military recruiting

Altered Military Recruiting Ad from Grand Rapids Antiwar Group

ACTIVATE (Grand Rapids Students for a Democratic Society) recently produced the following parody of a military recruiting ad:

The altered ad is part of ACTIVATE’s ongoing work challenging military recruiting. For more information on military recruiting in general, check out our own military recruiting resources.

Ehlers Hosts Military Academy Night

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Last night, Representative Vernon Ehlers hosted “Academy Night” at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids in cooperation with the West Michigan National College Fair Coalition. The open house featured representatives of the five military academies in the United States: the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

The evening began with a short introduction from Representative Ehlers. Ehlers welcomed the audience by saying that the event is an “honor to host” and that he is always happy to see students attending the voluntary event. Ehlers said that the military academies offer great opportunities for students. He told the audience that the academies are some of the “finest educational institutions” in the country. He said that past graduates of the academies have gone on to receive top military appointments and that they are some of the best students in the country. While speaking favorably of academies in general, Ehlers’ only specific comment on the academies was that he would recommend the Air Force Academy because he loves flying. Other than that comment, Ehlers focused primarily on the importance of math and science skills and recommended athletics and band as extracurricular activities.

One of Ehlers’ staff members explained the process of applying to the military academies, all of which require a Congressional nomination with the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In each state, Senators each have five nomination slots while each congressional district has five nominations. The offices of the Senators and Representatives determine their own nomination processes. Representative Ehlers has delegated the job to one of his staff members who looks through the nominees and selects those that are they believe are the most qualified. The nominees then go before a citizen nomination board for an interview that has been selected by Ehlers. After receiving a nomination, the candidates’ information is sent to the academies where they are then selected.

The liaison officers from the five academies talked a bit about their respective academies. They primarily focused on the “opportunities” offered by both academies, most often discussing the academic requirements and the value of the education. The officer from West Point placed the value of an education there at $285,000, while the U.S. Merchant Marine said that receiving a nomination was equivalent to receiving an $185,000 scholarship. The officer from the Naval Academy touted the travel opportunities and the number of “exciting” choices offered–from being pilots to driving submarines. While it was obvious that the academies would require military service upon graduation, this was not specifically stated during the presentations. As an example, it is important to understand that attending West Point obligates a graduate to five years of active duty and three years of reserve duty service in the U.S. Army. Moreover, if candidates drop-out after a few years they often have to fulfill terms in the active duty military.

Among antiwar activists doing counter-recruitment organizing, military academies have largely gone unnoticed. Activists–from community members to high school students–have challenged military recruiters around the country on the lies and distortions used by recruiters. However, similar scrutiny has not been applied to military academies. From the glossy brochures to the touting of free education and travel by the liaison officers at Academy Night, it seems that military academies would be a worthy target. Moreover, the night was widely advertised in area high schools, showing that it is part of the military’s overall effort to recruit high school students.

Media Alert: Email WOOD TV 8 About Military Recruiting Story

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The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) has issued a media alert regarding a story on military recruiting that ran on West Michigan’s WOOD TV 8:

On November 12, WOOD TV 8 ran a story on a local man who has been trying to join the military but has been unable to because of his criminal record. In light of recruiting shortages, the military has been relaxing its rules to allow people to enlist if they have a criminal record. Despite this, the local man in the story has been unable to join the military because of a domestic violence charge against his girlfriend. The story only spoke with the man and two military representatives and failed to get an alternative perspective on the issue. Such a story could have placed the issue of domestic violence into the larger context of sexual assault in the military.

