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New military recruitment center in Chapel Hill draws protest

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Protesters tell Uncle Sam "Keep your hands off my grandchildren" in Chapel Hill on Nov. 15. - PHOTO BY JEFF FLEMING
  • Photo by Jeff Fleming
  • Protesters tell Uncle Sam "Keep your hands off my grandchildren" in Chapel Hill on Nov. 15.

Protesting what they believe is the fuel that keeps the war in Iraq going, a group of UNC students and community members staged a demonstration in front of Chapel Hill's new Army Recruitment Center on Nov. 15.

"While there is not a draft currently going on like there was in Vietnam, there is a poverty and race draft going on," said Ben Carroll of Chapel Hill Students for a Democratic Society, one of the organizers.

The demonstration started with a rally on the UNC campus, followed by a march to the new recruiting station at 1502 E. Franklin St. In front of the new station, several students and local residents expressed their concern over the opening of the recruitment center, the first of its kind in the area.

Holding signs—"Books Not Bombs" and "Get Out, Recruitment Center," among others—speakers took their turn at the bullhorn. Some quoted military statistics, claiming recruitment was down and the U.S. Army was now looking for new areas of recruitment, which is why the center came to Chapel Hill. They also claim the recruiters lie by promising college scholarships that are not available, exaggerating the amount of money recruits receive or offering training that will not lead to a career outside the military.

It was not just students who came out to show their displeasure with the new station. Judy Bellin joined the crowd, holding a sign reading "Keep Your Hands Off My Grandchildren."

"I was not ready to send my sons to Vietnam, and I am not ready to send my grandchildren to Iraq," said Bellin, who was joined by her friend Marilyn Dyer.

"I think it takes us—the peasants, the common people—to come together, to put this war to an end," said Dyer.

The protest was not one-sided, however. Veterans and supporters of the recruitment center gathered between the demonstrators and the new office, prompting a back-and-forth debate that lasted about 20 minutes.

One very irate man shouted expletives at the protesters, until police officers escorted him away.

When the protestors told the crowd of onlookers, policemen, veterans and media that the election proved America wanted a change, one veteran yelled back that the message of the election was to change the course, not leave Iraq.

Another exchange took place when several protesters read statistics about army recruitment and retention numbers. One of the veterans shouted back "Figures lie, figures lie."

"There are only about 50 protesters here, out of how many thousand students? That's not bad, we have almost as many vets here," said one vet who did not want to be identified.

"These are the same people that come out for this stuff every time. These Students for a Democratic Society has been around for a long time. I would like to put these people out there as the first line of defense," said another.

The protesters wanted to make clear however, that they were not against the troops, but rather were trying to make their lives better.

"They can do better," said one demonstrator.

"This whole demonstration is just anti-American," responded one of the vets. "All of them are anti-American."

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