- Civil resisters from the Civil Resistance study group
that have been meeting at the Friend's Meeting house in Eugene led 70 people
in a successful direct action at the recruitment offices of the four major
branches of the military service: Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.
- In a dignified, inspired example of classic non-violent
struggle, and armed with graphic photo enlargements of the human casualties
of the war, American and Iraqi, as well as thoroughly researched material
that exposed the lies of our government about the realities of the war
and the recruitment process, the resisters confronted the military recruiters
and the mainstream media. While acting from a place of deep compassion
and respect for the human dignity for those who disagree with us, we achieved
three major objectives with startling success; we shut down the recruitment
center for the day; we succeeded in injecting into the mainstream media
graphic images and powerful verbal messages capable of transforming public
opinion about the war; and we established our First Amendment rights to
demonstrate at a supposedly "private property" shopping center
without interference from law enforcement.
- The action was executed after a month of meticulous planning,
many meetings, civil disobedience training, copious research and a tremendous
amount of hard work and long hours by many of the resisters. We organized
the Civil Resistance study group around the idea that the time had come
for action, in addition to ongoing legal and conventional methods of resisting
the war. Our group studied successful non-violent resistance movements
from the American civil rights struggle, the South African struggle against
apartheid, the Indian independence movement under Gandhi's leadership,
the Polish Solidarity movement that overthrew the communist regime, and
the Danish resistance to the Nazis in WWII.
- We made the decision to confront military recruiters
and the mainstream media at their offices in the Santa Clara shopping center
in north Eugene with enlarged graphic photos of the human cost of the war,
images not shown in the mainstream American press, as well as hard facts
we had researched about the realities of military life and the lack of
veterans benefits for those returning from the war. Many of us took a thorough
civil disobedience training, and we were prepared to be arrested and go
to jail. We believed that since the shopping center is "private property,"
that private security would tell us to leave and call the police when we
refused, and that the police would then have to arrest us for criminal
- Our strategy was to create the classic confrontation
of non-violent resistance -- to create a situation in which the authorities
must either show their hand and repress us by violent means including arrest,
or they would be forced to back down and allow us to break the law, admitting
they cannot control us. We also wanted to present a situation in which
the media would be forced to show the violent disturbing images of the
war if they wished to cover us. As long as we were non-violent AND courageously
stuck to our plan, we believed we would create a win-win situation -- if
they arrested us, we would win by attracting public sentiment for our cause;
if they did not arrest us, we would show we could break the law without
consequences, thereby emboldening future protest.
- Following Gandhi's idea to tell your "opponent"
what you are going to do ahead of time, we sent out press releases twice
in the week prior to the action, to the media and to the three law enforcement
agencies in the area -- the Eugene Police, Springfield Police, and Lane
County Sheriffs, including the fact that we would be performing civil disobedience
and were fully prepared to be arrested. The press release included the
date and time of our action, but not the location, with the stipulation
that the location would be revealed one hour before the action started.
We had a meeting with Lt. Pete Kerns of the Eugene Police Department at
his request, to go over our plans and review possible police responses,
with our attorney present and a tape recorder running. We made it clear
to him that we were committed to non-violent methods and were trained in
civil disobedience, and that among our group would be some elderly, some
children, and many others with video cameras. We questioned him in detail
about police policy about the use of "non-lethal" weapons such
as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and bean bag projectiles against
- Many people in the group worked many late nights to create
very polished written materials for the press packets, and packets to give
to the recruiters, and we created the placards showing the large graphic
images of severely injured Iraqi children being held by their anguished
parents, American soldiers with missing limbs, anguished relatives of dead
GI's at their funerals, and the like.
- The plan called for six of us to be the "advance
team" who would go into the recruiters offices with the packets of
written material and copies of some of the photos we had prepared, and
go over the material with them, then ask them to sign an agreement that
they would present this material to every potential recruit who came in
to see them. The issues we wanted to raise were the lack of health care
and education benefits for people in the military, the sexual abuse and
rape of women in the military, and the lack of a true portrayal of a career
that involved killing people, including women, children, and the elderly.
This would serve to educate the recruiters, and force them to either practice
full disclosure with potential recruits as we intended, or to refuse and
thereby admit that they were hiding the truth. While this was occurring,
the rest of our comrades would be organizing the placards with the photographic
enlargements bearing captions like, "You won't see this on NBC,"
and "This is what collateral damage looks like," for a dramatic
display to the media and the public in front of the recruiters offices.
- We received many calls from the media expressing great
curiosity about our planned action, trying to get us to reveal the location,
including an editor of the Register Guard and DJ's from KUGN, KLCC, and
KWVA. In that way, we were able to get out the message we wanted before
the action, but keep up the suspense about an action that no one outside
of our supporters knew the location where it would occur. We knew we were
doing something that would have an impact, if the press and the police
were COMING TO US for information.
- The four main branches of the military have offices together
at the Santa Clara shopping center -- Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force.
Our advance scout determined one hour before the action that three of the
four were open at 10:30, one hour before the main action was to begin.
Some of us believed we saw plainclothes police in the area, but there was
no obvious police presence. The media began to arrive at 11:00. There was
no sign of private security personnel.
