Category Archives: Counter Recruitment

College Career Fair at Murry Bergtraum

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Friday, March 27th, Barbara Walker (Granny Peace Brigade) and I went to Murry Bergtraum HS at noon to participate in the College Career Fair event. Since this was our first invite, I didn’t know what to expect, but knew that we needed something different to attract students to our table. Students were coming to the Career Fair to learn more about colleges, not to address the issue of countering military recruitment.

Anne Gibbons (CodePink NYC) designed a bright, attractive and engaging art board for our display. Our basic message for the day was – You Can Go to College Without Joining the Military.

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Anne’s colorful tri-fold board addresses Truths and Myths of military promises by using drawings of seven students and statements he/she thinks to be true about military experience. A paper survey ‘What Do You Think?’ about each statement, accompanied the board display. After each student completed the survey, we discussed what is true or not true. This led to new understandings and insights for the student, and we realized this was an exceptional educational opportunity. The students were comfortable with the board display and wanted to learn more about their own misconceptions. Deanna Tilley, from AFSC, shared the table with us, and we were able to hand out the AFSC card of 17 Questions to Ask a Military Recruiter which complimented our message. We also gave out the new Options for Life After High School flyer, which was right on target with their basic needs.

More than 25 colleges were represented. Army, Navy, Marine recruiters had the first 3 tables as you entered the Career Fair. The military recruiters had give-aways, computers for use to explore military websites, and forms for the students to fill out about interests and for potential financial benefits. There you go – all the information a recruiter needs was spelled out for them.

A representative from Baruch College noted that in his 11 years at College Fairs, he had never seen a table like ours offering options and alternatives to the military. He though it was great and should be at every College Fair, which was encouraging.

Barbara, Deanna and I shared information that students needed and to which they responded. The Truth or Myth display board was a huge hit – It made all the difference in creating a bright, open and inviting environment and proved to be the magnet to help us achieve what we had set out to do.

Many thanks to Anne Gibbons for her creativity and generous time given to create the display.

The 7 statements: Truth or Myth? What do You Think?

  1. Joining the military is the only way I can pay for college!
  2. The military will train me in the field I want to work.
  3. The military protects women from sexual harassment.
  4. If I join the military, I’ll get to see the world.
  5. They won’t send me to a war zone if I don’t want to go.
  6. I can always resign and leave the military.
  7. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome wouldn’t be a big problem for me.

– Barbara Harris
Counter-Recruitment Committee

MARCH MADNESS: A PROTECTION RING OF 7 GRANNIES ARRESTED IN TIMES SQUARE

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Dateline: NYC, March 18, 2009. Empty promises, inadequate protection, lousy pay, worse working conditions and forced participation in illegal and immoral acts — does OSHA know about the lousy deal the US Military gives our sons and daughters? Today the Granny Peace Brigade brought this deplorable situation into sharp focus when they rallied at Military Island in Times Square.

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As the Raging Grannies sang, the GPB declared the U.S. Military Recruitment Center a crime scene. Grannies in wheelchairs and walkers gathered in front of the US Military Recruitment Center to hold signs, while other Grannies wrapped the building with yellow and black “CAUTION” and “CRIME SCENE” tape.

At high noon, civil liberties attorney and advocate, Norman Siegel, addressed the assembled crowd, followed by acclaimed actress and activist, Vinie Burrows, the ever-inspiring Reverend Billy, an impassioned young war resister, Matthis Chiroux, and Joan Wile, who delivered a statement from 94 year old GPB member, Marie Runyon. The formal remarks concluded with the Grannies and their supporters reading – in unison – their statement, in the form of an urgent message to President Obama.

Seven grannies, ranging in age from 60 to 90, were determined to insure any potential recruits had the benefit of their experience and wisdom.

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Unfortunately, the NYPD seemed to be uncomfortable with their mission. It took 17 uniformed police officers, several more of the ‘plain clothes’ variety, and a fleet of official NYPD vehicles* to arrest and remove the seven women. Taken to Manhattan South Precinct, Granny Peace Brigadiers were booked on charges of Disorderly Conduct, Trespassing, and Disobeying a Lawful Order. As of 8PM this evening, the seven women were still in police custody and had not been released.

