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Group Shuts Down Army Recruitment Center

by Janice Christensen

This time, nobody went to jail. Nine of the young people in the group who set out for the Army Recruitment Center at 3313 N. Oakland Ave. on Friday, March 8, were ready to go to jail. They fastened their wrists together with metal and fabric devices, with their lower arms inside white PVC pipe. They could not be moved unless the whole group went at once, and then the configuration made injury to the protestors probable. They stood in a circle outside the Army Recruitment Center as the cars splashed by in the slush on Oakland Ave. Fifty to sixty people, some young, some middle-aged, some dressed as clowns, one on stilts, paraded back and forth on the sidewalk. They held up signs proclaiming such sentiments as: “Not In Our Name” and “No War for Oil.”

Peace Rally

Most protests against the war in Iraq are sanctioned by the Milwaukee Police Department. Protestors notify police in advance, and the police deploy appropriate officers for crowd control and protection of demonstrators. If protestors don’t wish to be arrested, the police tell them what they can and cannot do. If protestors do wish to be arrested, the police are prepared, as one officer put it, “to make the process as smoothly as possible.” This action was not sanctioned by anybody. The planners felt it would compromise the action’s integrity. The protestors prepared by assigning tasks to group members. Food support consisted of PB&J sandwiches and lemon-onion-garlic-ginger tea. Street medics assembled first aid kits, and practiced techniques to remove pepper spray and teargas from eyes and skin. (Did you know that a mixture of Maalox and water can reduce the pain of pepper spray in the eyes?) Those who were going to be locked together put on warm clothes over “Depends” undergarments. They were not going to unlock for any reason. Leaflets distributed before the action listed three starting points for marchers, but not the final destination. Groups gathered at the Recruitment Center, where the nine protestors locked down. Police arrived in about fifteen minutes. As Police Liaison, I introduced myself , and explained this was a consensus group, and their action was intended to protest the war and educate through literature and signs. After discussion, the group agreed to leave a 4-foot pathway on the sidewalk, and not block any entrances. The action heated up with the arrival of a police sergeant who announced that he was going to declare the action an illegal assembly, and everyone was going to jail. The protesters decided to stay. The media was called and reporters with video cameras arrived on the scene. At that time, the sergeant reported that “police intelligence” was on the way, and “they would make a decision” concerning the legality of the gathering. Police intelligence arrived in the person of Detective Lucky, a dapper, friendly man in formal clothes topped by a calf-length black cashmere overcoat. Detective Lucky checked on legalities, and held extended conversations with the sergeant and six officers now on the scene. The Army recruiters watched at the window. About 5 p.m. they closed up and went home — three hours early. Eventually, Detective Lucky decided that this was, indeed a lawful gathering. Most of the police left. A single squad remained, with two officers who spent most of their time in the car, availing themselves of refreshments from the Dominoes Pizza next door. The group remained on site until shortly before 8 p.m., when they decided by consensus to unlock and disperse peacefully. They left the area as they had found it. Except perhaps with a raised consciousness about the war, and the knowledge that people have the power to speak and be heard. Author’s note: This was only one of many demonstrations in the last month. Several involved in this action were arrested in later protests; some were subjected to pepper spray in the eyes. The war, and the protests, continue. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003
by Janice Christensen