Send a Letter Telling WOOD TV you are Disappointed with the Story:

http://citizenspeak.org/node/1170

View the Story (includes video and transcript):

http://www.mediamouse.org/griid/dissecting.php?artId=343

For additional news analysis, visit the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy’s (GRIID) “Dissecting the Local News Feature” at:

http://www.mediamouse.org/griid/dissecting.php

For additional media literacy resources, including studies of local news coverage, visit:

http://www.mediamouse.org/griid/

Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, And Build a Better World

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Unlike last year’s 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military, another book that explores many of the deceptive techniques used by military recruiter’s to entice youth into joining, Aimee Allison and David Solint’s An Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World is focused primarily on giving antiwar activists the tools that they need to effectively counter military recruiters. Known as “counter-recruitment” in the antiwar movement, this strategy has become increasingly common as antiwar activists have realized the simple fact that the Iraq War could not continue if the military did not have the soldiers necessary to fight it. Additionally, counter-recruitment challenges the underlying assumptions of imperialist policy, with the intro stating that:

“Counter-recruitment organizing is the most practical way to tangibly resist United States policy that, while cutting funding for education, employment, and social programs, promotes war and empire, It exposes the relationship between, and acts to correct, both local and global injustices.”

To assist those who have not previously heard about the recruiting techniques used by the military, Allison and Solnit include three chapters–“The Military Message and the Facts,” “The Military’s Goal–Own the School,” and “Brand Army: Molding Minds, Recruiting Bodies” that look at how the military recruits youth. The chapters provide an overview of many of the prominent arguments against military service, explaining that recruiters frequently lie, that the military contract guarantees nothing and can be changed at any time and that promises of signing bonuses or money for college are rarely kept. The authors then explore how the military promotes itself, focusing on how the military enters into schools and uses a variety of techniques from class room presentations and JROTC to advertising on the “Channel 1″ service that is aired in high schools across the country. Significant attention is given to the No Child Left Behind Act and its provisions that allow military recruiters to obtain high school students’ personal information, as well as the public relations techniques used by the military to develop a “brand” that appeals to youth.

The remainder of the book is devoted to sharing ideas for those interested in actually doing counter-recruitment work. Allison and Solnit’s guide is invaluable and widely encompassing, containing a plethora of strategies that could be used by activists both in schools and in the communities. The authors explain how to get into schools, how to give presentations, how to organize direct action protests, and other tactics–while emphasizing the importance of having a clearly defined strategy and tangible goals. To this end, Allison and Solnit also include a chapter titled “People Power Strategy to End War and Build a Better World” that focuses on organizing against the “Pillars of War”–the military, corporate war profiteers, and the corporate media as part of an effort to achieve fundamental change in society. This discussion of long-term strategy–often missing from the antiwar movement–is an important inclusion in the book.

Army of None is an essential book for antiwar organizers working on counter-recruitment campaigns, but it is also an important read for those pursuing other avenues to end the occupation of Iraq. Allison and Solnit outline a compelling case for why counter-recruitment should be a major focus of the antiwar movement while simultaneously outlining the role that such a movement could have in challenging the underlying foundations of militarism that exist in our society.

Aimee Allison and David Solnit, An Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World, (Seven Stories Press, 2007).

Rock Station WKLQ Promoting the Military

screenshot of wklq army promotion

Local rock radio station WKLQ FM is using the public airwaves to promote military service to its listeners. On July 3, the station sponsored a ticket giveaway at the Clyde Park recruiting center. KLQ DJ “Darcy” was at the location giving away tickets for an upcoming concert by the rock band Tool. Interestingly, Tool’s singer Maynard James Keenan is also in the band A Perfect Circle who in 2004 released a CD containing several antiwar cover songs and has criticized the war and the Bush administration.

Despite Tool’s politics, it is not surprising that WKLQ and the military held this ticket giveaway. Around the country, the military has undertaken a variety of methods outside of its traditional presence in the schools to recruit youth. Among these methods, the military has sponsored concerts with local radio stations, added profiles on the popular social networking website Myspace.com, and offered free downloads on iTunes to prospective recruits,/a>. The military has also made a special effort to target youth of color, with advertisements in hip-hop magazines and concert sponsorship. Overall, this is part of a military strategy that relies heavily on using media and public relations as a means of promoting military service and US foreign policy.

Michigan Recruiter Guilty of Sexual Misconduct

altered military recruiting poster

An Army recruiter plead guilty on Friday in Bessemer, Michigan to offering to help a 16-year old girl get into the Army in exchange for oral sex. 30-year old Army Sgt. Robert W. Scott was sentenced to one year in jail, placed on probation for five years, fined $3,020, and required to register as a sex offender.

