege to be in public sight and often with tables set up at the quad during lunch. The principle tried to assure me that recruiters were not allowed to approach students and could only speak if they were spoken to, however this has almost never been the case. We were often told by ASB that our leaflets had to be inspected by them before they could be distributed, which was a blatant violation to high school student’s rights in accordance with the educational code. We were often told that our posters were “too political” and that the administration wanted to be “sensitive” to other student’s opinions, therefore our posters could not be posted unless they were changed. With much difficulty we were able to hand out a few leaflets and post a few posters always met with the opposition of school faculty. I sure as hell hope college wont be as much of a bitch to be able to express oneself.


avatar Frank Gormlie June 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Oliverio – good for you. Hopefully, the college you attend will be more tolerant about student protest and activism. However, if the admin is not tolerant, you will need to make them understand your rights.


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