Diverse coalition of draft foes maps fresh strategy
All is quiet on the campus front -- but the battle against draft registration is far from over. Political, peace, religious, and student groups across the country have begun organizing extensive summer protests against President Carter's plan to begin registration for the draft. That proposal is expected to move ahead soon. A $ 13.2 million appropriation bill needed to put the plan in action, delayed by filibuster in the Senate, was near passage Wednesday.
Summer registration of 4 million 19- and 20-year-old men -- when most are out of school -- would neatly sidestep the possibility of widespread campus demonstrations government officials reportedly hope to avoid.
But during two conferences held last week and over the weekend of June 7-8 in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., a broad coalition of registration opponents made plans for action which include:
* Protests across the US at local Post Offices, where registration will take place.
* Youth outreach programs at rock concerts, discos, parks, and beaches, where volunteers will answer questions and hand out leaflets on draft registration.
* A drive to encourage young people notm to register, an illegal act which not all registration protesters endorse.
* A series of press conferences in major cities throughout the United States, where 60 to 100 19- and 20-year-olds who have decided not to register will speak.
The conferences will be held a few days before the two-week registration period begins, which is expected to occur three to six weeks after the appropriation bill is passed.
"We see registration weeks as a time of major confrontation," says Milton Mueller, director of Students for a Libertarian Society (SLS) and a conference organizer. "We like to think of it as a plebiscite on the Carter doctrine.
"If those weeks go by without any visible discontent, then the Carter doctrine is voted up," he says. "But if there's massive resistance, then his whole doctrine is thrown into question."
Groups like SLS and the National Resistance Committee (NRC), which argue that there has never been a registration that has not been followed closely by a draft, are emphasizing a "nonregistration" campaign.
The decision not to register, protest organizers agree, -- is a difficult one , a matter of conscience -- and an illegal act punishable by five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. But they hope that 10 percent, or 400,000 of those eligible, will refuse to register, thus creating a major snarl within Mr. Carter's plan.
Registration opponents argue that the Selective Service System does not have the necessary bureaucracy or the computer capacity to track down resisters.
Other protesters, however, say they will not encourage young people to become nonregistrants although legal advice will be provided for those who do choose that route.
And some opponents still hope that such action may never be necessary. The Rev. Barry Lynn, for example, who chairs the Committee Against Registration and the Draft (CARD), an umbrella group which does not endorse nonregistration, continues daily lobbying on Capitol Hill in hopes that the Senate will defeat the appropriations bill now being considered.
Still, as planners ready for summer protests, one major problems persists: After the original campus uproar following the President's January call for registration, most young people remain relatively uninformed of -- and apparently uninterested in -- the status of the registration plan.
Once the fall semester rolls around, student organizers say, they expect campuses to become vocal once again -- particularly as the presidential election draws near.