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Skip Schiel

Cambridge Seven Update

by Skip Schiel

© All text copyright Skip Schiel, 2006

In the summer of 2005 the US Army staged a major recruiting event on the Cambridge Common, a public space. Learning of the plan a few days earlier, some 200 people assembled peaceably to speak out against the Army's actions in Iraq. By extension a government and its compliant citizens are possibly committing war crimes. As Rabbi Heschel said, "a few are guilty, but in a democracy all are responsible."

Seven of us were arrested, held for the afternoon in the Cambridge jail, arraigned, and over the next one year, appeared several times in court. The outcome--to date, this could change--is described in the following update.

For background writing and photos please visit:

US Army on Cambridge Common, June 14, 2005

Where commands are no longer obeyed , the means of violence are of no use. Hence obedience is not determined by commands but by opinion, and, of course, by the number of those who share it. Everything depends upon the power behind the violence. The sudden dramatic breakdown of power, which ushers in revolutions, reveals in a flash how civil obedience--to the laws, to the rulers, to the institutions--is but the outward manifestation of support and consent.

-- Hannah Arendt , Reflections on Violence

First the bad news:

Apparently whatever momentum the Cambridge Seven might have generated thru our actions and arrests on June 14, 2005 has fizzled.

There's been virtually no interest to continue with our initiative on the parts of the ACLU who graciously handled some of our cases over the past year, or from most of the Seven itself to follow up on the agreements we'd made about protecting civil liberties and the Commonwealth dropping charges in exchange for a conversation with Cambridge city officials about military recruitment in the schools.

Quoting Joe Gerson's letter written shortly after our court appearance on June 14, 2006,

It is our understanding that an agreement with the City of Cambridge, forged during the winter but not accepted until recently by District Attorney Coakley (perhaps she was mis-reading the state's electorate,) remains in place. City officials will meet with the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Friends Service Committee to discuss how civil liberties can be better protected in Cambridge, and we will explore how best to ensure that the city's students are not illegally exposed to military recruiters desperate to fill their quotas and that, as per the law, Cambridge students are informed of alternatives --including jobs, training and education. In this latter regard, we look forward to working with members of the School Committee, school officials, teachers and --of course --students...

We look forward to these discussions, which we see as a source of hope in these dark and very dangerous times.

Sadly, in my view, this is symptomatic of much of our justice and peace movement--sagging resolve to complete a project. So, regrettably, our initiative seems dead in the water.

However there is more affirming recent news about military recruitment in the schools, from Luc Schuster on the Cambridge School Committee and Cathy Hoffman, director of the Cambridge Peace Commission. The school system has adopted a new policy:

Recruiters can no longer simply drop in at the high school, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS). They must schedule visits at least one week in advance so that groups with alternative perspectives can arrange to present information on the same day.

These scheduled recruiter visits are being posted on the CRLS website through PDF files of the daily newsletter Did You Know? (DYK) .

Luc reports that the Army visited on Sept 29, 2005 and 0 students attended. Navy visited on Oct 5, 2005 and 2 students attended. Army on Nov 2, 2005 and 9 students attended. Navy on Nov 22, 2005 and 4 attended. Marines on Jan 11, 2006 and 4 attended. Army scheduled a visit on March 16, 2006 and Army canceled.   

And this year, Army visited on September 21, 2006 and 0 students attended. Army on Nov. 16, 2006 and 0 students attended. Navy is due on November 21, 2006.

In addition, the guidance office at CRLS wants the Peace Commission to give a briefing to all the guidance people about the military.

Perhaps the Seven had some effect after all.

My thanks to the ACLU for their good work, the pro bono lawyers that worked with them and us, Luc and Cathy and others who have persisted on this vital issue of the military's intrusion into the schools. And thanks to all of you who are continuing to bring justice and peace to our troubled planet.



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