New York, NY - March 13, 2007. Approximately 100 students, all members of SDS New York, occupied an Armed Forces Recruiting Center for two hours on Monday, March 12. The occupation ended when 20 students were arrested by the NYPD. The students were charged with criminal trespass. The nonviolent protest kicked off what promises to be a long, hot week of antiwar action as the fourth anniversary of the War On Iraq approaches. Uruj Sheikh, an activist with Pace (University) SDS said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The fourth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq is in one week. Billions of dollars are being spent and hundreds of thousands have been murdered. Military recruitment has been systematically deceptive and we as students, as targets of recruitment, say something must be done to stop the war aboard and at home.Ã¢â‚¬Â
At approximately 11:15 on Monday, March 12, 2007, a large contingent of New School SDS stepped off from the New School Graduate Center (65 Fifth Avenue) heading south. The column zig zagged through lower Manhattan, arriving at Chambers and West Broadway around 11:45 - where they connected with another march, this one originating from Pace University. The two columns streamed west on Chambers and entered the recruiting center which 25 students occupied for about two hours. Recruiters in the facility slammed and locked the doors to their respective offices, apparently to avoid interaction with the students - effectively closing the center for the duration of the occupation. Outside, dozens more protesters supported those risking arrest with chants including, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Troops out now,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“No justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East,Ã¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Stop the war, yes we can. SDS is back again.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Shortly after Noon, two uniforms from the First Precinct appeared and before long there was a flurry of police activity. Several police entered the facility stepping over the students maintaining a sit-in in the long corridor connecting the offices of the various branches of the military. A number of police entered the Marine Corps office where they conferred for approximately thirty minutes. During this period cops from the Manhattan South Task Force arrived as did several senior police officers. Police patrol vans arrived at 1 PM signalling that arrests were imminent. At 1:30 PM police ordered the arrest of protesters on criminal trespass charges. 20 students were arrested and loaded into the waiting vans. Protester Rakshan Kateeb, a sophomore at Pace University said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The action was successful in that we are building up to the big mobilizing actions at the end of this week and the continued actions that will end this war.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Visiting on Spring break from the University in Central Florida, SDS member, Matt DeVlieger said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This demonstration was empowering and necessary. We need to step up our resistance to the war against Iraq and U.S. imperialism. As the war escalates, so does our resistance.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Jessica Rapchik, a member of Antioch College SDS in Ohio said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was really encouraging to be there locking arms with our brothers and sisters who used civil disobedience for something they believe in.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Protesters followed the patrol vans as they transported the students to One Police Plaza for processing. In an ironic twist - as the procession of protesters, police and legal observers made their way to the courthouse at 100 Centre Street they walked through the set of the television show Ã¢â‚¬Å“Law And OrderÃ¢â‚¬Â. The student arrestees were held overnight and arraigned the following day. At the time this story was filed (Tuesday morning) 12 of 20 had been arraigned and the remaining 8 were expected to be released by dayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end, according to an SDS attorney. All of the students were charged with criminal trespass. Some were offered Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) and others given a trial date of May 23. Anyone wishing to contribute to the SDS/MDS legal defense fund should contact Bruce Rubenstein at 860.833.0149
Uruj Sheikh and Matt DeVlieger contributed to this article.