Feds Act Against Eureka, Arcata Over Voted Measures to Restrict Military Recruiter Access to Minors

EUREKA — Emergency closed-session City Council meetings last night in Eureka and later today in Arcata were called as local officials scrambled to respond to a notice of pending legal action in United States District Court to invalidate two ballot measures adopted by voters in each city on Nov. 4.

The Department of Defense referred Measure J of Eureka and Measure F of Arcata, which seek to restrict the armed forces’ ability to directly contact and recruit minors, to the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice. The Assistant Attorney General authorized the filing of a civil action for declaratory and injunctive relief based on an alleged violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution — this would render the initiatives invalid, according to a letter sent to Eureka City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner on Dec. 10 by Joseph H. Hunt of the Justice Department.

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Hunt notified Schaffner and Arcata’s City Attorney, Nancy Diamond, that his office intended to file the action on or about Dec. 23 in the nearest federal district court, located in San Francisco. He set a deadline of Friday for the cities to settle the matter out of court.

“As is our practice in civil actions of this kind, however, we are willing to give you the opportunity to resolve this matter in advance of any litigation by agreeing to appropriate relief,” Hunt stated in his letter.

The City Council in Eureka, at least, does not appear inclined to throw in the towel without a fight. After a late-night closed session following the Council meeting in which Frank Jäger and Linda Atkins were sworn in, Schaffner told the Sentinel in an interview early this morning that she had been directed to proceed with defending Measure J, even if it meant putting aside the other daily work of her office.

“There doesn’t appear to be any legal obligation for the City to take up the defense of Measure J, but the Council feels an ethical obligation to defend the will of the voters…so they’ve asked me to give it my best,” Schaffner said. “We will reach out to all the forces who want to help.”

Schaffner declined to elaborate on the defenses she might use to uphold Measure J due to the confidential nature of closed session Council items, but said she would be taking the lead in the case, as she was certified to practice law in federal court. It is unclear as of press time whether Arcata would be willing or able to provide any additional support, although proponents from Stop Recruiting Kids! pledged their help in the form of local attorneys already lined up to assist in the litigation.

Jack Nounnan“We were sure that we stayed within the constitution,” community organizer Jack Nounnan told the Council last night. “We didn’t really want trouble but we felt that we would get it anyway.”

Eureka Councilmembers did make it clear to Schaffner, as she indicated in her interview, that they would not be willing to expend General Fund monies to hire outside legal help. But even critics of the anti-recruitment initiative conceded the level of public support, with 73% in favor in Arcata and 57% in favor in Eureka.

“During the election I was very much opposed to this measure, I campaigned against it, but 57% of the voters supported it, so as their elected representative, I will have to support it,” Jäger said.

Also in support of the measures was the Redwood Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, which voted last month to ask their affiliate, the ACLU of Northern California, to provide an amicus curiae brief in support of the measures if litigation were filed against them. The ACLU-NC issued a report last year concerning invasive recruitment techniques in California, which has the greatest number of youth between 15 and 24 of any state, and ranks second in the level of recruits to the U.S. Army.

“When the amount the government spends on advertising for military recruitment surpasses Nike’s total advertising budget, we can understand why youth face an uphill battle when trying to make well-informed decisions,” Eveline Chang, director of the ACLU-NC Friedman Youth Project said.

According to the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate, well over half of the federal government’s total advertising budget, more than $700 million, went towards military recruitment advertising — a figure that surpassed Nike, Wal-Mart, Mastercard, and Coca-Cola in a 2007 Advertising Age study. When advertising is combined with recruitment support, the campaign to find recruits for the armed services is well over a billion dollars.

“It seemed the recruiters had the run of the campus; they have access to classrooms and students in the lunch room,” seventeen-year-old Jacquieta Beverly, a recent graduate from Tennyson High School, said in an ACLU release. “It got to the point where it felt like they were harassing you. They would follow you into the lunchroom offering to buy you snacks and stuff. It felt like it was an invasion of your privacy.”

The controversy over military recruiting has been building amidst the unprecedented deployment of military units to perform “domestic operations” and “put down civil unrest” inside the United States, according to a Sept. 8 report in the Army Times.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division went on-line on Oct. 1 at Fort Stewart and at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to perform domestic assignments associated with NORTHCOM, or the U.S. Northern Command, and Infowars cited a recent U.S. Army War College report warning of the potential for federal troops to be used against people inside the United States.

“Already predisposed to defer to the primacy of civilian authorities in instances of domestic security and divest all but the most extreme demands in areas like civil support and consequence management, DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility,” retired Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Freir stated in his report. “Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States.”

The Washington Post also reported on the expected deployment of up to 20,000 uniformed troops to domestic duty inside the U.S. in the next three years, which the Cato Institute warned would constitute the creeping militarization of domestic law enforcement. Former Times-Standard publisher Dave Stancliff asked in an Oct. 5 column whether the country was preparing for martial law.

“I’d wager most Americans aren’t aware of this new strike force within our country,” he stated in his Times-Standard piece. “Are we closer to internal collapse than any of us realize? Why does the federal government feel the need for such a unit within our borders? The idea that active duty soldiers will be used to control unruly civilian crowds is both terrifying and unconstitutional.”

For more information on the Friedman Youth Project, visit www.aclunc.org/youth. To contact the local Measure F/Measure J campaign, visit www.stoprecruitingkids.org.

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