The judge in the case said that he was not happy with the sentencing constraints under Michigan law according to the Ironwood Daily Globe. Circuit Court judge Roy Gotham said he would have preferred to send Scott to prison for over a year but was unable to do so under the law. Gotham described the incident as “a huge betrayal of trust – an extraordinary abuse of authority. You took advantage of someone who wanted to enter the service.” He went on to say “A 16-year-old is entitled to a great deal of protection by our society and when a 30-year-old man accosts a 16-year-old for sex by virtue of his authority over her, we have an extremely serious problem,” stating that this is an incredibly serious crime and that crimes such as this frequently have lifelong consequences for the victim.

While the story was picked up by the Associated Press wire and published in media outlets around the United States, the Associated Press report failed to put this incident into the context of what is a larger problem in the military. Last year, a study by the Associated Press found that more than 100 women were sexually harassed by recruiters when they expressed interest in joining the military. That study described recruiters who raped high school age recruits in recruiting centers or sexually assaulted them in government vehicles. Moreover, according the Associated Press study found that most incidents of sexual harassment or abuse by recruiters are handled with administrative punishments, jail time as was given in this case is quite rare. The Associated Press reported that more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined in the year before the study was published.

Media reports and government studies have also found widespread abuses among recruiters ranging from falsifying paperwork to sexual harassment. A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year found that there was a 50% increase in recruiter abuses from 2004 to 2005. At the same time, numerous media reports have documented recruiters coaching recruits on how to pass drug tests, enlisting unqualified recruits, and claiming that the Iraq War was over.

The GAO report blamed similar abuses on the difficulty that recruiters are having in meeting their quotas due to the ongoing war in Iraq.

Military Recruiting Protest Calls for “Supporting the Troops” by Ending the Occupation of Iraq

On Friday, the local group ACTIVATE held their fifth protest outside of the Armed Forces Career Center located in the Celebration Cinema complex in Grand Rapids. Around twenty protestors held signs and chanted while calling for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and expressing support for those soldiers that are resisting participation in the Iraq War.

Upon arrival at the recruiting center, the protestors were met by members of the local chapter of Rolling Thunder, a group made up primarily of military veterans that ride motorcycles. Rolling Thunder is a national organization that organizes around issues pertaining to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action (POW/MIA) and advocating for increased benefits for veterans, according to the organization’s website. The group also speaks to youth groups “about the honor of serving their country.”

The actions of the bikers were clearly provocative and were in many cases violent. Just as recruiters have pushed doors into protestors and physically threatened them at previous protests at this recruiting center, the bikers and their small group of supporters occasionally shoved protestors, tried to knock signs out of their hands, ripped bandanas off their faces, and challenged protestors to fights. Their presence was characterized by jingoistic and macho posturing, with the bikers repeatedly using homophobic insults towards the protestors, calling male protestors “girls,” and calling protestors “sissies.” For the most part, the protest was essentially a shouting match, occasionally interrupted by the bikers revving the engines of their motorcycles in an attempt to drown out the protestors’ chants. As is frequently the case with folks representing a reactionary point of view, the bikers collectively demonstrated a lack of understanding about the war, arguing that Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked, that the war is necessary to protect the United States, and that more people were killed under Saddam Hussein than under the United States’ occupation. Whenever they were queried about matters such as the United States’ support for Saddam Hussein, the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to US-imposed sanctions in the 1990s, or the killing of 655,000 Iraqis since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the bikers either hurled homophobic insults, made quasi-racist comments disparaging Muslim people, or responded with asinine statements such as telling the protestors to “name them” when they told the bikers that 655,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed.

