Trenton Antiwar Teach-In: “A Good First Step”

by John Leslie / March 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper

TRENTON, N.J.—On Feb. 4, about 30 activists, students, and community members gathered here for the “Teach-In on the War and Counter Recruitment,” organized by the Trenton Antiwar Organizing Committee. The TAOC is a community-based project of the College of New Jersey Progressive Student Alliance, members of Socialist Action, International Socialist Organization members, and other activists.

The antiwar conference was conceived as a follow-up to our first action, a Veteran’s Day demo at the local recruiting station. One local organizer said, “This is a good first step in building a movement in Trenton, where none existed before.”

Trenton, New Jersey’s capital, is a majority Black city with a large Latino community—including Puerto Ricans and more recent immigrants from Central America and Mexico.

The day kicked off with a greeting from the Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen, of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, where the event was held. She spoke of the
importance of counter-recruitment organizing, given the targeting of Latino and African American youth by the military.

The first panel consisted of Christine Gauvreau, of Connecticut United for Peace; Ian Chinich, of Rutgers Against the War (RAW); and Mike DiMolla, of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) chapter in New York.

Gauvreau gave an overview of the state of the antiwar movement, the crisis of the imperialist ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tasks we face in building opposition to the war. She called for a combination of grassroots organizing around recruitment and the building of “democratic antiwar conferences based on one person, one vote, where rank-and-file activists can vote and shape the direction of the movement.”

Gauvreau also stressed the potential of the April 29 New York City demonstration to mobilize the largest numbers since the invasion, stating that this presents a “challenge to all of us to hit the streets and neighborhoods” to build the largest possible turnout. Chinich and DiMolla both spoke at length about university activism against recruitment and the repression activists have faced from university administrations and campus cops.

One example is the attempt to suspend the Iraq veteran and Kent State student, Dave Airhart. Airhart faces disciplinary action for climbing up a military recruiters’ rock wall in October to hang a banner that read, “Kent, Ohio, for peace.”

DiMolla also spoke about the struggle on his campus at CCNY to defend four activists who were arrested for a peaceful protest against recruiters. One, a staff member, was fired and is fighting to get her job back. The other three are students who were suspended from the college without due process.

During the lunch break, participants discussed energetically the possibilities of building a
democratic statewide coalition and a unified local action for the March 19 anniversary of the Iraq War. The afternoon session of the conference began with a clip of the new film, “Before You Enlist,” which is still in production, and a dialogue with the filmmakers—Richard Blofson, Dan Preston, and Scott Neilson.

The filmmakers described their purpose not so much as making antiwar propaganda, but to provide a tool for giving youth who are thinking of joining the military an idea of what being in the armed forces really means. The film includes interviews with returned Iraq vets, as well as Vietnam vets, and exposes the half-truths and falsehoods told by recruiters. The final session of the day was a presentation by Connecticut counter-recruitment activist Marela
Zaccarias, of Latinos Contra La Guerra.

Zaccarias gave an excellent talk focused mainly on high school counter-recruitment activism, with suggestions on how to gain access to the schools, how to talk to administrators and about outreach to students.

She spoke about the race and class dimensions of the military’s targeting of working-class youth, especially Latinos and Blacks.

Our next steps as organizers on the local level are to build better organic links with local organizations rooted in communities of color and to reach out to students and parents. Trenton Antiwar Organizing Committee also plans to mobilize locally around the anniversary of the war and to build for the April 29 demo in New York.

Socialist Action supporters from New Jersey and Connecticut sold 15 SA newspapers and several pamphlets.

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