What is Armistice Day? After World War I ended, nations mourned their dead and called for an end to all wars. Armistice, (a peace treaty), was signed, and bells tolled to celebrate the end of war. Thus, Nov. 11 th became Armistice Day, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated." In 1954, Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. To this day churches in Europe still ring their bells 11 times at 11 am on the 11 th day of the 11 th month to commemorate Armistice Day- a day dedicated to peace.
11/11/2022 / Multiple Peace groups / Long Beach California - On Veterans Day, 2022, The Justice & Peace Committee of the South Coast Interfaith Council convened the “Reclaim Armistice Day!” event at Admiral Kidd Park in Long Beach California. The national groups that supported this event were the Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out. The regional groups supporting this half-day long activity included the Philippines - U.S. Solidarity Organization (PUSO) and the students from peace clubs that are part of the Peace Club Alliance which is located in Los Angeles County, California. The students that participated were from Cabrillo, Tracy, Fairfax, and the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) High Schools.
The Reclaim Armistice Day! gathering included youth theatrical skits designed with an anti-war message with students assuming the adult and student roles of what goes on with military recruiters in their high schools advocating to get youth to join into military service.
Other activities included drawings for prizes, live music, crafts, food distribution and the re-installation of the traveling “Teen Memorial” of soldiers who died while still not fully reaching the age of adulthood in combat in the military.
Also speakers presented from various community peace groups including the Philippine - US Solidarity Organization (PUSO), Veterans for Peace Los Angeles, Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), the Orange County Peace Coalition, Long Beach Area Peace Network and the San Pedro Neighbors of Peace and Justice.
Groups that presented informational tables with literature about the risks of military service and alternatives included Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, The Poor People’s Campaign, Orange County Peace Coalition, the Democratic Socialists of America Long Beach branch, and the counter recruitment wheel of the Peace Club Alliance of the ABC Unified School District,
A reenactment of the ringing of eleven bells at 11am Pacific Time on the 11th of November, on the eleventh month of the year was performed as a rite of recognition of the original Armistice made in 1918 to herald the ending of hostilities from the First World War.
Los Angeles County Engaging Students in Peace Advocacy Learning
Those students representing participating LA County schools characterized the demographic most targeted by military recruiters in our public schools: Students represented in the event reflected communities of color including Black, Asian, and Latinx students. This grouping also reflected the ethnic and economic composition of those communities close to the event location in Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles that are primarily working class.
The concept and existence of an organized coalition of high school peace clubs also reflected upon the progressive nature of Los Angeles school districts where student clubs organized for advocating for anti war issues and peace could be tolerated. It is more striking that the ABC school district is tolerant of these practices within communities that are put under duress by policies like the “Every Child Succeeds” legislation that forces military recruiter access upon schools that accept federal educational aid from the government. Witnessing an event like Reclaim Armistice Day in Los Angeles County brings to mind an expanded question of whether this type of coalition of students and teachers, with supporting peace organizational support, can be duplicated in other regions of the United States.
With the post-pandemic landscape for counter-recruitment activism highly diminished by the multi-year closure of schools to outside groups, the opportunity for on-campus advocacy by student based peace clubs to provide counter-recruitment narratives is all the more important as CR groups reassess and negotiate uncertain access to return to schools going forward in the months ahead while military recruiters return to campuses nationwide.
For student based CR advocacy to maintain interest for participating students, it is likely that the combination of attractive activities for participation will be key to maintaining student interest including the integration of the arts and social activities. Theater, of the agitprop variety, would be well purposed for social justice advocacy as was witnessed in this event.
Counter-recruitment Activism Facing Challenges Ahead to Reach Students
To develop relationships with schools, the role for community based counter-recruitment activism will need to expand to the challenges ahead including developing closer associations with teachers groups and unions to win access to students and educators that are sympathetic to a peace narrative and wish a non-violent outcome for their students once they move ahead into their lives. The importance of nurturing student to student consciousness raising on issues of militarism in and around their lives is essential to a peace movement surviving into the future.
A goal for the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) in the months ahead will be to ask national and regional peace and human rights groups to include counter-recruitment and/or Truth in Recruitment resources on their websites to increase the public recognition of the enormous investment that the Department of Defense is making in our public schools to foster not only military recruitment but to ensure the normalization of cultural militarism inside young minds. NNOMY’s goal must include making inroads into more schools in other cities and states. Considering the conservative political efforts to take over school boards nationally, the challenge and the importance of such an effort is all the more important.
Part of the counter-remedy for this type of militarized indoctrination are projects and programs to educate and advocate for peace and peaceful solutions for young people's lives and outlooks in one of the most militarized cultures in contemporary history.
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