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The recent revelations about the financial abuses of AIG caused an avalanche of outraged calls and emails to the White House and at the recent Madoff court hearing, Centre Street was jammed with irate citizens demanding restitution and redress. The media seems to have an insatiable appetite for these stories. However, tomorrow marks the seventh year we are sending our young men and women to fight in the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq, and while our president promises to start drawing down troops in this arena, U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is escalating daily. Where are the news briefs about this awful situation? Where is the citizen outrage?

The US military actions in Iraq have cost the citizen of the United States in lives, futures and taxpayer dollars. There is a clear connection with our sagging economy and the obscene amounts of money squandered in Iraq.** One thing about us Grannies — we are a stubborn bunch.

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As long as our government insists on continuing this insanity, we will be out there on the barricades for peace, connecting the dots and making sure attention is being paid. We will not go quietly. We refuse to be silent and we will not accept anything less than peace with justice.

One happy note — early today, while patrolling Penn Station, three members of the NYPD encountered a young woman in distress. The officers immediately came to her aid and assisted her in delivering a healthy baby boy. That is the kind of police action that the Granny Peace Brigade enthusiastically supports. Now lets all work together to ensure this new New Yorker — and all our children and grandchildren — can grow up in a world that values peace and protects the rights of all its citizens.

Stay tuned for more details when our Seven Sisters are released.

A heartfelt Granny shout-out to all our brothers and sisters who generously extended themselves to make to this action happen: Grandmothers Against the War, the Raging Grannies, Code Pink NYC, the War Resisters League, and United for Peace and Justice.

– Fran Sears
Photos: Eva-Lee Baird

*no hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles were part of the fleet.
** National Priorities Project, AFSC Cost of War, WRL Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes

Let the Parents Know

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Spreading the word about the Opt-Out option

An extra bonus from the Oct. 23rd Parent Teacher Night Opt-Out Action, was an invite to speak at a Norman Thomas HS PTA meeting.  Last night, representing the Granny Peace Brigade, I went with 2 teens from the YaYa Network to talk about the Opt-Out option, military recruiters in the schools, and the rights and responsibilities of parents to take charge of the issue.  We were scheduled for 15 minutes, but because of the interest and concerns of parents, the discussion and Q & A went on for 40 minutes.

Not one parent in the room knew about the Opt-Out.  They were troubled by the lack of information they had received from the school and then energized to do the right thing and to spread the word. The YaYas wowed the crowd with personal stories of recruiters harassing them and friends.  One student who was with her mother at the meeting told us we should have been at the school last year when recruiters came and 3 of her friends enlisted.  A math teacher elaborated on his experience with military recruiters and what parents should do if harassed.

The principal came into the auditorium just before we finished speaking.  He said the Opt-Out form had been sent to every parent during the summer. It was included in the general package of materials for parents and students.  Really?  Didn’t he realize that none or very, very few of the forms had been returned?  Parents confronted him with their new knowledge.  Maybe there will be a change in prodecures at Norman Thomas HS next September.
-Barbara Harris

COLLEGE OR MILITARY: MONEY MATTERS

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GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE GREETS PEOPLE ON THEIR WAY TO CAROLYN MALONEY’S WORKSHOP ON FUNDING A COLLEGE EDUCATION AND FINDS AN ALLY

A Monday night, families of high school juniors and seniors arrive to hear a presentation on how to afford college tuition.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has arranged a workshop where people can hear from representatives of Sallie Mae, and learn the steps involved in a successful admission to college, including grants, scholarships and loans.
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The information is well-presented and the workshop is a fine contribution to the community. A drawing at the end of the presentation gives one student, the winner, a $500 scholarship to help with his first years tuition.

Outside Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Eva-Lee, Caroline and Edith are leafleting parents and students with the info about opting out of military recruitment. People we encounter are responsive, many of them saying that they have already given the opt- out forms to their school principals.

Along comes a tall, fit community person on his way, as it happens, to play basketball in the Lenox Hill Gym. He’s a friend of Caroline’s and after introductions, Grannies tell Bill about the opt out requirement. “You mean the families must opt out rather than give permission to have their information given to the military by the schools?” Bill gets it. “Is anybody challenging this in the courts?” he asks, handing us his card. He’s with Volunteers for Legal Services, the chairman in fact.  “I could get someone to work on this.” And he’s off to shoot a few hoops.

