Victory: Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia
Army announcement made just days before planned protest. Several large demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance and regular vigils contributed to its demise.
Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia, PA - A coalition of thirty peace groups has proven triumphant in their goal of forever shutting down the “Army Experience Center” in a suburban shopping mall in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that the Army plans to permanently close the facility. http://www.philly.com/philly/
After almost two years of glorifying the “Army experience” and U.S. wars through video and war games, the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Malls announced it will shut down on July 31, 2010. The $13 million, 14,500 square foot Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Mall boasts dozens of video game computers and X-Box video game consoles with various interactive, military-style shooting games. The facility has sophisticated Apache helicopter and Humvee simulators that allow teens to simulate the killing of Arabs and Afghans. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rob Watson compared the Army Experience Center to "a heavy dose of candy cigarettes."
Dozens of local and national peace groups joined the “Shut Down the Army Experience Center” effort in January 2009, soon after the heavily marketed Center got national press coverage. The mall was the site of several protests of hundreds of people, with more than a dozen arrests.
Six of those arrested were acquitted by a Philadelphia trial judge on May 24, 2010, and prior to that at a trial last year, six arrested were also acquitted.
Elaine Brower, one of those arrested twice, whose son joined the Marines at age 17 and served three tours in Afghanistan & Iraq, became a vocal opponent of the AEC. She said today, “This is a victory for the entire peace and anti-war movement. The team work and coalition building that was accomplished led to our success. We were relentless in our struggle to shut this center down, and we did it strategically. As they say, a people united will never be defeated!”
When the center opened the Army announced it was designed as a pilot program and would decide whether to launch them nationally. As recently as August 2009, however, Jared Auchey, