UPDATED - 9/13/09: The six women, including OpedNews journalist Cheryl Biren, and one man, who has now been identified as Richard Marini of World Can't Wait, arrested yesterday at the Army Experience Center, were released early this morning, September 13, 2009. All were charged with Criminal Conspiracy and Failure to Disperse. Their arraignment is scheduled for September 23, 2009 at 11:30am (ET).
Six members of various anti-war groups, including World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, and an OpedNews journalist, were arrested today at approximately 3:00pm (ET) at a protest organized to shut down The Army Experience Center, located in Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia.
As reported to me by Rob Kall, publisher of OpedNews, those arrested and currently detained include Debra Sweet, 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. According to Brower:
"The AEC is giving guns to 13 year olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghani civilians and US military are being killed in the US 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 today'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 theeconomicto thepolitical, 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 socialize them to kill."
On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Afghanistan, with President Obama's current escalation of military action resulting in increased American and Afghan deaths, the war on Afghanistan is quickly losing favor amongst Americans. The Army Experience Center is to date the military's most ambitious high tech effort to counter disfavor and drum up army recruitment by instilling militarism and weaponry excitement in impressionable youth. This 13 million dollar, 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 which show none of the horrific death and destruction of war, but focus instead on the adrenalin rush of state of the art weapons and machines.
As of now, the exact charges against those arrested have not been detailed. The five women protesters also include Sarah Wellington, Joan Plume and Beverly Rice. They have been transferred to The Roundhouse, the central police facility in Philadelphia.
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 is still being detained. The exact circumstance and identity of the man who was arrested have not been revealed.