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Protesters Decry Military Recruitment at Bronx School Fair Co-Hosted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

HeadlineMar 21, 2023

Here in New York, dozens of community organizers, parents, teachers and students rallied at a Bronx high school Monday, protesting what they called military recruitment at a student services fair hosted by New York Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Adriano Espaillat. The fair featured representatives from military service academies for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Advocates accused Ocasio-Cortez of backtracking on her antiwar campaign promises and policies opposing predatory military recruitment tactics that predominantly target Black, Brown, Latinx and low-income students. In 2020, Ocasio-Cortez proposed a ban against military recruitment on the online gaming platform Twitch. She also pushed for an amendment that would have halted federal funding for military recruitment in middle and high schools.

Democracy Now!'s Sonyi Lopez spoke to Richie Merino, an organizer with the Bronx Anti-War Coalition, at Monday's rally at Renaissance High School, which took place on the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Richie Merino: “A lot of youth here are struggling to find jobs. Many youth here are not prepared to go to college. Right? Instead of bringing military recruiters here, we should be having a jobs fair, we should be having a college fair. Renaissance High School is an arts and theater school. Where are the arts and theater programs represented here, AOC? You’re saying this is a student services fair. Where are the services for the youth?”

Organizers also demanded justice for Vanessa Guillén and Ana Basaldua Ruiz, two Latina women who were killed after they reported being sexually assaulted at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base in Texas — Guillén in 2020 and Ruiz last week — and 21-year-old Abdul Latifu, who was murdered in January by another soldier at Fort Rucker in Alabama. Latifu was from the Bronx.

Editor’s Note: After our broadcast, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office reached out to Democracy Now. In a statement, her communications director Lauren Hitt said: “The Congresswoman didn’t hold a job fair or a military recruitment fair – she held a student services fair. There were tables on FAFSA (federal student aid) as well as internship opportunities through our office and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. We also had tables with presenters from the Congressional App and Art Competitions, as well as representatives from the state and city to share their student-centered activities. There were no military enlistment officers there. Out of over a dozen tables, we did have a few representatives from the service academies – West Point, Naval Academy, etc – but that’s only because applicants to those 4-year colleges are required to obtain a letter of recommendation from their Congressperson. In contrast to enlisting in the military straight out of high school, applying to the service academies has typically been a pretty elite and complex process mostly accessible to those from affluent backgrounds. The goal here was to make that path more accessible for those who are interested in serving in the military, while simultaneously offering many other post-graduate options at the same event.”

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