From Kansas City Indymedia: David Strano of Kansas Mutual Aid wrote in December of seemingly successful militant tactics againt military recruiters there. While many activists around the country, including here in Austin, have focused their counter-recuiting efforts on opposing military recruiters inside schools and other instituitons, the experience of activists in Lawrence demonstrates that everyday targeted resistance to recruiters can be effective.
by Dave Strano, Kansas Mutual Aid
December 22, 2006
During a counter-recruitment protest outside of the Lawrence Army/Navy Career Center on Saturday December 16th, the small group of us that had showed up were confronted by a Naval officer. The sailor introduced himself as being an acting supervisor of U.S. Naval recruitment for the Kansas and Missouri area. He proceeded to have a 45 minute discussion with us about our counter-recruitment efforts, police enforcement, life in the military, and the war in Iraq.
His words conveyed a clear message: Of all the recruitment centers under his command, the one in Lawrence was facing major trouble from protesters and dissidents. “Over the last four years,” he said, “it has been a living hell here… We’ve had to install bomb-proof glass, security alarms and panic buttons, internal security cameras… I’ve had my tires slashed and car painted on… People come inside our center and vandalize it in front of us… We’ve had to shut down on more than one occasion because of you people blocking our doors… Our offices get vandalized at least once a month… We’ve had to replace our locks more times than I can count… Nearly our entire recruitment budget for this year has gone to security.”
His intentions for saying this weren’t clear, but he certainly was who he said he was; his interaction with the other recruiters there confirmed this. His words ended with a plea for us to stop. Almost an order coming from a failing commander: Leave us alone.
The anarchist movement in Lawrence, Kansas has been working against local military recruiting efforts since before the invasion of Iraq. For four years, various actions have occurred outside and inside the military recruiting centers, on the campus of the University of Kansas, and outside and inside Lawrence’s high schools. In those four years, a variety of disruptive tactics have been used. These tactics have ranged from lockdowns to office occupations, to vocal sign holding to wheatepasting and other more direct actions.
Initially these efforts took the form if informational campaigns. The first stages of counter-recruitment in Lawrence were initiated by a former Marine Sergeant, Chris White. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Chris conducted numerous talks, panel discussions, letter writing campaigns, and lectures at local high schools, the KU campus, and other public forums.
Chris’s work eventually gave rise to increased pressure on recruiters during the early onset of the invasion. A wave of recruiter protests, vandalism, and direct actions targeted recruiters offices. Lawrence’s counter recruitment efforts stayed sporadic, however, until August of 2005, when a group of KU students and Lawrence residents created the Lawrence Counter-Recruitment organization, with an aim of banning military recruiters from KU’s campus. LCR held initially large demonstration on the campus, involving scores of students and residents. Efforts were focused on trying to target recruiters on campus and the Chancellor, who could work to help remove them.
On December 17, 2005, a group of members of LCR and other anarchists, and anti-war organizers, shut down the Army/Navy Career Center with a lockdown occupation of the doors of the building. Using bicycle u-shaped locks, six individuals locked their necks physically to the door handles of the building and created an immobile blockade (with 3 individuals also locking themselves to each others’ necks outside the back door of the building). After hours of police harassment, intimidation, and snow fall, the keys to the locks were produced and those involved arrested. One other observer was also arrested. All seven were released without charge due to pressure from the public and attorneys. They, to this date, have still never been charged.
Other informational campaigns and protests, including actions where students attempted to confront the Chancellor in his office were the mainstay of the organization. Due to a variety of reasons, efforts with LCR stagnated during the second semester of the school year in early 2006, and with the Supreme Courts’ upholding of the Solomon Amendment, thus making it impossible for a college that receives federal funding to boot recruiters, LCR disbanded by May of 2006.
Throughout the rest of 2006, banner drops, counter-recruitment informational tables, planned disruptions of recruiter offices and workplaces, and direct action targeted the recruitment centers. On June 22, seven anarchists, in response to continued news of massacres, rapes, and other war crimes in Iraq, covered themselves with fake blood, entered the Army/Navy Career Center, and proceeded to read the names of Iraqis murdered in Haditha by U.S. soldiers. Forcing the lone recruiter on duty back into his office, and pounding on the walls and door, the protesters continued to read a statement they had produced and the names of those killed. A prospective recruit who had been taking his ASVAB test for entry into the military left after the continued disruption. When police arrived, the group locked down to each other on the ground. Through the use of resistance, it took nearly an hour for the police to clear the office. The protest effectively closed the office for the rest of th
The seven arrested were eventually convicted of criminal trespassing and ordered to do community service. All are currently safe and well.
In October of 2006, Kansas Mutual Aid organized what was dubbed the “October Offensive”. This month-long series of anti-recruitment actions, protests, and events included weekly confrontational demonstrations resulting in several days where recruitment centers closed early. Also, at least once a week even more confrontational actions were organized that also resulted in various closures and disruptions. Informational forums also filled the month, as did leafleting of the college campus, schools, and downtown Lawrence.
Since October, KMA has maintained a weekly presence at the recruitment offices, with some weeks being more confrontational than others. Throughout this process KMA has received a lot of support from passerby as well as workers at nearby businesses (the recruitment centers all reside in the same strip mall alongside restaurants and stores.)
On Election Day in early November, KMA held a protest in front of the recruiting center that drew a lot of police attention. Police immediately worked to clear the entire area of protesters, identifying each of us and ordering us to leave the area. KMA merely took the protest further down the block, citing city ordinance the entire time, trying to prove the police to be in direct contradiction of local law.
The next day, the Solidarity Center in Lawrence was visited by local police (who were quickly kicked out and made to stand outside to speak) who informed those present that they were indeed right, and that they had the right to access the property.
Since then, police have been on hand multiple times, and the National Guard recruiting office has been closed early nearly every Saturday that we have been there.
The immediate effects of this long term campaign have been hard to assess. However, we do know that all of the recruitment centers have new locking mechanisms. The Navy Recruitment Center has moved to a “knock-only” policy where they leave their doors locked 24 hours a day, and only unlock them during scheduled appointments. Recruitment numbers have slumped, though this is most definitely due to the national trend because of the war in Iraq.
Based on the words of the Naval recruiter, however, we must be doing something right. For those in the area, join us on almost any Saturday at 2pm at the recruiting center at 23rd and Louisiana. Future plans also include a week of action starting on March 19, 2007 (the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq) with a march to the recruitment centers. This is the same week as Spring Break in Lawrence for the college and public schools, so come spend your break with us, as we work to halt recruiting in Lawrence.