Minnesota: “Don’t enlist, resist”
Minnesota saw a wave of dramatic anti-war protests at military recruitment centers, April 23. The call of the Twin Cities based Anti-War Committee for April 23 to be Zero Recruitment Day was taken up by a host of anti-war groups that joined together, visibly opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, exposing recruiter lies and preventing military recruiting that day.
Despite Obama’s promise to end the war on Iraq, he has committed to keeping 50,000 troops there through 2011. Meanwhile he plans to greatly expand the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan and send an additional 17,000 troops. These war plans depend on new recruits for the armed forces. The current economic crisis makes it easier for recruiters to prey on poor and working-class youth who are given false promises of economic benefits.
Marie Braun, an activist with the Twin Cities Peace Campaign explained the purpose for the day’s actions, “We are here to say that we are sick of war. We are sickened by the news coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan about continuing death and destruction at the hands of our government. We are appalled by the tactics of recruiters who use lies, innuendo and false promises to get our young people to fight, kill and die in wars that have little or nothing to do with democracy, national security or the welfare of our citizens.”
Six Zero Recruitment Day actions occurred at military recruiting stations throughout Minnesota, five in the Twin Cities metro area and one at the Minnesota State University in Mankato.
In Brooklyn Center, four activists locked themselves to a station, disrupting business for over half the day. Police were forced to cut the door handles in order to arrest the protesters.
Three members of Grandmothers Peace Brigade were arrested after claiming to want to enlist in place of young people in Saint Louis Park. Afterwards, supporters continued to disrupt business. Arrestee Sarah Martin explained their action. “When we went into the Knollwood Plaza recruiting office, the Grandmas Peace Brigade wore t-shirts which said ‘What would grandma do? Pack for Iraq and send the children back.’ We were there to protect our grandchildren from the deadly demands of U.S. imperialism.”
The Anti-War Committee held an all day picket of an Army Career Center in Minneapolis, which culminated in a redecoration of the recruiting station with anti-recruitment posters and foreclosure signs. This led Minneapolis police to cordon off the station as a crime scene and call in the fire department. Three fire engines came to check whether the glue was a ‘hazardous material’ and blocked traffic at the busy Lake and Lyndale intersection for close to an hour.
AWC member Jess Sundin reports, “It’s ironic that the Minneapolis Police declared the recruiting office a crime scene. Our message was that sending young people off to war in Afghanistan and Iraq is a crime. Clearly the police agreed with us.”
Across the river, The Twin Cities Peace Campaign and Alliant Action picketed at a recruitment center in West Saint Paul. Their day-long protest included educational outreach through flyers on cars in the parking lots of surrounding big box stores.
At the University of Minnesota, the lengthy rally organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) closed the recruiting station there, while College Republican counter-protesters held signs – many were racist and some advocated torture – nearby.
Stephanie Taylor, a University of Minnesota SDS organizer, explained, “Even in the face of overt racism from the College Republicans and signs that read ‘Free waterboarding tickets,’ students proved to be successful in shutting down the recruitment center and maintaining their political line, chanting, ‘Recruiters lie, students die.’”
Minnesota anti-war groups who came together to organize protests around the Republican National Convention are continuing to work together to build a movement of opposition to U.S. imperialism. Zero Recruitment Day maintained the pattern of using a variety of tactics, including civil disobedience and direct action to get the message across: “Don’t enlist. Resist.”