"Draft dodgers! Sign up and go, every last one of you!" screamed a red-faced man as he hustled past about 18 activists standing in front of Oakland's U.S. Army Armed Forces Career Center on May 14.
There is no draft. Of course. But, with new enlistment continually falling short of stated goals and the war in Iraq slogging onward, military recruiters have their work cut out for them. So does Pittsburgh Organizing Group.
"We're fighting a war of containment against the military, to restrict the supply of fresh, warm bodies," says POG member Alex Bradley. They've mounted a campaign of counter-recruitment, and for a few hours, no one entered the recruitment office on Forbes Avenue.
Group members stood in front of the entrance to the center, holding signs and handing anti-recruitment literature to passersby. Their pamphlet says that recruiters are painting a rosy picture of what an enlistee's life will be like, and using slick techniques to do so, acting like pals and counselors to high school students. It exhorts students to listen to recruiters critically, and gives Web addresses for Job Corps and Americorps, non-military vocational and service programs for young adults.
"You're not going to shut down recruitment from one event," Bradley says. But direct action, like blocking the entrance to the recruitment center, gets people's attention, he says.
"There's so much support out there," for resistance to recruitment, he adds. "People don't know a tangible thing they can do. This gets people talking to their neighbors and kids."
"Maybe we ought to talk up this draft thing," suggested passerby Jim Fox, of Oakland. "Hope it doesn't happen, but until we have a draft, there's not going to be enough support from the middle class" for anti-recruitment efforts.
Bradley points to stop-loss, the compulsory extension of military service, as a back-door draft.
During the approximately two hours the group stood in front of the entrance, they received lots of supportive car honks and thumbs-ups -- and one four-gun salute, in the form of upraised middle fingers sticking out of all the windows of a honking car festooned with Air Force stickers.
"I want to know how the person drove, honked and flipped us off. Must be a pilot thing," said demonstrator Nathan Shaffer.
One person with a "Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbon on his car yelled, "Get a job!"
"What are you doing?" asked a recruiter who declined to be identified or answer a reporter's questions, coming out of the office to find the entrance blocked.
"What's it look like?" asks POG member De'Anna Caligiuri, holding up a sign reading "End Recruitment, End War," with fellow POG member Tommy Furfari.
"Protesting, cool. It's a free country, you guys enjoy," the recruiter said, and pulled out his cell phone. Five minutes later, two City of Pittsburgh police arrived, moving the group half a dozen steps from the office and next-door Qdoba restaurant. The group stayed until the recruiting center closed at 1 p.m. They exhausted their supply of pamphlets.
"It went well," says POG member Toni Bartone. "We expected to get kicked off sooner."