Seattle Counter-Recruiters Pick a Fight

Mark Taylor-Canfield Jun 28, 2005

SEATTLE, WA – Summer is typically the most active military enlistment season, but the growing student counter-recruitment movement is working hard to thwart those efforts. Organizers estimate that more than 150 students walked out of classes and marched on three different recruiting offices around Seattle on May 23. The recruiting centers were forced to close their doors temporarily, as students blockaded the facilities and picketed outside.

Three students were forcibly removed from the Army Recruiting Center at Northgate Mall by Sergeant First Class Jessica Hicks. Army spokesperson Bill Pierce maintains that Sgt. Hicks was protecting the recruiters and military property. “People can come into the station to talk about the Army,” he said, “but they can’t break into the station with the intent to do damage.”

The students deny that they had any intention of damaging property. They claim they were loudly criticizing the military’s recruitment practices on school campuses when they were physically forced out of the facility. After the students were ejected, the station closed its doors. Seattle Central Community College student Marlo Winter declared victory, “Nobody can be recruited while we are here.”

During the demonstrations the students chanted, “Education, not war! Kick recruiters out the door!” They held signs saying, “Money For Education, Not Ammunition” and “I Want To Learn To Read, Not To Kill.”

Two other recruiting centers were the focus of protests – one near the University of Washington and another by Garfield High School in the Central District. Garfield graduate Duwan Tyson traveled from Olympia with other students from Evergreen State College. “It was awesome,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “They closed the doors on us and retreated.”

The Marine recruiting center near the University of Washington locked its doors when protesters arrived. Military personnel dropped the shades and hid inside the building despite repeated requests from the students to talk with a recruiter. The Army Recruiting Station there also reportedly closed its doors.

On May 9, the Garfield High School Parent Teachers Student Association (PTSA) passed a resolution banning military recruiters from campus. According to Garfield PTSA President and Co-Chair Amy Hagopian, “Our PTSA has a mission to promote the welfare of children and youth and to support and speak out on their behalf. That’s the mission of PTSAs everywhere in America. We would encourage other PTSAs to act on behalf of their mission and also look seriously at the recruitment happening in their schools and the nature of that recruitment, the frequency, the intensity and the hard pressure tactics.”

Hagopian told Democracy Now!, “We can’t physically stop them, and we can’t legally stop them, but we can stand at the doors and explain that they’re not welcome, as can every high school in the country. Somebody obviously needs to challenge this legally, but that’s a hard task to ask of public schools that are strapped for money.”

An Army recruiter told KPLU Radio in Seattle that the students’ demonstrations had only succeeded in bringing the draft closer to reality. She claimed that protests at recruitment centers would result in fewer enlistments, making a national draft necessary and thereby forcing the same young people who blocked their doors to enter the military.

Despite this, the youth protesters in Seattle are very serious about their objective to stop recruitment on school campuses. They decry the amount of money spent on military programs at a time when funding for public education is being cut across the board.

On Free Speech Radio, youth activist Emily Reilly stated, “We came out to draw attention to the fact that there is decreasing money for education and human needs, but we are pouring billions of dollars into an immoral war.”

“We are going into this summer with a lot of energy because that’s one of the biggest times for recruiters to go out and recruit students into the military,” Reilly continued. “And we’re going to be out there every step of the way making sure that Seattle is a recruiter-free zone. We want to make their job impossible. We do not want anyone else to go over to Iraq from our city.”

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