May 4, 2009

300 protest recruiting arcade at Franklin Hills Mall in Philadelphia. 7 arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.

Hundreds of Peace activists converged on the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia to protest a pilot program for recruiting teenagers. The multi-million dollar center uses video games to lure teenagers to sign up for the military.

photo by John Grant

Seven people were arrested in acts of non-violent civil disobedience at the protest demonstration targeting the Defense Department’s recruiting tactic which may expand to other parts of the country.

 photo by John Grant

WBAI interviewed Jonathan Williams, coordinator of the Student Peace Action Network. He says the Army Experience Center is:
“a cross between an arcade and a recruitment center that claims to expose the young people to the army experience. Recruiters who operate the center don’t even wear uniforms. We believe the Army Experience Center represents a turn for the worse in our military’s recruitment practices. Over the years in an effort to meet their quotas, recruiters have turned to increasingly predatory and deceitful practices such as the use of video games to target teenagers as young as thirteen for military enlistment.”

This protest is actually the second of its kind. We were there earlier this year with a smaller group of about 30 or 60 or so and this time around we had 300 protesters and when we come back the next time we plan to have even more. We feel like there is a lot of public support for what we are doing out there. There are folks from all over the area. We had students, activists, young and old, we had veterans from both the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War.

We think it’s nothing short of deception to compare combat experience with one of these video games. . . It’s essentially an arcade staffed with 15 or 25 or so recruiters and they don’t wear uniforms and in order to play these free video games, you must provide them with your contact information. . . the military’s deceitfully attempting to gain leads for potential military recruitment.
We don’t want to see this in any of our communities. . . This is a pilot program that we hope not to see in any more malls in this country because we feel this is really despicable and it’s a real turn for the worse in our military’s recruitment practices.

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