Campus Antiwar Network
Campus Antiwar Network NCC
History of CAN from October 26, 2002.
Traprock Peace Center has been working since October, 26, 2002 to support the formation and growth of an independent national student antiwar movement. Many national organizations were trying to organize students. Traprock's approach was to support an independent student movement, one that was not part of or directed by a non-student organization. With the Stop the War Coalition in the UK (Andrew Burgin) we worked to create linkages between the student movements in the US and the UK.
Our work with Stop the War started in September, 2002. They asked us to help them connect with national student organizations in the US. We went to the massive October 26, 2002 demonstration in DC with the hope of meeting up with student leaders. To make a long story short, Charlie Jenks met with George Washington students who had organized a mass rally of students after the demonstration at GW. Charlie was invited to speak to the several hundred students in attendance; he voiced support for their initiative to create a national listserv for students antiwar activists. His hope was that this listserv would develop into an independent national organization.
Between October, 2002 and January, 2003 the listserv was very active and students decided to organize a national conference before the mass demontrations of January 18, 2003 in DC and San Francisco. Originally, students planned to have their national conference in Chicago. That fell through after a group of people disrupted a Chicago meeting that was trying to come to an agreement on hosting a national conference. It was to have taken place in early January in Chicago. Reportedly, these people - many of whom had not been involved in the process up to that time - objected to the conference taking place at all. Instead, they wanted students to participate in a planned conference for students, but not sponsored by students, on January 19 in DC, the day after the mass January 18 demonstration. Did the people who prevented the Chicago conference intend to prevent the formation of an independent student network?
Meanwhile, Traprock was working with Stop the War to support an independent conference, wherever it would take place, by bringing a student ambassador from the UK to attend and support the conference. Stop the War agreed to send the student to Chicago. When the plans fell through, there was a scramble to come up with an alternative.
It was decided, with input from all over the country via the listserv, to organize sister conferences, rather than a single conference, that would occur in DC and San Francisco on January 17th, the eve of the mass demonstrations. The two sister conferences would confer by phone and create - in essence - a single conference. The timing was critical in order to create an independent student network.
Stop the War made arrangements to send a student ambassador - Hellen Salmon of Oxford University and the National Union of Students - to the East Coast student conference in Washington, DC on January 17, 2003. StoptheWar and Traprock also sponsored the visit to the US by Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour MP. Mr. Corbyn had been invited to the US to speak at the mass rally by Michael Letwin, and Peter Wood, a former GW student, had met Stop the War representatives in London. Out of his meeting, and the work Traprock had been doing with Stop the War, came an invitation for Mr. Corbyn to give the keynote speech at the student conference. Traprock contributed funds to sponsor Mr. Corbyn's trip. arranged for his stay in DC, and acted as media liasion for him from January 17-20, arranging interviews on television (e.g. CNN) and radio.
Mr. Corbyn gave a great keynote address, and Ms. Salmon and he participated in a press conference that included student organizers of the new independent student network. Major print media participated in the press conference. Mr. Corbyn and Charlie Jenks met CAN activists at the January 18, 2003 rally (see Jan. 18-19 PhotoAlbum), and on January 20th, Traprock; Mike Zmolek of EndtheWar.org and Jason Kafoury of UFPJ arranged a meeting between Jeremy Corbyn, CAN students and leading US peace activists. 4 student activists (3 students from GW University and 1 from Duke) participated in the meeting.
Student activists, such as Katrina Yeaw, were doing similar work on the West Coast in arranging for the San Francisco conference. CAN would not have come about without both the DC and San Francisco sister conferences. The San Francisco story needs to be told, and we welcome an account of it. We also welcome an account by students in Chicago and DC on their view of events leading up to the January 17, 2003 conferences.
Leading up to the January 17 student conferences, Traprock was in frequent communications with students nationally - advertising student events, discussing strategies and developing working relationships. Two of our primary student contacts during this time were Tim Kaldas at George Washington and Kirstin Roberts at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Special thanks to Katrina Yeaw, Kirstin Roberts, Emily Goldstein, Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, Monique Dols, Desmond Gadfrey, and Phil Gasper for giving suggestions on content, contributing photographs or sending writings.