We realize again that it feels right to be out there, meeting people, any day and any place where heads and hearts can help kids and grandkids to an education and prospects for a healthy world.

– Caroline Chinlud
– Photo: Fran Sears

Protect the Children

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Counter Recruiting on Parent Night at New York City High Schools

The Granny Peace Brigade and Code Pink NYC believe wholeheartedly that students and their parents should be aware that there are alternatives to military service, that an education can be secured without risking lives in needless wars. To further that objective, 25 volunteers traveled to eight high schools in Manhattan and one in the Bronx with Opt-Out forms and information on Parent Teacher Conference night at NYC high schools on October 23, 2008.
Standing in front of the schools, the volunteers met with parents and students to give them the information needed to protect a student’s privacy and prevent her/his personal information from being sent to military recruiters. With just a few words – “Protect your child’s privacy from military recruiters.,” or “Bring this form to the principals office,” parents were encouraged to stop for a minute and find out more.
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Few parents knew about the importance of completing the Opt Out Form and filing the form in the school office. Parents thanked the volunteers for explaining the serious nature of the choice, for being at the school to furnish information, and for providing the Opt-Out form. Many students also took the form, “I’m not going into the military. I don’t want to be called and harassed. No way, not me.”  Several teachers, parent coordinators and a school student adviser took forms to copy and distribute. The message was clear – parents as well as students want high schools to provide an education and were not comfortable with military recruiters having personal information or coming to call.

Meeting parents and hearing “They’re not getting my baby” and “Thank you for helping me understand” is the reward volunteers receive. Thanks to all the volunteers for their time, effort and commitment to providing Opt-Out information – you have made a difference. Your dedicated service may have helped guide a youngster”s education and career or save a young life. There can be no greater satisfaction.

– Barbara Harris
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Truth in Recruitment

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Opt-out Program at McKee High School, Staten Island, Oct 23, 2008

Parents/guardians and students were gathering at the entrance to McKee High School (Staten Island) at 5:30p.m., eager to pick up report cards. Between 5:30p.m. and 7:00p.m., Kathy Bayer and I (Barbara Walker) talked with a goodly number of parents/guardians and students about military recruiters in the school and the Opt-out Program and Opt-out Form.

A group of boys, waiting for their parents, took the forms and promised to turn them in to the Principal’s office.  One said he wanted eventually to join the military for the discipline training it provided. I asked him to look at the list in the
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New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) brochure, and to pay attention especially to the American Friends Service Committee (all I said to him was at top speed; it is so hard to have a conversation with one person while trying to catch as many others as possible).

A number of parents/guardians/students said they had received the form from the school that morning or the day before (why so late?). A few had turned them in and others planned to do so; some of the latter took forms from us and said they would give them in immediately.

Most gave us a warm and receptive response. Some said yes, indeed, they would turn in the form as they certainly did not want the military enticing their children to join. Several, one woman and two men, said they were “military families” and so did not oppose the turning over of their children’s information to the U.S. Military. The most touching was the grandmother who described the condition of one of her grandson’s who served in Iraq and is now a psychological wreck – and receives little help. She certainly does not want her young grandson to join the military — she was adamant.

At one point the security officer, trying to be helpful, warned me that I should not stand outside the school talking with those entering. I said I had the right to do so. Then the Vice-Principal came out, she said I could not talk with those entering the school and that the school had already taken care of distribution of the Opt-out information; she took the authorizing form Sally Jones had given me and left, saying she would return the form to me (but did not). The Principal came out and asked me to leave. I referred to the authorizing form; she left.

Kathy and I gave Opt-out forms to perhaps fifty people (some — relatively few — managed to go into the school before we could reach them).

-Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Five Grannies and a fella pitch ‘Opt Out Option’ at East Harlem Teen Fair.

