Students Rally Across Campus for `Week of Resistance`
Dozens of Santa Monica College students gathered in front of the library to begin a march protesting the Iraq war and more specifically the presence of military recruiters on campus.
The protesters chanting "One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war," proceeded to march across campus, to the armed forces recruiting office located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 20th St.
The protesters adamantly accused the recruiters of blatantly targeting minorities for military enlistment. Many of the protesters belong to a group called Progressive Alliance that was responsible for organizing the march. The activist group opposes the war in Iraq, police brutality, racism, homophobia and sexism. "Army, Navy, don't you see, we want you off SMC," they chanted in front of the recruiting offices, which incidentally were closed at the time of the march.
Jennifer Caldwell, one of the marchers said that the recruiters were deceiving students when they try to encourage them to enlist. "They (the recruiters) are lying to these kids about paying for their education and promises of traveling all over the world, in fact, one recruiter told this one impressionable youth that going to Iraq is a choice, and he did not have to go if he didn't want to, which is a total lie."
Ron Brewington, a professor of broadcasting at SMC vehemently denies this assertion, "I was a navy man for over 20 years and there are no false promises, they paid for my schooling, I started out in broadcasting with the Navy, it was an amazing experience for me."
What about the accusations of racism? Many of the protesters contend that the recruiters are targeting minorities who are less fortunate financially.
"I saw a bunch of students walk pass the recruiter booth and they only stopped the Hispanic or black students because they know that these particular students are more vulnerable," said one student who did not give his name.
The recruiters were noticeably absent during the "Week of Resistance" and could not be reached for comment. However, the SMC Republican Club was present on campus in a booth not far from the protesters, displaying signs supporting our troops and defending the military presence on campus.
Ben Isenberg, a club member stated that the recruiters have a legal right to be on campus. "The armed forces are a tax payer funded institution, they have every right to be on a public college campus," said Isenberg. He also implies that the march has an anti-American sentiment, referring to some of the protesters shouting, "The only terrorists are Americans" and "Stop American genocide." Isenberg pointed out that war is a necessary evil. "War has ended slavery in this country, fascism during World War II and communism among other things."
The protesters are insisting that this war is about one thing only, oil. "Our troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians are dying for oil and power. We are an imperialist nation who wants to conquer defenseless countries and take over their natural resources," said Tina, a political science major at SMC. "I believe we are headed for a disaster, the whole planet is in peril."
Tuition hikes on campuses around the country could be another reason why minorities may feel compelled to join the armed forces, believes Tina. "They may feel this is a great opportunity to pay for school, but they will end up in Iraq," she said.
Chris Knowing, another student protester, has serious issues with the military because of the "don't ask don't tell" policy that was implemented by former president Clinton when he was in the oval office. "Gays and lesbians cannot register for military enlistment unless they remain closeted, as an out lesbian I have a big problem with that."
Tom Oster, the president of the SMC Republican Club clarified that the military just enforces the law, and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is a congressional issue, and does not represent the military's view on gays in the armed forces.
The other students who did not take part in the march, but who were casual observers, had a myriad of reactions, from positive thumbs up gestures, to quaint stares, to looks of contempt.
"I get a real anti-American vibe from these people," a student named Mike said, as he watched them march across campus. "They are comparing us to Nazis. If they have this much disdain for the country they live in, leave! Canada is right next door."