October 26, 2007: At 12 noon, a rally took place on the campus of Pasadena City College. Among the speakers was a veteran of Iraq (who looked young enough to be in high school). The demands included: honesty in recruiting and bring the troops home. Next, there was a march through the campus, which made its way across Colorado Boulevard and stopped at a recruiting center across the street from the school.
Prior to our arrival at the center, various people in military attire could be seen peeking out in anticipation.
About 40 people demonstrated in front of the offices. The speakers included Agustin Aguayo, who was imprisoned for refusing a second deployment in Iraq. His wife, Helga, announced that on November 5th, he will be recognized as a conscientious objector by the Supreme Court. Other speakers included parents of soldiers in Iraq. Throughout the event, names of U.S. casualties from local areas were read off.
Response by motorists and pedestrians was generally positive, with some notable exceptions. A good number of people seemed startled by the sight of demonstrators in Pasadena. Of course, many people were non-committal.
Meanwhile, the facility was identified as a crime scene, and yellow ribbon was put up on the doors. About six people stood in front of the entrance. Not long after our arrival, a young man, interested in joining the military, tried to enter the building but was blocked by protesters. He left but entered the office through a back entrance. Shortly thereafter, a contingent of activists went and blocked the back doors as well. At one point, a recruiter threatened them with arrest if they didn’t leave within five minutes. However, the threat was never followed through during the two hours I was present. (More details here: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/10/209066.php.)
Iraq veteran Maricela Guzman was one of the people who spoke to the young man interested in enlisting. Although she didn’t seem to sway his opinion, “it was actually creating a dialog [which] at first I thought wasn’t going to happen,” she recounted. “We ended up in a very unique environment where instead of using words of aggression or having violence [inaudible word] we ended up shaking hands. I think that’s what we’re trying to say: there’s ways of dealing with issues.” She added: “I’m just so glad that everybody’s here. There’s an amazing turnout.”
One police car drove by us. The occupants looked at us with interest and curiosity but never pulled over. However, a little while later (at about 1:40pm), a police SUV pulled up, and a male officer got out. He removed the ribbon from the facility’s entrance and told demonstrators not to stand out in the street. He also asked that we not to block pedestrian traffic. Before he left, the ribbon was put back up. Evidently, the ribbon was removed again later (see the second comment to Steven Gibson’s coverage.)
Throughout the event, I reflected on the countless hours I used to spend inside this very building circa the ‘80s playing often-violent video games (including Battle Zone, a game involving combat with tanks). To me, it seemed a logical progression that the former site of Fantasy Games/Western Arcade has become a recruiting center.
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