Of course, while these situations are never conducive to reasoned debates or discussions, it was clear that the bikers’ view that the protestors were “anti-troop” was rooted in a misunderstanding of why they were there. ACTIVATE held the demonstration as part of its ongoing work challenging military recruiting but also to express support and raise awareness about those soldiers who are resisting the Iraq War and questioning the wisdom of the United States’ continued presence in a country occupied after an illegal invasion. The group’s signs and banners reading “Troops Out Now,” “Bring them Home Now,” “80% of Iraqis Support and Immediate Withdrawal,” and “Walter Reed?,” highlighted their contention that the best way to support the troops is by immediately ending the occupation of Iraq. With the continuing occupation and the recent escalation of the war by President George W. Bush, 3,245 soldiers have died in Iraq, more than 24,000 have been wounded, veterans have been given dismal treatment at Walter Reed Hospital, and many Iraq veterans are coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These facts make a compelling argument that US soldiers could be best supported by an end to the occupation. During the protest, the group distributed leaflets calling on people to support those soldiers that have resisted the Iraq War. These include more than 1,700 soldiers that have signed an “Appeal for Redress” calling for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq, Lt. Ehren Watada who refused deployment to Iraq because of the illegality of the war and occupation, and Spc. Suzanne Swift who refused redeployment to Iraq because of sexual harassment and threats of rape. Additionally, antiwar veterans and military families groups have formed, including Iraq Veterans against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families for Peace.

When the Grand Rapids Police Department showed up, it was clear that they were on the side of the bikers and the military recruiters. While the bikers got a simple wave of the hand to stop revving their engines, one protestor was immediately singled out and given a 10 second warning to leave or be arrested. As the person was leaving, the police officer grabbed him at which point a man wearing an Army shirt and hat claimed that the protestor had spit on him. Eventually the protestors were told that they had to leave or be arrested, despite the fact that the bikers–some of whom were standing in the road in clear violation of the law–were not told to leave. After the warning, the protestors made the decision to leave. The protestor that was detained was later let go without any charges.

Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War

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David Axe’s Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War is a short (111 pages) examination of the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The program, which has a presence on 270 college campuses around the country, allows cadets to get their education at civilian colleges while receiving military training through the ROTC. It amounts to cadets essentially “minoring in the military” according to Axe, with ROTC participants doing physical training several times per week, participating in weekly training exercises practicing military skills such as marching, doing occasional weekend-long training exercises, and spending at least one summer at an Army training school. In exchange, some cadets receive scholarships and guaranteed placement as an officer in the military upon graduating in exchange for an eight year commitment to military service.

Axe’s book follows the experiences of the University of South Carolina’s ROTC unit–the Gamecock Battalion–from 2001 to 2004. Axe describes the day-to-day experiences of being in ROTC by writing of physical training, training exercises, simulated combat, and scrutiny of commanding officers. He presents the ROTC experience in a fairly objective manner, making judgments only about the antiquated equipment and training approaches, but generally allows the experiences that he relates to be read with little judgment from him. The activities of the cadets, from the pressures to succeed in academics to the almost nightly partying, are related in detail throughout the book. More interesting is Axe’s examination of the emotions of the cadets and the fears, hopes, and aspirations that they have about their military service. He explores why many of the cadets enlisted, uncovering a mix of people enlisting for patriotic, family, and economic reasons. Axe provides some confirmation of common criticisms of the military when he writes about cadets not receiving the scholarships that they were promised, sexual harassment of female cadets, and over representation of males and Caucasians in portions of the officer corps. Nevertheless, these criticisms are fairly muted and instead Axe simply relates the experiences of the Gamecock Battalion and allows readers to make their own judgments about ROTC.

While short, Army 101 provides an informative look at one of the military’s more bizarre components, the portion of the military that Axe terms “undergraduates with guns.” Each year, college students masquerade as soldiers using dummy weapons, outdated equipment, and outdated training exercises as the military attempts to prepare them for their future as soldiers. It becomes clear from reading Axe’s book that just in terms of preparing soldiers for war there are problems with the ROTC, but those problems go beyond such tactical issues. As Axe points out, ROTC mirrors the Army’s institutions and ideologies and sexism, misogyny, and racism abound. The book could have been more critically engaging of the ROTC and its promises of college money, as Axe provides no statistics examining how many students actually get scholarships or the dollar value of those scholarships. Such details would have been helpful for evaluating ROTC as a whole. Axe concludes by briefly describing the experiences of some former cadets who have gone to Iraq, making it clear that most cadets are destined to serve in Iraq.

