When the army set up a recruiting booth in Mark's school, he decided to oppose it with a counter-recruiting booth. This is now legal, thanks to long court battles fought by the peace movement. Grannies for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and the War Resisters League -- my favorite political organizations -- have programs to defend kids against the lies that recruiters use to round up new bodies for the war.
Mark told his school administration he wanted to put a booth next to the army's. They told him only registered student groups were allowed booths, he couldn't do it as an individual. So he decided to form a club. Finding enough students to join was the easy part; the hard part was clearing all the bureaucratic hurdles the administration put in their way.
Finally Students for Peace was approved and given permission to set up an information table. It couldn't be right next to the army booth but rather across the hall "to avoid congestion." Linda (she's in junior high now) and I painted banners proclaiming "Not Your Soldier!" and "Recruiters Lie!" and ordered brochures about what to really expect when you join the military and about ways to finance college without enlisting in Murder, Inc.
Josh and his wife were worried their children would turn into troublemakers and were perturbed at me for "egging them on."
The students had the great idea to dress up in Halloween skeleton costumes and to hand out glasses of red cranberry juice that looked like blood. As Mark told me later, the costumes and drinks were a great hit. They totally undermined the "career counseling" the recruiters claimed to be offering and showed what the military was really about. The two sergeants complained to the principal, who agreed with them that this was unfair. An info table was one thing, but ridicule was going too far. Plus the school dress code didn't include skeleton costumes. Either change clothes and get rid of the cranberry juice, or he'd shut down the table.
Mark and his friends obeyed, but then began singing the Funeral March: "Gone to the morgue, that's the only place for me," just loud enough so people at the recruiting booth could hear. A crowd of students had gathered by then, and a lively open debate was going on about the pros and cons of enlisting. The school has a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program, and the members were there in uniform supporting the recruiters. Some of the future officers got upset and frustrated by the debate and turned over the counter-recruiting table.
The principal came back mad and said Students for Peace were causing a disturbance and he was putting a stop to their "publicity stunt." He had the janitor remove the table to the storeroom and ordered all the students to clear the hall.
Next week when the recruiters were due to come back, Mark and his friends asked again to set up a table and said they wouldn't sing. The principal refused, saying they had violated school regulations, and if they pulled anything like this again, he would dissolve the club.