OpedNews Journalist and Six Protesters Arrested at 'Army Experience Center' in Philadelphia

Protest organized to shut down $13 million military recruiting center at a Philadelphia mall.

Six members of various anti-war groups, including World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, and an OpedNews journalist, were arrested in Philadelphia on Saturday at approximately 3 p.m. local time, at a protest organized to shut down the Army Experience Center in Franklin Mills Mall.


Photo by Rob Kall
A protester is arrest outside the Army Experience Center. Cheryl Biren of OpedNews is in the foreground, photographing event.

As reported to me by Rob Kall, publisher of OpedNews, Debra Sweet, the national director of World Can't Wait, and Elaine Brower, of Military Families Speak Out, whose son was deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq, are among the five women and single man arrested and detained. According to Brower:

"The AEC is giving guns to 13-year-olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghan civilians and U.S. military are being killed in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, we're saying 'no' to these wars. We've got to stop the flow of youth into the military, where they're being used to commit war crimes in our name."

Earlier in the day, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, addressed the crowd outside the Franklin Mills Mall on Knights and Woodhaven roads.

Hedges, a former war correspondent for several publications, including the New York Times, has spoken openly of his aversion to war after spending years covering major conflicts in El Salvador, the Middle East, Bosnia and Kosovo. In advance of Saturday's event, Hedges released the following statement describing his opposition to the Army Experience Center:

"War is not a game. Weapons are not toys. The essence of war is death. The purpose of war is to extinguish all opposing living systems from the economic to the political, social, cultural and finally, familial. Those who entice children to play with mock weapons of war will never allow these children to see what these weapons do to human bodies. They hide from them the fundamental truth about violence, and in this way socializes them to kill."

AEC Humvee2

Photo by Philadelphia Indymedia

On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Afghanistan, with President Barack Obama's current escalation of military action resulting in increased American and Afghan deaths, the war on Afghanistan is quickly losing favor among Americans.

The Army Experience Center is, to date, the military's most ambitious high-tech effort to counter disfavor and drum up recruitment by instilling militarism and weaponry excitement in impressionable youth.

This $13 million, 14,500-square-foot recruitment tool has drawn wide-ranging criticism for its over-the-top attempt to inspire enthusiasm for war through simulated games that show none of the horrific death and destruction of war, but focus instead on the adrenaline rush of state-of-the-art weapons and machines.

As of now, the charges against those arrested have not been detailed. The other women protesters include Sarah Wellington, Joan Plume and Beverly Rice. They have been transferred to the Roundhouse, the central police facility in Philadelphia. The circumstance and identity of the man who was arrested are not known.

Also arrested was Cheryl Biren, an OpedNews managing editor, who was standing apart from those being arrested and photographing the arresting officers. Even though Biren told police she was a journalist, they rapidly approached her and arrested her with the protesters. Biren still is being detained.

UPDATE-- Sept. 13: The six women, including Biren, and one man, who has been identified as Richard Marini of World Can't Wait, were released early Sunday morning. All were charged with criminal conspiracy and failure to disperse. Their arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 23,11:30 a.m. local time.

Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles-based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time among the entertainment industry, government organizations & community development projects and educational programs.
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