Many older Americans against the Iraq war often ask, "Where are the students?" Compared to the Sixties and the student movements to end the Vietnam War, they just don't understand why students aren't doing more to end this illegal war.
I agree that not enough students are participating in activism to end the atrocities being committed in our name in the Middle East, but I also think that the students are now more than ever at the forefront of the struggle to bring our troops home.
Students are now organizing against military recruitment and engaging in acts of resistance regularly so that the issues surrounding the Iraq war and the need to organize and end it stay at the forefront of the minds of members of the community they go to school in.
Macalester Students for a Democratic Society were able to close recruiting stations non-violently, avoiding arrest while publicizing their demands. They did this on March 27th , which was the Twin Cities Day of Student Action Against the War.
Six members of the anti-war group “Catholic Schoolgirls Against The War” staged a dramatic die-in during the 11AM Easter mass at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago’s most prominent Catholic parish – and the home of one of the nation’s most conservative church leaders, Cardinal George. The group’s action was designed to call attention and denounce a meeting held on January 7 this year with U.S. president George W. Bush – the principle public figure responsible for initiating the carnage in Iraq – and the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley. In fifty seconds, the group had a huge impact on public opinion in regards to the Iraq war.
Since the action, a petition has been circulating. Many Catholics have joined in solidarity with the protesters who are facing bogus felony charges. They and others who are not Catholic are calling on Cardinal George to drop the charges.
The Portland Students for a Democratic Society took city hall on March 20th, which was a day of resistance to the illegal occupation of Iraq for many activist groups. Members climbed the walls of city hall demanding that the mayor come out and confront the military recruitment of students for this war.
Most students involved in the action walked out of high schools in the area in the morning. College students and even students younger than high school students were there. In total, approximately 400 confronted city hall demanding an end to this war.
When Spring Break came around this year, many students all over America and especially from the east coast chose to go to Washington, D.C. to participate in actions led by a youth group called Our Spring Break.
The group started their actions in D.C. by delivering “stop-loss” notices to Congress and demanding them to stay in session until this war ends. Following that, small protests were coordinated with youth peace movement groups like the Campus Anti-War Network and Students for a Democratic Society. Other big protests like the blocking of the exit to the parking garage of the Hart Senate office building and cutting off traffic on Independence Avenue for an hour occurred.
Some students ended their spring break having been arrested twice. Many of those were still willing to continue engaging in acts of resistance that might result in arrest because, as some said, "It's not like 'well, I did my part, now I can go home…This has to continue until something changes."
In November of last year, students were involved in protests in Olympia that were aimed at blocking military shipments from coming into the U.S. The action’s intent was to end their community’s participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the military use of the Port of Olympia.”
That same month, students from Morton West High School in Chicago held a peaceful sit-in that resulted in the school’s superintendent suspending many of the participants who were not Honors students and even led to threats of expulsion that were later ended by the support of the Chicago community and the attention this protest against the Iraq war received nationally and internationally.
Since then, the Morton West High School students have succeeded, with the help of parents in the high school’s district, in getting the military recruiters from staying off their high school campus.
For the past six months, I have been drawing inspiration from actions of this magnitude that occur at least every other week in this country. The actions cited are just some of the student actions that have received press coverage. No doubt, there are probably hundreds of other actions that have taken place in the past six months that are as inspirational as the ones I listed.