David Axe, Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War, (University of South Carolina Press, 2007).

Group Protests Military Recruiting in Wyoming as part of Nationwide Antiwar Protest

On Tuesday, March 20, protestors with the local group ACTIVATE held a protest at the Armed Forces Career Center located at 5316 Clyde Park Plaza SW in Wyoming, Michigan. At 9:00am, approximately 15 protestors moved in front of the recruiting center and blocked access for the building for about 45 minutes before deciding to leave once Wyoming police told a police liaison with ACTIVATE that they were going to start making arrests. The protest was held as part of a nationwide call to action by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a call for “Days of Resistance” to the war by a number of antiwar groups around the country.

The protest began at 9:00am after the group walked over to the station. On the way to the recruiting center, the group received many supportive gestures from passing motorists. When the group arrived at the station, they used a ten-foot long banner reading “Stop US Imperialism” to block access to the main door of the building while other protestors held signs reading “Stop Recruiting the Poor for the War,” “Recruiters Lie,” “655,000+ Iraqis Dead,” and other signs highlighting the deaths of the more than 3,220 US soldiers killed in Iraq. The group also chanted a variety slogans including “Recruiters Lie, You Die,” “No Justice, No Peace, US Out of the Middle East,” and “There’s Dead and then there is Army Dead.” During the protest, one person was denied access to the building, while a couple of recruiters were forced to push their way through the protestors or using the backdoor to gain access to the building. The group was unable to close down the recruiting station given their numbers, but it was clear that their presence was an annoyance and was somewhat disruptive to the recruiters, the majority of whom just stood around watching the group from inside. The reactions of individuals entering the neighboring businesses were entirely positive, with at least two people thanking the group for being there.

ACTIVATE chose this location because military recruiting centers are a direct connection between West Michigan and the Iraq War. ACTIVATE argues that the military needs new recruits to maintain the United States’ military occupation of Iraq and asserts that efforts designed to hinder the abilities of recruiters are a legitimate way of working to end the occupation of Iraq. As has been the case with previous protests at area recruiting centers, the protestors had a variety of interesting interactions with recruiters at the station, all of whom have appeared agitated by the protestors presence. The recruiters told the protestors that they were “bums,” offered them coffee, and asked them to enlist. One recruiter emailed ACTIVATE, making the following assertion:

Hi, I’m one of the recruiters…I want to thank you for the support that you are giving us. Your efforts really help us in recruiting! Believe it or not you are actually helping us out. People see the garbage ya’ll put out and support us. And ya’ll say we “target the poor”…that’s a crock of shit because most of the people who enlist are out of the better school districts such as Forest Hills and Rockford. Not the “poor” schools as ya’ll state. Get your facts straight. Thanks again for your support!

This is the second such email received from Brandon Faulkner, a recruiter with the Navy. An earlier email received after the group’s January 26 protest read:

FUCK YOU! YOU FUCKING HIPPIES! YOUR PROTESTS ONLY HELPED US RECRUIT PEOPLE LAST TIME BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA. WE ENLISTED 6-7 PEOPLE BECAUSE OF IT. YOUR EFFORTS ONLY HELP US. THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT…NOW GO TAKE A SHOWER.

The comments were similar to those made by recruiters at a February 16 protest where recruiters told protestors to “go back across the border” and that they had to “kill people in order to make room for his [a protestor's gut],” while also stating on video that people “should take a bath” if they want to make a change.

