Kelly Larson opposed the war in Iraq before American troops invaded the country. When her chemistry teacher at Stadium High School was deployed, the war became personal.
So Larson, a sophomore at the Tacoma school, joined about 50 others in a students’ protest Thursday at Tacoma Mall. They chanted slogans and held signs in front of the mall’s business office building, which is home to recruiting offices for most branches of the military.
"I’m just sick of all the hate in the world," said Larson, sporting a Che Guevara button on her raincoat.
Organizers say military recruiters tell potential enlistees misleading information about benefits and job training to get them to sign up for the military. They especially oppose the recruitment in the nation’s high schools.
The recruiters seemed to take it in stride. Several Marines did chin-ups and push-ups outside and ran laps around the building during the protest.
"The students are being asked to fight in this war before they have political rights to vote," said Bryan Watson, who helped organize the protest for Socialist Alternative.
The protest began about 3 p.m. and, as the rain fell, the group marched around the mall. Tacoma Police Department officers were on hand – including 10 officers on bicycles – and arrested one man who said he was a Vietnam veteran.
An officer on the scene said he was being arrested for trespassing after he wouldn’t leave the office building.
"The guy getting arrested is not real news," said Ian McFeat, a teacher at Lincoln High School and a member of Teachers for Social Justice. "The real news is that we’re in a war that’s illegal and it’s costing us billions of dollars. That’s money that can be spent on health care, money that can be spent on real jobs for Americans, money that can be spent on education."