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August 30:  Educational and career outreach, health information, and support groups for teens and families along with food, music, face painting and fun — City Council Rep, Melissa Mark Viverito sure knows how to throw a party. Nydia, Judy, one Joan and both Barbaras are joined by our new friend, Kevin, from Brooklyn for Peace. Our table is set up with stacks of Opt-Out forms, Truth in Recruiting information, information about alternative opportunities to the military and candy — lifesavers and lollipops. Turns are taken holding down the table as the others fan out to engage the young participants and their parents.
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We weave through the crowd, distributing the forms and starting conversations. Several other organizations and their representatives are working the room, offering us opportunities for further networking including the Education Advocate from State Senator Jose Serrano’s office, the Executive Director of Peace on the Street, and representatives from the Center for Employment Opportunities, Harlem Drummers, CodePink and AmeriCorp dedicated activists who are all doing important are work with high school students on non-military educational and career options.
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The crowd is lively, responsive and receptive to our message. One thing is very clear, in the world of “No Child Left Behind”, all too many parents and kids are not getting the facts about the Opt Out Option. The vast majority of people we talk to – moms, dads and even their ‘too cool’ teenage offspring – are deeply grateful for the information we give them.

A young video crew from MNN Youth Channel asks to interview us about our work and we are more than pleased to get in front of their cameras. As soon as we get a broadcast date and time, we’ll let you all know.

To all of you folks who are so generous in your praise of the Granny Peace Brigade, who often ask us, “But what can I do?”, here is a suggestion.
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Go on our website – www.grannypeacebrigade.org – and click on the section about Counter Recruitment. Read up on what we’ve been doing, take a look at our videos and download and print out some Opt Out forms. Counter recruiting is something you can do on a spontaneous basis — you don’t need banners, buttons, maps, permits or anything other than a good opening line and a smile. Grab a friend (like swimmers, counter recruiters should use the Buddy System) stake out a spot near a hub for teenagers and/or their parents — then get busy! Prepare to be welcomed (sometimes hesitantly) and thanked (often effusively) — and when you’re done, be secure in the knowledge that you have helped build a more peaceful and just world.

Okay, get out there — and keep in touch. We can learn so much from each other and there is much for us all to do.

Peace,
Barbara Harris & Fran Sears with Barbara Walker, Joan Pleune, Judy Lear, Nydia Leaf, Kevin (a college student working with Brooklyn for Peace)

Brooklyn: Say No To Junior ROTC

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Oh, how were we challenged Thursday, June 5 in Brooklyn! The park surrounding Brooklyn Borough Hall and the Court Building was saturated with folks attending Brooklyn Day, a pro-Atlantic Yards rally, sponsored by the Forest City Ratner Corporation, a NYC real estate developer with a taste for using eminent domain for their own gain. A reported 3500 were in attendance with many bussed-in (union members and senior citizens), although the crowd was far more interested in a free lunch than Frank Gehrey’s ‘vision’. (Note to Forest City Ratner Corp: the next time you stage one of these extravaganzas, try to order enough food. Hungry people are cranky people.)

When we finally found each other, we relegated ourselves to a place somewhat away from the crowd, and set up our “information table” at the foot of the statue of another dubious achiever, the ‘great discoverer of our country,” Christopher Columbus. The noise, constant cacophony of many decibels was unnerving and almost unbearable — the unanimous winner for truly ear-shattering rhetoric most certainly had to be awarded to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

In spite of all, we were determined to apprise folks about NYC taxes supporting military curriculum in our high schools. Some people found it “shocking” that, just as school budgets were being cut, tax money was supporting JROTC. One gentleman questioned whether the New York City Council had any power to effect change, was encouraged to ask his council person’s representative, did so, and reported that City Council can effect change. Connie, our colleague from Brooklyn for Peace, brought along material for distribution including “Some Objections to JROTC” from California’s Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, which provided effective “talking points” and was well received.
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People often engaged us in lengthy conversation, occasionally preventing us from reaching more people.* A group of teenagers found it to be unbelievable that they could call an elected representative’s office and, even with our encouragement and peer daring, didn’t engage in doing so. A young woman with three children, who works for the New York City Board of Education, took flyers and printed materials saying that she was going to bring them to a teacher’s meeting in her school. She requested additional information to be sent and left her contact information. When a caller to City Councilperson Robert Jackson (Chair, Education Committee) requested a public hearing, she was informed that the office had received 46 calls requesting a public hearing on NYC taxes for JROTC and 6, from students, against a hearing (time frame was not stipulated but we are assuming that it was recent).

