Anti-war protesters close down recruiting center

By Zac Farber

Eight Macalester students lashed themselves together with PVC pipes fortified by duct tape and chicken wire while two students used U-shaped bike locks to fasten their necks to the entrances of army and navy recruiting centers on Washington Avenue near the University of Minnesota campus.Macalester Students for a Democratic Society organized the March 27 event to protest the Iraq war, one week after its fifth anniversary. A crowd of about 100 people, most of whom voiced support for the protesters, gathered around the spectacle. Some, who were members of University of Minnesota’s College Republicans, said the Macalester protesters were infringing on potential recruits’ right to join the military.

The atmosphere was jubilant, with protesters waving signs and preening in front of the Fox and Kare 11 cameras. Macalester students carpooled, bicycled and took buses to the Minneapolis recruiting stations, where they were joined by U of M students, passers-by and students who played hookey from local high schools.

MPJC-SDS coordinated the protest in conjunction with the Anti-War Committee, a U of M student group. More than 200 U of M students attended an Anti-War Committee rally. Students proceeded to march to the Army National Guard recruitment office on Washington Avenue, across the street from the recruiting centers where Macalester students were protesting. Police on horseback and bicycles arrested 16 protesters who entered the National Guard office on trespassing charges, Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said.

None of the arrested students attend Macalester and MPJC-SDS declared their protest a success.

“We declared Mission Accomplished because the centers were shut down all day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.” a member of MPJC-SDS who called himself “DanarchyMacSDS” wrote in a post on Infoshop News, a website that bills itself as “anarchist news, opinion and much more.”

At the protest the eight students who chained themselves to the recruiting centers doors declined to give their names and directed questions to Sadie Cox ’11 and Daniel Balogh ’10.

“We chose this particular place,” Cox said, “because we think it is the closest thing there is to a military presence in the cities.”

Cox said that 70 percent of the Iraqi people want the United States to leave and that it is time to withdraw American troops.

“We’ve been relying on the idea that the people who were elected will get the U.S. out of Iraq soon,” she said, referring to the Democratic victories in House and Senate elections in 2006.

She cautioned against similar false hopes for change in the presidential election. “The dream candidates-as wonderful and idealistic as they are-might not be the be all and end all,” she said.

The protesters’ press statement, which they distributed to local media, hinted at dissatisfaction with the limited role of direct democracy in the American political system. “We will not tolerate a system,” the statement read, “which only allows for dissent to be registered through infrequent elections and party politics.”

Bryan Axelrod, a sophomore at the U of M, served three tours of duty in Iraq’s Anbar province. He said that the protesters thwarted potential recruits who showed interest in non-controversial military positions such as navy doctor or pilots who assisted in rescue missions after Hurricane Katrina.

“The only way the occupation is going to end,” he said, “is when the Iraqi government is strong enough to stand by its own.”

Axelrod countered the protesters’ claim that Iraqis want the United States out of their country.

“What you don’t really hear about,” he said, “is the Iraqis who invite American soldiers into their homes when they’re already at war, and they offer them food and offer them water.”

But most of the Macalester students in attendance disagreed.

“I think it’s really important,” Natalia Shulkin ’08 said, “that people speak out against the war and what’s happening in our name.”

Many Macalester students heard about the Minneapolis protest at a “speakout” against the war held at 11 a.m. that morning at Bateman Plaza.

Students passed around a bullhorn and gave extemporaneous speeches about why they opposed the Iraq war as about 30 students and community members watched.

“I think we’ve been killing for far too long,” Carl Skarbek ’11 said.

“There were over 165 investigated reports of sexual assault by the army,” Jon Branden ’11 said.

In clear terms Margaret Beegle, executive assistant at the Institute for Global Citizenship, blamed Bush and Cheney for what she called a “destructive geopolitical game.”

“Take them to Hague,” she said. “Charge them with crimes against humanity.

“I’m willing to be on a committee if somebody wants to do something like that.”

Cox later read a statement that concluded by calling for “an end to this illegal, unethical and disgraceful war on the Iraqi people, once and for all.” Then she asked the crowd to come join her at the Minneapolis recruiting stations.

“They really do need our support,” she said. “A bunch of cops just got there.”

Kayla Burchuk ’10 helped sell the onlookers on the benefits of traveling 4.5 miles to cheer on the protesters.

“They made these really cool box structures to lock their arms in,” she said. “They look like robots.