Joshua Lambert / Vermont Indy Media – 2007-12-05 21:58:09
WILLISTON, VT (December 2, 2007) — Around mid afternoon two groups of demonstrators converged in front of the Williston, Vermont, Military Recruitment Office in Maple Tree Place. Members of Mount Mansfield Union High Schools’ Peace Club and Iraqi Veterans Against the War led the rally march against military recruitment in High Schools. In all, 75-80 protesters took to the street with ambitions to shutting down the recruitment center for the day.
The group waved signs saying, “Out of our Schools, out of Iraq,” and “Recruiters Lie, Kids Die.” Matt Howard, a member of Iraqi Veterans Against the War, carried a large photograph of dead Iraqi soldiers. The group stood together as they approached the recruiting center only to find it locked, and the office closed.
Some activists were predicting that the doors would be locked due to a leak about the action earlier in the week. Organizers prepared for this possible outcome by drawing attention to the event; sending out press reports, and a mass call to action. One of the main goals, to shut down the office for the day, was achieved before the protect began.
After demonstrating their accomplishment through chanting, hanging banners, interviews, and plastering the windows of the recruiting office with signs, protesters decided to march across the yard to the Army National Guard Office.
About 25-30 activists ran inside the office and continued to chant, hang up banners, and attempted to confront recruiters and question their involvement in the war. Recruiters ran towards the back of the office and locked themselves out of reach. For a period of time, protesters were able to interact between the inside and outside groups until Williston Police officers arrived at the scene, requesting people to leave.
Fifteen stayed, while 50 to 60 chanted outside of the large plate glass windows. Before long 15 were sitting in solidarity. While protesters were not welcomed into the offices, by the sentiments of the protesters, the recruiters were even less wanted in high schools.
Even though the group occupied the office, a recruit was able to enter for an appointment. At this point the group of protesters moved towards a private office in which the recruit was taken to keep other recruits from coming it.
At the time when the protesters moved towards the private office, Williston Police Officer Lavoie, and another officer, physically threw protester Johnny Leavitt, and then proceeded to kick Mr. Leavitt in the upper thigh. The violent interaction was not provoked by Mr, Leavitt; neither did this violence go unnoticed by the rest of the group. Johnny and the rest of the group responded by verbally calling out and accusing officer Lavioe of unnecessary actions.
While still on the ground, looking up at Officer Lavoie, Mr Leavitt, stated, “We have a constitutional right to be here. This is a non-violent protest. Vermont has a long history of peaceful demonstrations, and you kick me. What gives you the right to do that?” Johnny and the group continued to ask questions for another five minutes. Officer Lavoie, in turn stood there silent offering no response.
Williston Police Officer Lavoie refused to give his badge number upon being asked for it from Johnny Leavitt and other protesters.
There was attempted interaction by the occupiers towards both possible-recruits and recruiters. Limited dialog was due to recruiters hiding and/or avoiding conversation on the issues that the protesters were trying to bring up.
At one point, Matt Howard. An IVAW member asked a recruiter, “Have you been in Iraq, or do you just send kids there? I don’t see a combat patch on your uniform.” The officer did not reply to his questioning.
One of the recruitment occupiers, Justin Dragos, asked, “If anyone in a uniform could tell me why we are in Iraq, I’ll leave right now.” No one replied.
The idea behind the campaign came out of the students at MMU High School in Jericho, Vermont, who object to military recruiters in their school and the requirement, out of the No Child Left Behind Act, that high schools are mandated to hand over student contact information to the recruiters.
Out of the thirteen protesters who opted to stay inside the recruiting office, four were high school students.
I asked one protester, why they choose to use direct action instead of writing to their senator or representatives, and she replied, “The role of American activists is to be in solidarity with Iraqis who don’t have the same access to power or the rights to change their environment. We need to keep this fresh in our minds as we the struggles in Iraq and the United States.”
Thirteen protesters were taken to the Chittenden County Sheriff’s office, where they were to be processed and cited for trespassing Friday evening.
Even though this demonstration ended up closing two recruiting offices, many of the demonstrators let it be known that this was the beginning of a sustained campaign called, “Out of Our Schools, Out of Iraq.” This sentiment was affirmed by many of the different demonstrators there; with some expressing hopes of an even broader movement coalescing, encompassing these issues as well as others.
Written By: Joshua L, Sara M, Justin D, and Amy B.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
• Click Here to View Photographs of Demonstration
• See also: No Child Left Behind