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Students and allies protest war on youth/students at 'Spirit of America'
by Bryan G. Pfeifer
Email: bgp (nospam) iacboston.org
Phone: (413) 549-3545
12 Sep 2004
Dozens protest the 'Spirit of America' in Worcester. Despite the unrelenting war on youth/students in the U.S. a multinational fight back movement is under way to demand, among other things: Money for jobs, education, housing and healthcare, not recruitment for a racist war.
By Bryan G. Pfeifer
The city of Worcester welcomed the Army with open arms to recruit youth/students en masse through its ‘Sprit of America’ road show spectacle Sept. 10-11.
About 400 soldiers, members of the U.S. Army’s ‘elite’ ceremonial units, the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) participated in the two-hour show which drew thousands of people in two shows each day from throughout the Northeast.
The show’s intent is to ratchet up support for U.S. imperialism through patriotic multi-media theatre techniques and to present a thoroughly revisionist version of U.S. history. The show glorifies imperialist plunder beginning with Native people in North America to the current occupation of Iraq (spiritofamerica.mdw.army.mil).
Many of the attendees were elementary and high-school aged students that had received free tickets and a day off school Friday, Sept. 10 by Worcester’s School Administration to attend. Some media reports estimate as many as 10,000 students attended Friday’s morning show.
According to Worcester School Committee member Joseph C. O’Brien, on two previous occasions the administration denied requests for students to attend an anti-war teach-in and an educational event celebrating the day LGBT marriage became legal in Massachusetts.
In an open letter to the Worcester School Committee, O’Brien wrote, “….So, let’s get this straight. If you want to go on a trip to learn about peaceful alternatives to war run by academics, or if you want to take part in activities centered around a historic day in the community’s struggle for Civil Rights you can’t go. But if you want to go to a pro-military rally run by the Department of Defense, take the whole school day. This is simply wrong.”
Before and after being subjected to the ‘Spirit of America’s’ jingoist, racist, super-aggressive, pro-heterosexual, misogynist and patriarchal show, students were preyed upon by Army JROTC officers attempting to recruit them. Recruitment officers obtained student’s contact information, took pictures of them and encouraged them to inspect Army vehicles.
Despite this siege progressive and revolutionary students and their allies fought back.
Armed with counter-recruitment literature, banners, and placards declaring “War is not entertainment, ” “Bring the troops home now,” and other slogans dozens of protesters stood their ground despite intimidation by Army personnel and chauvinists.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to have students take a field trip and miss class time to watch, essentially, a recruitment spectacle,” said student organizer Chris Caesar.
Alex Gould, member of the youth/student organization FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together) and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328, Providence, agreed.
“This macabre extravaganza recruitment tour should settle the issue for our generation once and for all -- that the system of imperialism has spent itself and has nothing to offer the youth, even in the United States.”
War on youth/students
A working-class city with a long history of union and other progressive struggles, Worcester is the third-largest city in New England with a population of 172,000 of which 30 percent are people of color and 35 percent are under the age of 24 (www.census.gov).
Instead of building a jobs-creation and other social-service programs for youth/students affected by deindustrialization and the scientific-technological revolution, the city’s ruling class, like others nationwide, is sacrificing them to the poverty draft.
According to the United States Army Junior ROTC website, JROTC is “a continuing success story.” Of course it doesn’t specify for whom. (www.usarmyjrotc.com).
The United States Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) came into being with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916. Under the provisions of the Act, high schools were authorized the loan of federal military equipment and the assignment of active duty military personnel as instructors. In 1964, the Vitalization Act opened JROTC up to the other services and replaced most of the active duty instructors with retirees who worked for and were cost shared by the schools.
From six units in 1916, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp has expanded to 1555 schools today, the largest of the “armed forces” reserve units. JROTC exists in every state in the U.S. and countries with a U.S. presence including Guam, Germany and South Korea. Presently 300,000 high school students aged 13-18 and up are taught by 3,900 active duty Army retirees
In 1992, George Bush Sr., in response to the L.A. Rebellion, pushed an initiative to double the number of JROTC programs in the U.S. from 1,500 to 3,000. In the absence of a draft, George Bush Jr. is continuing the expansion. In 2002 he oversaw the passage of the Defense Authorization Bill which removed the 1992 federal limit of 3,500 JROTC programs. The Congressional Budget Office expects the number of JROTC units to surpass 3,500 by 2005.
Students of color are a particular target of recruiters according to a 1999 report “Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps: Contributions to America’s Communities,” published by the imperialist think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In the academic year 1995-96 African American students made up approximately 15 percent of the U.S. high school population. But African American JROTC enrollment rose from 25 percent in 1994-95 to 33 percent in 1996-97 and the percentages are increasing. Similar statistics reveal the same pattern for Latino/a and other oppressed students. And although the report claims percentages of white recruitment have stabilized or are decreasing, the Pentagon, like terrorist organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan, also prey on disaffected white youth in working-class communities like Worcester.
The Army is increasing its use of more sophisticated techniques to recruit such as “Campus Combat” which targets colleges and universities with large populations of students of color. This capitalist marketing ploy uses hip-hop music, multi-media techniques and free-giveaway gimmicks.
“The hip-hop market has a vast fan base,” said Col. Thomas Nickerson, the Army’s national advertising director in an October 2003 Newsweek interview. “It covers all segments-African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, anyone who is interested in hip hop.
But as proven at the RNC demonstrations and elsewhere there’s also a large and growing movement of multinational youth/students fighting back.
No draft, no recruitment, no way!
“They used to say we could work to save up for college. Now the high school students who work part-time at my supermarket borrow spare change so they can eat lunch at the end of the week. So now, they tell us to die in some hole in the sand for college money,” says Gould.
“We've got to help other young people see through the lies now and organize against this
recruitment because if the war makers don't snare enough of us with this they're coming after us with the draft next. Now's the time to fight back! Union yes, war no!”
Youth/students will have a few major opportunities to fight back in the coming weeks.
The ‘Spirit of America’ will roll through Washington D.C.’s MCI Center, 601 F Street, NW, Sept. 17-18 (www.mcicenter.com) and Albany, New York’s Pepsi Arena, 51 South Pearl Street Albany, Sept. 24-25 (www.pepsiarena.com).
The Million Worker March also has a Youth/student contingent. See: www.millionworkermarch.org.
For more information and resources on counter-recruitment and the G.I. resistance movement see: www.join-snafu.org and www.nodraftnoway.org.
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This work is in the public domain