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Anti-War Protesters Close Military Recruiting Offices

Anti-War Protesters Close Military Recruiting Offices


by Michael Thomas

Military recruiting offices on 41st Avenue in Capitola were periodically closed last week by protesters who blocked the entrances to the offices in an act of civil disobedience. The protest escalated to minor physical confrontation on Thursday when several uniformed Air Force personnel forced their way through a blocked doorway.
Sharon Delgado, Nan Beltran and Darrell Darling of the Santa Cruz Peacemakers were among those blocking doors in an effort to close Navy, Marines and Air Force offices.
Organizers called the first day a success when they arrived to find that every office had voluntarily closed for the day. Darling said “they took the day off, now we’re going to see that this war takes a vacation.” Activists oppose the looming war in Iraq.
The Capitola Police Department warned the recruiters that a protest was planned and advised them to close up shop during those hours.
Army Sergeant Anthony Rodriguez said there was no reason for them to be present.
“It’s a protest, not a debate. No matter what we say, they’re not going to change their views. We never know what could happen,” he said.
Darling said they chose to target the recruiters because, “this is where the deception goes on. Kids are fresh out of high school with the least resources and options. This is where our government deceives them.”
At the onset of the protest, a contingent of Capitola police officers a majority of Capitola’s small force arrived with riot gear at the ready to protect private property. Many of the officers staged in a parking lot on 42nd Avenue, while uniformed police kept protesters off the building’s second and third floors. However, police presence significantly diminished the second day while protesters continued to arrive throughout the week in diminishing numbers.
Capitola Not Alone
Recruiting offices in other states have been targeted by protesters, and Wednesday’s action was scheduled to coincide with protests across the nation. Students at several Santa Cruz area schools walked out of classes on Wednesday to protest the war. Sergeant Rodriguez said that after hearing about the protest planned for his offices, he considered setting up a table at a local college to do some active field recruiting, but cancelled that plan when he heard that protests would be taking place in those locations as well.
When the action began on Wednesday, a large group of protesters gathered along 41st Avenue in front of the three-story commercial center. The building, which is located about a block from the Capitola Mall, is also home to retail businesses and offices.
Speakers, including Delgado, stressed the group’s message: “We love you, don’t go to war.”
The colorful mass of protesters sang songs, some of them reminiscent of peace movements of the 1960s. The group chanted slogans and drew constant responses from the heavy traffic passing the building the County’s busiest commercial corridor. Protesters interpreted honking as a show of support, and drivers waved, shouted and flashed the peace sign.
About a 100 feet down the sidewalk, a lone picketer stood with a sign asking for “Support for Our Troops.”

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