Military recruiters, confronted by crowd, leave campus job fair
Anti-war protesters at university block doors to building
Diana Walsh, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Four military recruiters hastily fled a job fair Tuesday morning at UC Santa Cruz after a raucous crowd of student protesters blocked an entrance to the building where the Army and National Guard had set up information tables.
Members of Students Against War [a Campus Antiwar Network chapter], who organized the counter-recruiting protest, loudly chanted “Don’t come back. Don’t come back” as the recruiters left the hilltop campus, escorted by several university police officers.
“The situation had degraded to the point where there was a possibility of injury to either a student or law enforcement officer. We certainly didn’t want that to happen,” said Capt. Will Griffin, one of the Army recruiters.
University officials had been aware for weeks that Students Against War planned a protest to prevent military personnel from participating in the school’s biannual job fair held for students.
The student organization has become a bit of a cause celebre of the national anti-war movement ever since it was discovered that the group’s protest of the same job fair last April landed it in a Pentagon surveillance file, which listed the protest as a “credible threat” to military facilities or personnel.
Universities that receive federal funds are required to allow military recruiters on campus. But campus officials had worried that Tuesday’s protest would get out of hand as it had last April, when Students Against War protesters surrounded the table where military personnel sat, and hundreds of other demonstrators engaged in an angry protest outside. Some of the recruiters reported that their tires had been slashed and one employee at the career center was injured.
David Kliger, campus provost and executive vice chancellor, said the school was most concerned Tuesday about safety issues, but also wanted to preserve access to the recruiters for students who wanted to speak with them, while still allowing protesting students their right to free speech.
Kliger said officials had tried to engage the anti-war student group in discussions in the weeks leading up to the fair. But when talks broke down, officials began privately hoping for rain and brought in extra police.
The rain probably accounted for a decidedly smaller turnout — about 100 students compared with about 300 a year earlier.
Still, the Army’s Griffin said he sensed that some of the students were “looking for action” and decided to pack up their table before things got out of hand and someone got injured.
Students Against War members said they were pleased that their counter-recruiting effort forced the military personnel off campus, at least for the time being.
“We’re saying it’s not OK to recruit on high school campuses, it’s not OK to recruit on university campuses,” Marla Zubel, a UC Santa Cruz senior and member of Students Against War, said. “In order to stop the war, you have to make it more difficult to wage war.”
But at least one student, Cody James, said he was disappointed that he couldn’t get in to speak with the military personnel.
“It’s frustrating,” said James, a senior majoring in politics. “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a conservative. I don’t support the war. It’s about finding a career.”
E-mail Diana Walsh at email@example.com.