- At 11:15, we completed our final instructions to the
whole group of resisters and supporters, which numbered 70 people, and
the advance team of six people took the recruiter packets and walked with
determination to the recruiters offices. We found that they had locked
down all the doors so no one, including potential recruits, could enter.
We peered in the doors, and found only one Marine sitting in the back of
his office. We knocked on the door. He slowly, reluctantly came to the
door and unlocked it, and stood in the doorway blocking our entrance. I
introduced myself, shook his hand, and explained to him that we wanted
to talk with him about the recruitment process, and wanted to give him
a chance to address our concerns. The media converged on us immediately
and we had six or more microphones thrust in our faces. The marine became
nervous and moved to pull the door closed, but I stuck my foot in the door
to prevent him from closing it. He said that he would not talk to us and
wanted to close the door, and I continued to explain what we were there
for, and opened the packet and began going over the issues involved, the
media catching every word. He then demanded I get out of the doorway or
he would call the police. I continued talking about the issues, and he
responded by saying "That's it, I'm calling the police," and
left the doorway to go to the phone.
- The first major decision of the action had arrived --
should we take advantage of the opportunity and enter the office, risking
arrest for a federal trespassing charge, before the main media event we
had planned had a chance to play out? We had made the decision beforehand
that we would risk arrest on the shopping center sidewalk for a local criminal
trespass charge, but not occupy the offices or block the entrances involving
a federal charge, as this might be a felony (though we were advised by
one attorney just an hour before the action that this would be a misdemeanor,
though still a federal charge). I hesitated, I thought about our agreement
and the main body of our folks waiting to do the main part of our action,
and I decided to step out of the doorway. The Marine immediately ran over
and locked the door.
- The media asked, what would we do now? We were prepared
for this, and told them we would return another time to deliver this information
to the recruiters, "When they would let us in and felt they did not
have to hide from the truth."
- The advance team returned to the staging area to join
the main group, and with "the undying love and devotion of a mother
for her child, and the fierceness of warriors defending their homes,"
we marched in single file, our placards turned out of sight, to the area
directly in front of the recruitment center. At the head of the line, I
saw people coming out from the shops, curious and a little nervous. I walked
right up to the two Indian fellows from the Indian restaurant adjacent
to the recruiters offices, shook their hands, and explained that we were
there to peacefully protest the war. Their eyes were filled with tenderness
as they smiled, saying "Thank you! We support you! We support you!"
As Willow passed by them and they could see the placards, she noticed they
seemed particularly moved by the images of dark skinned women, like them,
clutching their maimed children.
- We lined up in a row, and then our media spokesperson
Karla Cohen announced to the press our "human slide show," that
would show images of the war hidden from the American people and potential
recruits by the mainstream media and the recruiters. Silently, one after
another, we revealed the images. The public and reporters were visibly
shaken. The cameras rolled and clicked. We stood with resolute determination
and a solemn respect for the victims of this senseless brutal war. When
all of the 32 images were on display, Karla said, "We want the American
media to show the truth about the war, and we want the recruiters to tell
potential recruits the truth about what they are getting themselves into."
- Then we went down the line, and those of us who wished
to, made brief personal statements from their hearts about what moved them
to be there. Powerful statements came from our deepest feelings and beliefs,
tears were shed, and all who wanted to speak had the opportunity to, and
the media paid attention. I remember saying that "We have full faith
in the essential goodness and the conscience of the American people, and
if these images were shown in America's livingrooms every night, the war
would be over in a week." Several veterans spoke eloquently, including
Hank Dizney, who said the recruitment process was deceptive and dishonorable,
and that he resented this as an American citizen. Gordi Albi, a representative
of Faith in Action, an alliance of several church groups and other spiritual
traditions, said, "Ask the recruiters how much commission they get
for each person they sign up." Many more people spoke eloquently and
with tremendous emotion as we went down the line. The recruiters had shut
off the lights and either gone home or stayed hidden in the back of their
- It was time to declare our success. I said to everyone
present that we scored two victories today -- we had shut down the recruitment
center (cheers went up!) and that we had succeeded in establishing our
right to protest at a "private property" shopping center where
we were told we would be arrested, and had therefore forced the police
to yield (more cheers!).
- Later we were to discover even more success from the
action. Our action became the lead story on all three major TV networks
in Eugene, we received excellent coverage on radio outlets, and we were
the cover story in the City/Region section of the following day's Register
Guard. The TV stations and the Register Guard showed some of the graphic
images we wanted to get in front of the eyes of the public. And maybe best
of all, we built a strong feeling of love and solidarity among the people
in our group, made new allies in the public and the media, and experienced
a well deserved feeling of standing tall and acting on our convictions
in the face of significant risk to ourselves.
- The party that night at World Cafe, where we watched
a home video of the action made by John Melia, was one of the greatest
times I can ever recall. We won a victory today, a badly needed victory
in this struggle to save the soul of our nation, and my goodness did it
- Come join us Monday nights at 8 pm at the Friends Meeting
House, 2274 Onyx St, Eugene, as we continue our efforts to make history
and stop the war.
- Peter Chabarek