Editorial: Macalester protesters fight the wrong fight

So there was a pretty big anti-war protest here at the U last week. Apparently there were around 200 people there which seems like a decent amount for noon in the middle of the week, but not when you consider there are nearly 30,000 undergrads here. Recently, I’ve discussed with a few people why there isn’t a bigger protest movement on par with Vietnam. While I’m not trying to justify the lack of protests, there is however, an explanation. Quite simply, there are 4,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq and there were over 58,000 in Vietnam. Furthermore, none of us are in any danger of being shipped off to the Middle East with the lack of a draft, it is a volunteer army this time around. And yes, I know, it seems insensitive to not mention civilian casualties, but unfortunately, that usually doesn’t play into people’s minds too much. Even so, the Vietnam war had far more civilian casualties (however, it lasted three times as long).

Anyways, lets get to this post’s namesake. Some students from Macalester College in St. Paul came over for the protest and chained themselves to the Army and Navy Recruitment office’s doors, effectively shutting down the office. While its commendable and all that they are out there fighting the good fight, here’s a newsflash: this isn’t the army’s fault. If you’re going to chain yourself to something, go chain yourself to the White House, Pentagon, or the offices of Commentary or The Weekly Standard. By targeting the Army, you have confirmed the suspicions of those who are pro-war that we don’t care about our troops. Especially in light of the 4,000th death in Iraq, the Macalester students’ rash actions are completely inappropriate. Even as a strong dissenter of the war, their actions appeared naive and misplaced.

EDIT: Macalester students were not arrested, those who entered the Army National Guard Recruitment office did.


16 Responses

  1. eeeeeshhh. I don’t know if I’m with ya on this one.

    I believe civil disobedience is a big part of any social movement, be it Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, or any other type of social protest.

    While protesting the War, the Mac students were also protesting tactics used by military recruiters. For examples mistruths that (some) recruiters use to enlist students in the military. Examples being that you are not likely to be introduced to combat zones, you can quit the military whenever you want, and pension promises. I learned these things from a former recruiter who spoke to protesters at last years anniversary. They have been documented in many other settings (Fahrenheit 9/11 comes to mind).

    I also believe it is inappropriate to call the protesters naive and accusing them of caring more about bragging rights about getting arrested (because they didn’t get arrested seeing as they protested outside of the office) instead of caring about ending the war.

    I was at the student protest and cheered on both the Mac students who used civil disobedience as a way to protest this war and those who got arrested at the National Guard recruitment center down the street, most of whom were members of Socialist Alternative or Minnesota SDS.

  2. Also, condemning other peaceful anti-war activists leads to division that allows atrocities such as the Iraq War to continue.

  3. I was saying that those that chained themselves to the office were just showboating, not the protesters. I wish I would have been with the march, but those who blocked the office were out of line in my view. Whatever their intentions were, you can’t say it will have a positive outlook on the anti-war movement. If they were intending to protest the tactics used recruiters then they should have been more vocal about that, then I would understand. However, all that people knew about their protest was that they chained themselves to an army recruitment office. Why didn’t they go chain themselves to Norm Coleman’s office? At least then there would have been no ambiguity about their intentions. And as for “condeming other peaceful anti-war activists…” I thought it should be brought to light that this isn’t how the war should be protested, their actions will do far much more harm to the anti-war movement than me creating “division that allows atrocities such as the Iraq War to continue.”

    The bottom line here is how it portrayed the anti-war movement, by targeting someone without everyone being able to clearly see why, they will undoubtedly come off as out of touch. The fact is that if someone like me, who is against the war thought it was inappropriate, then obviously those who we are trying to convince to end the war won’t be persuaded.

  4. First of all, for clarification, I do not speak on behalf of SDS, only myself. I was involved, so these are my thoughts but not necessarily what the group felt/feels or believes. Though I am speaking for myself and not for the group, when I say “we”, I mean the people supporting and participating in the civil disobedience action that shut down the Army and Navy stations from 9 AM to 4 PM on March 27, 2008.

    I request that you would please read coverage of these actions a little closer. NO ONE from the group that locked down was arrested because there were legal advisors and observers present, heavy media outreach and well-planned tactics to ensure that our goals of putting our message first and closing down the station ALL DAY were met. No one from Macalester was arrested! You are simply reinforcing the terrible journalistic standards that fetishize aesthetics of civil disobedience like bike locks around necks and arrests, giving them far more weight than legitimate reasons, opinions and beliefs.

    People all over the world have targeted the government through mass protests via permitted and unpermitted marches year after year, yet nothing changes. The comment about how we should chain ourselves to the doors of the pentagon or white house is ridiculous. If we could, we would. Unfortunately, we all know how hard it is to even get near those buildings.

    You are a “strong dissenter”…maybe you think congress should end the war by cutting off funding, right? Maybe? Well, if they fail to cut off one MAJOR source that keeps the war going, we need to step up and cut off another MAJOR source that keeps the war going! If the government doesn’t listen to our mass protests and marches, then you move down one level: the government controls/funds the army AND lots of assistance for higher education. So, why not go to the sources where the government is engaging in deceitful recruiting practices that target young people in debt???

