Students Mobilize Against War

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By ADAM RITSCHER

 

The bombings of Sept. 11 sent the entire population of this country into shock, both young and old. On high school and college campuses across the country there has been a mass outpouring of sympathy and mourning for the victims of the World Trade Center attack.

If you were to watch only the mainstream media, you’d also think that all of these young people were bursting into the military recruiting offices to sign up and march off to war. The reality, fortunately, is quite different.

Just as with the country at large, the reaction of students has been quite varied. While indeed there has been a slight increase in enrollment in the military, and a certain section of the national student body has responded to the reactionary militarism and anti-Arabism that is being whipped up, many students have openly come out against the war.

In fact, since the very day of the attack thousands of students have been coming together to discuss the tragedy, and to question the media and the government’s assertion that these attacks are the result of foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics who deserve only to be hunted down and killed.

Common themes in these discussions include: “I don’t want more innocent people killed,” “war is not the answer,” and “not in my name.”

Teach-ins took place or are being planned at schools such as UCLA, Hunter College in New York City, and DePaul University in Chicago to get out alternative views on the Middle East, and why militarism is not the answer. On some campuses students are discussing ways in which fellow students of Arab or Middle Eastern background can be protected from the cowardly attacks that are disgracing so many campuses.

One of the first expressions of the growing antiwar sentiment nationwide took place in San Francisco on Sept. 16, when about 3000, mainly youth, attended an anti-hate rally organized by spoken-word artist Michael Franti. The crowd responded with great enthusiasm when they were asked if they wanted peace.

On Sept. 20, students on close to 150 campuses across 30 states-from Harvard to the University of Kansas to the University of New Mexico-participated in a National Student Day of Action. The three main issues were peace, protecting our civil liberties, and against scapegoating people of color.

One of the largest events on Sept. 20 took place at UC Berkeley, where about 5000 students marched and rallied. A group sat in at the offices of the campus journal, the Daily Californian, where the student editors had refused to apologize for having printed a racist cartoon in their last edition.

The Daily Californian cartoon showed two Muslim Arabs (with stereotyped big noses and turbans) sitting in the hand of a demon and about to be consumed by the flames of hell. One said to the other, “We made it to paradise. Now we will meet Allah and be fed grapes and be serviced by 70 virgin women.” Police arrested 19 students at the sit-in.

Thousands are forming campus anti-war committees and discussion groups. One example is Students Against War (SAW), in the Lake Superior area. Made up of high school and college students from Duluth, Minn., Superior, Wis., and Ashland, Wis., SAW meetings are attracting dozens of students from several schools, and already plans are under way for a teach-in, an antiwar concert, and a campus peace rally.

Also, the Canadian Federation of Students, an organization representing 400,000 students, has issued a statement calling for peace and solidarity, calling specifically for the organizing of anti-racism forums to combat anti-Arab prejudice.

Youth for Socialist Action is committed to doing everything that it can to help build and strengthen this budding student anti-war movement. We call on readers of Socialist Action to do what they can to connect with these efforts and to participate in them. While we don’t have resources at our disposal like national television networks and daily newspapers, we do have the sentiment of a large number of concerned young people and workers who recognize that more bloodshed is not the answer.

Socialist Action News

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