Support Spreading for counter-recruitment protesters

Support spreading for counter-recruitment protesters
Hands off Dave!

By Eric Ruder | November 11, 2005 | Page 2
Reprinted with permission of Socialist Worker

DAVE AIRHART never thought that when he hung an antiwar banner on top of a climbing wall brought to his campus by military recruiters, it would land him in trouble with police and administrators at Kent State University in Ohio.

As a combat veteran who was stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before he was honorably discharged last year, he witnessed the killing of innocent civilians and was encouraged to abuse detainees. For his service, the Marine Corps awarded him the Combat Action Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

To Dave, climbing a wall and hanging a banner that said, “Kent, Ohio, for peace,” didn’t seem nearly as offensive as the combat experience the Marines had commended him for.

But the military recruiters, one of whom assaulted Dave for hanging the banner, didn’t see it that way. Neither did police who cited Dave for disorderly conduct, nor campus administrators who scheduled a November 16 disciplinary hearing to decide whether he should be suspended or expelled.

This crackdown on counter-recruitment protests is part of a pattern at campuses around the country–from Holyoke Community College in Western Massachusetts, where an activist was maced by campus security; to the City University of New York in Manhattan, where three students and a staff member were arrested last year; to San Francisco State University, where administrators and campus right-wingers went on a witch-hunt against groups that organized the protests.

But there was something else Dave hadn’t counted on–that when campus administrators targeted him for exercising his right to dissent, it would generate an energetic support campaign on campus and beyond. “I really am shocked and elated by the support,” he said.

Around the country, activists leading the struggle on this new front of the antiwar movement are also finding backing from opponents of the war hoping to see a deeper resistance develop.

At Kent, activists from the Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC) sprang into action, organizing a “Hands off Dave” campaign that filled the campus with stickers, flyers and petitions about protecting the right to dissent.

“This wouldn’t have been a big deal if I had just climbed the wall and hung a banner,” said Dave. “It’s a big deal because the university has tried to discipline me. We’ve gotten a lot of outside support–from people like Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan and other prominent antiwar figures. And a lot of the faculty at Kent has written in and said they’d be willing to appear on my behalf at the November 16 hearing.”

KSAWC activists are already planning for a demonstration on the same day of the hearing and are spreading awareness of Dave’s case.

“Our campus paper, The Daily Kent Stater, isn’t printing any articles or opinion pieces that we have produced,” said KSAWC member Nikki Robinson. “But they’re certainly publishing the views of the other side. For example, the editorial board wrote a piece that called Dave’s action ‘a cheap stunt.’ So we’re going to make massive numbers of copies of our articles, and distribute them ourselves.

“Last week, we were going to have a large counter-recruitment action, but the Army didn’t show, even though they had a table reserved. They were MIA. So the 15 or 20 who showed up to counter-recruit went around with stickers and petitions to talk to people. This is something that’s making the war hit home and making it real. And talking to people at a table on campus, I’ve only had a couple people say I don’t want to sign. The sentiment I’m hearing is how dare Kent State punish an Iraq vet for hanging a sign against the war.

“Being part of the Campus Antiwar Network, we’re working with schools all around the U.S. that are also fighting repression. Other campuses are getting behind ‘Hands off Dave’ because it’s about the greater issue of free speech, not just an individual.”

Defend Dave Airhart by telling Kent State University President Carol Cartwright to end the disciplinary hearing–call 330-672-2210 or e-mail carol.Cartwright@kent.edu.

http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/565/565_02_HandsOffDave.shtml

Index to November 11, 2005 issue:
http://www.socialistworker.org/Storylist.shtml