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High school students in the Twin Cities organized for months. Their goal was to lead the largest youth organized, anti-war protest since the Vietnam War. But as the date of the event approached, several factors worked against them. First, students passing out flyers on school grounds advertising the walkout, an event scheduled for a school day, were threatened with suspension or detention. Students who planned to attend the event were also warned that their absence was unexcused and would also face disciplinary action. Second, a peace concert planned for the event at Minneapolis Community and Technical College was shut down following pressure from police. College officials claimed that the anticipated size of the group, 2000 or more, was too large for their facility. Finally, on the day of the walkout, a moderate, steady rain fell. The rain was heavy enough to saturate clothing in 20-30 minutes.

Despite the obstacles, 500-600 or more students joined the walkout. Other media place the attendance at a smaller number (200), but one of my photos of the head of the march shows 40 people in first row. The dense crowd behind that group covered half a city block or more.

The event began with a gathering on Northrop Mall at the University of Minnesota. I began photographing the gathering as it was leaving the mall and marching toward a recruiting office on Washington Ave. Shortly after arriving at the recruiting office, someone threw a bucket of red paint on the window and door of the office, but most of the paint landed on the sidewalk.

After several minutes, a few participants began smearing the paint that was on the window and in the process they covered up signs, including one that said "The U.S. Army is now offering $40,000 enlistment cash bonus."

Within a few minutes, the police arrived and took some youth into custody. I saw one youth pushed hard against the wall of the building prior to being led through the crowd. Twin Cities Indy Media reports that Black bloc, a group of anarchists who participated in the rally, attempted to prevent the police from removing the persons alleged of committing civil disobedience.

As the bloc assembled and encouraged the crowd to resist the arrests, people rushed towards the unprotected officers dragging students away. A few horses were rushed into the crowd, and a few of the "official" organizers of the protest demanded that the protesters sit down.

While the main body of the protesters sat, the bloc was isolated and alone in their efforts to free the few who had been grabbed. Only one was rescued. The organizers demanded that the protesters remain seated while the police scoped out the isolated bloc. While the "official" organizers debated about what course of action to take, the arrested students were put in cars and removed from the event.

Not all students who had red paint on their hands participated in the vandalism. Many students had red faces and hands prior to the incident at the recruiting station. Indeed, red and its symbolism for blood was a theme of the protest. Persons found with red paint could not be accused of being caught "red handed."

The Star Tribune covered the story - their photographer is in one the images above in the doorway of the recruiting station. For their story, they quoted a high school freshman, Riva Garcia. She told the crowd comprised mostly of high school youth

that she believes the war is racist and that the military is using dirty tactics to get minorities to enlist. "We, as working class, minority and immigrant youth, deserve equal access to education," she said. "We don't deserve to die for our country just because someone told us to. We deserve to be heard, and to be recognized as the future of this country."

But the same story reported the statement of a college student who helped clean up the paint. He said "They disgraced our country and our military."

The same point was echoed by a local ABC affiliate that showed a clip of a middle-aged man questioning a youthful rally participant about the vandalism. The youth responded that she didn't do that (vandalize the recruiting office) but the man chided her anyway for being part of that group.

Shortly after the paint was thrown one of the spokesmen for the rally participants stated that the paint on the recruiting station that drew attention to their cause pales in comparison to the death in Iraq and the money being diverted from education and healthcare in the US. The students are also upset that recruiters are allowed in their schools. In a message left on one of my photo sites, a respondent said some rally participants

were resisting both the war and the complacency of the anti-war movement. The current movement has become a parody of resistance, with nothing more than mass gatherings and symbolic protest. While most the students gathered remained in a mode of repeat, a group of a few individuals had had enough. They replaced meaningless symbolic protest with real resistance.

UPDATE: All the protesters didn't agree with the paint thrown on the recruiting office window. Only one person committed that act. I may have not made that clear in my diary. Like many in the progressive community, people are divided about how to approach the problem of a government that disregards international law, the U.S. consitution and the will of its people. I have learned from a recent post to the Twin Cities Indy Media (link above) that of the 6 persons arrested, one is charged with a felony, avery serious crime.

I have a lot more photos from this event at the following this LINK

Originally posted to Kayakbiker on Sat Apr 29, 2006 at 08:48 AM PDT.


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