    When we locked down, we said “Not One More Death”, because 4,000 is 4,000 too many. We don’t want them to continue being enlisted through deceitful practices by recruiters, we want them to be home, not in Iraq.
    At the protest, we talked with the war supporters, some of them being student/young veterans around our ages. With the exceptions of a few on both sides, we were able to have peaceful conversations about what supporting the troops means. While we obviously never agreed on what that means, people with many different beliefs reached a higher understanding that we all care about people’s lives and that we can all be rational and kind to each other, even in a confrontational situation like the lock down. The counter-protesters were mostly worried about vandalism at the recruiting stations, because it has happened before. As he was leaving at the end of the day, one of the counter-protesters thanked us for being level-headed and being committed to what we believe in, even if he disagrees with our approach and views.
    If you had been at the protest, you would have witnessed these discussions and exchanges, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to report on that because we are always constructed as extremely polarized, but we’re really not.
    We want the troops home safely and immediately, an end to violence in Iraq and self-determination for the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, thats not what people want people participating in direct action to be saying, but it really is what we want and what we believe.

    Para Justicia y Libertad!
    Not One More Death!

  5. First, I apologize on the arrests, it was those that went to the National Guard office that got arrested, not Macalester students. While this is clearly a terrible error, it does not change how I feel about the issue, the arrests that I thought had happened didn’t bother me.

    Secondly, obviously you could never chain yourselves to the White House, I’m not that dull. I was simply stating that you should focus on those who are truly responsible for the war, not their puppets.

    My big issue with it is that Kyle is stating that it was about the recruitment practices, but from the signs and media coverage I saw, it appeared that the lock-down just focused on ending the war, and you cannot blame the Army for starting it. I am just worried that this instance will paint the anti-war movement in a bad light. Obviously, I have no problem with war protests as you imply with “but I wouldn’t expect anyone to report on that because we are always constructed as extremely polarized, but we’re really not.” I in fact just returned from a meeting where I was planning a war protest for the end of April. While I commend the intentions, the methods are what worried me because of how I knew this would be viewed by dissenters of the war. While I am glad you were able to engage in peaceful diaglogue with war supporters, unfortunately those who read about the Macalester student’s actions in the paper were not going to hear that side of it. While obviously you don’t want to feel the need to censor yourselves, you have to take into consideration how your actions will be perceived. However, regardless, I thank you for organizing such a well-attended march and wish you luck in the future.

  6. I have to say that I agree with Curt’s initial points.

    If we really want to do something to end this war, you have to start with the leadership. Most people in the army, like the ones targeted in this protest, are just following orders from up top.

    Obviously it’s harder to get change on that level, but its possible. It’s happened before. But I just question how effective it is to target those who really have nothing to do with the war as a whole. The people that come into recruiting offices, are clearly interested in joining the military . But they did not choose to go to war with Iraq, they did not spew intelligence about WMDs, they did not make the decision. They just want to serve their country, you dig?

    I just think efforts could have better spent in a different capacity to stop the war.

    *also, correct my if I’m wrong, but is that particular recruiting station on Washington even fully functional? Every time I walk by it, it looks like it’s closed down.

  7. Hmm. Protests are a part of any social movement, and the right to assemble under the 1st is one of our greatest rights.

    I see where you are getting at Curt. However it gets publicized, it will be talked of as Army vs. Radical Liberals, or what have you. It may not be the truth, but I think it was the wrong fight to be fought. Especially at a time where we have a choice to enlist or not, which is different from the former generations. If the draft was back, then I’d have something to complain about. But blaming the Army recruitment center on George Bush’s war I don’t believe is going to get us anywhere, and will just polarize more people.

    On a side note, I may be mistaken about this, a few months ago there was a protest in front of Xcel. Some of you may have been involved with it, so I am hoping to ask what was the cause. Getting ready for protests of the convention is great, but to actually have a rally even before there was a GOP candidate is troubling to me, especially because this campaign on the left side has been about bringing both sides together. I could be completely wrong about this point, mind you, I wasn’t there.

  8. Dave, the marches that take/took place near Xcel are/were to push the city of Saint Paul to approve of mass march protest permits. They are being really slow in approving routes, locations and other details, so now a group is suing the city in order to ensure proper time for preparations. Huge marches need to be planned MONTHS ahead of time in order to be granted permits. There are tons of articles about this whole situation online, just search for it or go to these places:

    Take care

  9. Yeah, I think one thing we can all agree on is how lame the current “free speech zones” are. For one, the nomenclature is completely off. I mean I understand not letting people get on top of the Xcel, but we had better be allowed to get damn close.

  10. For sure, but I’m afraid the big march won’t be able to get anywhere near it, a la Boston DNC 2004. Oh well, we’ll just have to break through then…
    How about a big slingshot? We could catapult people into the Xcel…anyone???

  11. Okay. Sorry for the side note. I didn’t know your point. I too agree after reading those articles that the protest was well needed. Thanks for the information.

  12. No problem man. Its all good!

    That catapult clip is great! Curt, are you volunteering yourself???

  13. Sure am! Preferably with a parachute ;]

  14. Haha, yeah, We could coat you with depleted uranium so you pierce through the Xcel walls like a bullet from Alliant Techsystems!

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