The students of Temescal Canyon High School's erstwhile peace club confronted military recruiters on-campus yesterday, while parallel protest off-campus failed to materialize more than a handful of local community supporters.
Ted Pennings, founder of the peace club at TCHS, was able to organize a protest to the Marine recruiters (and their 15' tall inflatable Hello Marine doll) despite the school administration's continued opposition. According to the Californian, students such as 17-year-old Kristina Avila were proud to stand up for peace despite criticism. "...[W]e are showing our strength by our words, by being here. We don't believe in this war; it's unjustified," Aliva told the Californian.
Her courage is necessary, because there's a lot of anti-American opposition to the brave members of the peace club. Two advisors have resigned -- likely under administration pressure -- because the students engaged in legitimate, non-violent civil disobedience. Currently the peace club doesn't even officially exist, as no faculty members have come forward to sponsor the club.
What's more, some of their fellow students seem unable to shake whatever brainwashing has taken ahold of them, and are proudly proclaiming their anti-American hatred of free expression. "I already ripped up one of their signs," says student Jeff Ellis to the Californian. "I think they should get out of the country if they are going to protest."
To the best of my knowledge, the high school administration has not taken any action against Mr. Ellis for his infringement on other students' right to expression. If you know otherwise, let me know.
Outside, the day's rainstorms and a counter-scheduled UC Riverside peace event kept away most of the community protesters; when your humble Inland Anti-Imperialist arrived, the off-campus protest on the sidewalks outside the school consisted of one guy with a sign. I snapped some pictures of the mini-protest anyway, which you can view on my Web site.
While we two demonstrators were talking to a reporter, a parent picking up his child pulled his truck over to the side of the road and came up to angrily demand answers. "Why are you teaching impressionable minds to not respect the president?" he wanted to know. "Why would you want to tell them not to go to war?"
He rapidly retreated when the reporter started snapping pictures, but I followed him back to his truck to give him answers -- I think that he asked a fair question and deserves a fair answer. I told him that we were there because our students are tomorrow's soldiers, and are being actively recruited now for what can only be a long and costly military occupation of Iraq. I told him that military recruiters are allowed on campus as matter of course -- and they can demand student information from the school under the No Child Left Behind law -- but peace protesters such as myself would be arrested if I stepped foot on the campus and tried to talk to the students.
He wasn't convinced, though. He felt that teaching the students to disrespect the president was part of a greater problem among children today; that they don't respect the chain of command, and peace protesters are a danger because they don't follow that chain.
Although I was a bit worried -- this was a fellow who repeatedly slammed his fist against his hand to make a point, and who seemed to enjoy getting in my face -- I explained that the chain of command in America doesn't run from the president down to the people, but rather from the people to the president. By protesting -- legally and peacefully, according to the rules laid down by the school authorities -- we are teaching our students an important lesson about the role of public dissent in a democratic government system.
Eventually he had to go -- his car was left running and his son, sitting in the car, was looking more embarassed by the minute as dad argued with some stranger. I gave him the address to this site, and hopefully he's reading it, or will email me -- because I think the people of America haven't really stopped to listen and hear what we on the side of peace are saying. Any time someone does that, and really is willing to listen -- as this man, despite his preconceptions, seemed to be -- I am willing to talk.
Keep watching the Inland Anti-Empire for more news on the TCHS peace club.