Owen and Maxie chalked messages on the sidewalk concerning our Phone-a-thon focus and the number of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq, 4091 to date. A counter-chalker wrote that we were liers however, it did not deter us. The Phone-a-thon was considered by all, worthwhile and a success.
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*The Granny Peace Brigade & CodePink NYC need more volunteers to talk with folks who are interested in learning about “what’s going on” concerning U.S. militarism at home and abroad. The tax levy funds for JROTC seems to be a really “hot issue” and we need to spread the word with other peace groups, encouraging a City Council Public Hearing for full disclosure and hopefully, a change in policy. So…

JOIN US AT THE PHONE-A-THONS!

Phyllis Cunningham & Fran Sears with Caroline, Ann, Joan P., Carol, Maxie (Carol’s grandson), Owen, and Connie (Brooklyn for Peace)

Maintaining Privacy for High School Students Requires Action

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Five stalwart members and friends of the Granny Peace Brigade and CodePink gathered at Washington Irving High School on Thursday April 3, 2009, the evening of Citywide High School Parents’ Open School night, to help parents who want to keep their children from being recruited into the military. Pat, Leigh, Joe, Eva-Lee and Edith told students and their parents that they need to register with the school to keep their son’s or daughter’s privacy intact. They can’t assume that privacy is a given, or that they would need to give the school permission to give out their child’s name and contact information.
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Provisions of the NCLB Act (No Child Left Behind*) require the school to provide students’ names and contact information to military recruiters or the school will lose funding. To prevent the student’s name from being given to recruiters for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, the student and/or the parent must notify the school in writing that they don’t want their child’s name given out.

The Grannies gave out information and forms. They encouraged the parents and students to complete the forms and give them in to the principal’s office.

Some parents and students said they had already given in the forms. Others were not yet aware of the need to do so and were very appreciative at being given the information and the forms. Several said that military recruiters have been calling their home repeatedly.
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One man was of a different viewpoint – he feels joining the military is a good opportunity. Staff in the school also engaged us in conversation and said that, although they have to be circumspect about it, they try to provide this information also.

– Edith Cresmer

* The NCLB Act provides funding to the schools

A Positive Reception for Counter-Recruitment Volunteers

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Thursday, April 3, 2008 – Parent Teacher Conference night in New York
The No Child Left Behind Act requires high schools to provide students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers to military recruiters to be included in a military database. Unless a student files a signed Opt-Out form in the high school office, his/her privacy is forfeited.

Although there is a mandate from the NYC Department of Education to provide students with Opt-Out forms at the beginning of the high school year, few seem to get the form, sign it or return it to school. In fact, too many students are unaware of the ramifications of not filing the form – that military recruiters will have their private contact information stored and used for future recruiting purposes. The administration in many high schools has failed in its responsibility to educate students about this option.

To provide this information to parents/guardians/students and bring the Opt-Out forms to their attention, volunteers were present at 10 targeted high schools in under served areas of Manhattan and Queens on parent teacher night. The greeting of volunteers standing outside schools (Protect your child from military recruiters) quickly caught the attention and interest of parents and teachers entering the building. Most parents had no idea that their children’s private information is turned over to the military. They were troubled, sought guidance, and gladly took the opt-out forms and booklets that were being distributed. Many signed the form immediately and returned it to the office.

Teachers asked for more information, a nurse practitioner and school librarian requested literature and Opt-Outs to distribute in the school, several parent-coordinators thanked volunteers for being at the school and hoped to facilitate bringing more information into the school. Some students were interested in making copies of the Opt-Out and distributing them to friends.

The volunteers were well received and thanked for the information and advice they offered. As one volunteer stated: These actions are excellent because they allow parents and kids an opportunity to see that opposition can be public and may spark more action.

There are still a couple of high school administrators who are resistant to outsiders presenting this information to parents. They attempt to discourage the leafleting action, but we have the right and responsibility to do so and will continue.

We thank all 29 volunteers and hope more will be joining us in the Fall at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. It’s all about education, isn’t it?

Peace,
– Barbara Harris
Code Pink NYC /Granny Peace Brigade Counter Recruitment Committee
Support from:
American Friends Service Committee
New York Civil Liberties Union
United for Peace and Justice
YaYa Network