Philadelphia: Shutting Down the Military Recruitment Center

Revolutionary Worker #1191, March 16, 2003, posted at

From members of the Philly RCYB:

March 5 was taken up by young and old in many ways, but it was the youth and their daring and determination that took us all to that new level in the movement to STOP the juggernaut of war and repression.

Students at a small Quaker private school had put out the word a week and a half earlier--high school walkouts! In a matter of days, the word got out everywhere. Over 15 high schools organized walkouts, and 300 to 400 students descended on City Hall. There was a band of sixth graders with peace signs painted on their faces. Students from several colleges joined in.

The press release from the high school organizers said: "The walkout is not a protest against school but against the nation's policy toward Iraq. American high school students will not sit safely in classrooms while our peers' lives in Iraq are threatened."

About 250 students took off from the rally on a march to the nearby Armed Forces recruitment center at Broad and Cherry--where five youths had taken the daring action of handcuffing themselves to the doors to shut the center down. The five activists, from the Radical Education Collective at Temple University and the RCYB, said in a statement, "We are putting our bodies on the line to make clear that if the U.S. government wants to come after the people of the world, they're going to have to come through us, and we're not going to let that happen!"

Students blocked traffic on both sides of the street, determined not to allow business as usual. The cops threatened arrests. But it was the authorities who backed down. Chants rose up: "Whose streets? Our streets! Whose world? Our world!" And right then, both felt true. The youth owned one of the busiest intersections in Philadelphia and transformed it into a street alive with resistance and a message of love to people of the world. Later, students linked arms with the five chained to the recruitment center and stretched out across Broad Street in a human peace symbol.

Around 4 p.m., a citywide rally organized by Youth PAWR (Philly Area War Resistance) and co- sponsored by the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and Philly NION began at City Hall. Several hundred students came from schools throughout the region. A couple hundred students from this rally joined up with the folks at the recruitment center.

At 7 p.m., when the recruitment center closed, the "Philly 5" uncuffed themselves. Wild cheers rose through the air: WE DID IT! The main chant of the day rose up again: "Rise up with the people of the world! This war is not in our names!" The drums beat and the night was filled with power and resistance.

That night and the next morning, this was the story to be told. The traffic reports advised people to go nowhere near downtown--antiwar students had taken it over. On the cover of every paper and on every news station--students walked out, stopped traffic, blocked the recruiting center as a part of a whole national day.

As night fell, an older Black man joined the protest in front of the recruitment center, taking up one of the drums and laying down a beat. Later he stepped up to the bullhorn and gave a message to the youth: "If you get discouraged, don't. Because of your heart and what you have done, you will live forever. And the oppressors, they will disappear. All memory of them will disappear."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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