While challenging the protestors in a variety of macho ways ranging from attempting to blast Toby Keith’s jingoistic “American Soldier” back in May to a recruiter leaving his pick-up truck running in front of the demonstrators on Tuesday, the recruiters have generally failed to challenge the facts touted by the protestors. Moreover, in subsequent months, reports have come out to back allegations such as “recruiters lie” (recruiters have been documenting telling potential enlistees that the war in Iraq is over) or that sexual assault is rampant within the military and toward potential enlistees. ACTIVATE has addressed its comments at the phenomenon of military recruiting as a whole, not specifically for Kent County. However, the claims of Navy recruiter Brandon Faulkner that “most of the people who enlist are out of the better school districts such as Forest Hills and Rockford” are still interesting. The most recent data available from the National Priorities Project–unfortunately from 2004 and for the Army and Army Reserve–shows that there were six students from Rockford high school compared to 14 from the Grand Rapids Public School district. Coupled with numbers at the national level showing that recruits from neighborhoods with low to middle-median household incomes are overrepresented, there is reason to be suspicious of the claims of Faulkner, although more recent numbers need to be obtained.

The Grand Rapids protest was one of dozens organized by SDS chapters around the United States. The protests ranged from protests at recruiting centers to walkouts and teach-ins.

Protestors Target Military Recruiting Center

On Friday February 16 a group of around 20 people attended a protest organized by the local anti-war group ACTIVATE (see also: video and photos). The protest took place outside the local military recruiting station on East Beltline and Knapp in the Celebration Cinema complex, chosen specifically because of its direct connection to the war. This protest was part of the group’s “Days of Resistance” campaign, which is to serve as a build up to the fourth anniversary and the war in Iraq, and to inject some much needed energy into the local West Michigan anti-war movement. ACTIVATE issued a press release articulating that they were holding this protest to call for the immediate end to the war, to expose the military’s misrepresentation of service, and to counter the lies the military uses to attract young people into service. As is usually the case with local events expressing dissent, the corporate media failed to cover the event despite a clear tie-in to the debate over the war taking place that day in the House of Representatives.

Upon arriving at the station, several members tried to enter the recruiting station in order to express their grievances personally with the recruiters. They chanted “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine.” Recruiters responded to this in a rather aggressive manner, shoving the people out of the door and locking it behind them. Several people taped altered military advertisements to the windows of the station highlighting the prevalence of sexual assault and the deaths of US soldiers, while a heavy trashcan was also placed in front of the door. The recruiters moved to the back of the building to continue their business and the group of protesters followed, opening up the door in order to disrupt interaction between recruiters and potential recruits. Again the recruiters responded by hitting protesters with the door and their shoulders. At this point the recruiters locked all the doors to the station. Several protesters read the names of Iraqi civilians who have been murdered by US forces into a megaphone directed at a potential recruit inside. Other protesters distributed fliers to the public and pounded on the windows, in addition to placing fliers on the government cars in the parking lot. The group continued to make noise outside the station with various chants and drumming until the police arrived. The police informed the group that taping fliers to the window and disrupting the activities of the recruiters could possibly lead to arrest. The police and recruiters also contacted the owner of the Celebration Cinema plaza in an attempt to have him ask the police to remove the protesters, however, he declined.

During the time the police were talking to several recruiters inside the building, some interesting exchanges occurred between protesters and the recruiters who came outside. One particularly zealous recruiter took it upon himself to tell the protesters that they should shower if they wanted to incite. He also told the group of protesters that the Army wasn’t there to be nice, but it was there to protect. When confronted with the fact that the Army doesn’t protect human rights, the recruiter responded with “you don’t know that.” After this exchange, this recruiter headed back into the building. Before reentering the building, he shouted to the group of protestors to “go back across the border.” This blatant racism is nothing new from the military, however, it is highly ironic that they would choose a derogatory statement targeting Spanish speaking peoples, given their current attempt to “branch out” to that sector of the population with multi-lingual literature and aggressive marketing efforts.

After this brilliant comment from the recruiter, the group of protesters continued to chant and make noise. This drew the same recruiter out of the station for another debate. The recruiter commented to one protester that “he had to kill people in order to make room for his gut.” Protestors were somewhat blown away by this comment, a comment so absurd that a police officer requested that the recruiter go back into the station because he was making it hard for the police to defend him.

The police later emerged from the building and talked to the group about what the group could do while at the station. Not wanting to be permanently banned from the complex, the group of protesters decided to head home feeling that they had accomplished all that could be done at this time.