Minnesota: Protesters declare ‘Zero Recruitment Day,’ stand up against wars and occupations
Minneapolis, MN – Morning rush hour drivers into downtown Minneapolis were greeted by several banners across the interstates reading, “Jobs not war” and “Recruiters lie people die.” This was the start of Zero Recruitment Day (ZRD), where more than 150 people protested at six military recruiting sites in Minnesota.
“We are here today to oppose the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan by resisting military recruitment across the Twin Cities. We initiated Zero Recruitment Day to expose the lies that recruiters tell about serving and about the war,” said Anti-War Committee member, Misty Rowan. She spoke at a press conference with other ZRD organizers outside Knollwood Mall, which houses military recruiting offices in Saint Louis Park.
Rowan continued, “A surge of combat forces has brought civilian casualties to an all time high [in Afghanistan], just as footage has surfaced of U.S. soldiers firing on unarmed Iraqi civilians – a criminal act that the U.S. military is denying responsibility for. Our government continues to spend billions of our tax dollars on war abroad while at home we’re faced with economic crisis. Military recruiters then use these conditions to prey upon our youth, disproportionately targeting those from low income families and people of color.”
Tracy Molm spoke for the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). “Don't enlist, resist! It's time that we start exposing these lies because no longer can we have students and youth come back broken because of the lies that they have been sent to perpetrate in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.” She added, “It's really important that it's Earth Day. One of the things that is most devastating to the earth is war and occupations. Iraq and Afghanistan are devastated lands and today we remember that this is part of why we resist war.”
SDS protested outside the campus ROTC center and then marched across campus to interrupt a speech by Karl Rove. Mia Overly explained, “Today at the U of M we have a war criminal on campus. Karl Rove, of the Bush administration, is coming to campus speaking at noon. As part of Zero Recruitment Day, we're protesting having our money go to war criminals.” Karl Rove was senior advisor to the Bush administration and heavily involved in the decisions to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Grandma’s Peace Brigade marked Zero Recruitment Day at Knollwood Mall, first by filling purses and pockets at department stores with information about depleted uranium, and its devastating effects. Later, they unfurled a banner in front of the recruiting office doors, reading, “Grandma says don’t enlist, resist.”
Lucia Wilkes Smith said, “We believe there are elder women in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere and that we could come to an understanding to end these wars, to end these military occupations that bring only death pain sadness and destruction to young people and the older ones too.”
On the other side of the metro area, members of Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq and Alliant Action successfully shut down a military recruitment center in West St. Paul, which locked its doors rather than confront protesters.
New recruits are often promised money for education, or better job opportunities when they return civilian life. ZRD actions exposed the lies told by military recruiters. Less than a third of recruits ever get any money for college, and veterans can expect civilian incomes 10% below their peers who never joined the military. They also highlighted the human impact of military deployment: Soldiers killed or wounded, and traumatized by their own involvement in wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Mankato Area Activist Collective set up a counter-recruitment table at the mall outside of the recruitment station in Mankato. This was followed by a rally at Minnesota State University. A group called SERF (Semiotic Existentialists Reinventing Fun) rallied in uptown Minneapolis, where protesters hung a banner and stickers at the recruitment center. Police arrested two protesters.
The Anti-War Committee, which initiated Zero Recruitment Day for the second year in a row, held a picket at the National Guard Center in Saint Paul.
“It’s important to recognize the role of recruiters. They use false promises to fill the ranks of a military that carries out unjust wars and illegal occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. On Zero Recruitment Day, we come together to challenge the lies of recruiters and to say no to war and occupation,” explained Anti-War Committee member Meredith Aby.