San Francisco Says “No”
to Military Recruiters

 

By Kristin Anderson - Campus Antiwar Network (CAN)

 

 

On November 8th [2005] the citizens of San Francisco joined the growing counter recruitment movement.
Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters expressed the opinion that military recruiters should not be allowed in
public schools.

 

According to Todd Chretien, the author of the College Not Combat proposition known as Prop I, the reasons for initiating this campaign were simple. “After seeing CAN activists protest military recruiters at Seattle Central Community College, City College of New York, and San Francisco State University, we knew that the tide was turning against the war. When each campus administration called the police on student activists, we decided that a good way to demonstrate the popular support for the students was to give the people of San Francisco the chance to tell the world what they thought of military recruiters by voting for Proposition I.”

 

Over the summer, activists spent countless hours organizing and gathering the signatures needed to put College Not Combat on the ballot. In the end the campaign turned in 15,500 signatures to the department of elections. Many of the signature gatherers reported that enthusiasm for the measure was high not just in San Francisco but also with residents of neighboring towns who expressed dismay that a similar measure was
not on the ballot in their city.

 

Local CAN activists, in addition to helping gather signatures, used the September 24th College Not Combat contingent as a publicity drive not just for CAN but also for the campaign, which co-sponsored the College
Not Combat contingent on the West Coast.

 

This victory was the result of the hard work of the College Not Combat coalition of San Francisco which included the Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink, the International Socialist Organization, the National Lawyers Guild, Bay Area United Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace, United Educators of San Francisco, the Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party, and the American-Arab Anti-discrimination
Committee and was endorsed by a broad range of groups including San Francisco Labor Council, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - Local 790, and American Federation of Teachers - Local 2121 (AFT 2121).

 

Despite the smear campaign engaged in by local newspapers, San Franciscans had no trouble reading between the lies about what the campaign would and would not accomplish. The San Francisco Chronicle refused to endorse the proposition despite the editorial board’s declared opposition to the war, stating, “[I]f
its call for restrictions on military recruiting in public schools were carried out, it could cost city schools $40 million in federal funds, a sacrifice that no one who cares about education would advocate.” Another local publication, SF Weekly, ran a cover story titled “Pacifists for War: within a feuding peace movement counter recruiters are conspiring to bring back the draft.”

 

The right has wasted no time in trying to paint the campaign as nothing more than ultra-left, America-hating liberals. Ultra-right radio host Bill O’Reilly stated on his show “[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off-limits to you, except San Francisco.”

 

The reality is obviously quite different. The sentiment that San Francisco expressed in this election is in no
way isolated from that of the rest of the country. In fact public sentiment is largely turning against the war.
Almost one-third of Americans are demanding ‘troops out now,' and the counter recruitment movement is growing and spreading all across the country. Ragina Johnson of the Prop I campaign stated, “The passing
of Proposition I shows that a majority of people in San Francisco are opposed to this war and the ongoing occupation. They are explicitly saying that they are opposed to the fact that it is poor and working class
people and people of color who are driven to join the military through the economic draft. This victory represents only a part of the movement to get military recruiters out of our schools nationally. It is going to
take both the grassroots organizing of students, parents and teachers challenging recruiters every time they dare to step foot on campus and anti-war activists off campuses continuing the fight to get rid of No-Child
Left Behind and the Solomon Amendment. Students can now hit their campuses with the confidence that the majority of San Franciscans support your efforts. Now we need to work to spread the College Not Combat campaign into every city across the nation. This is just the beginning.”

 

 

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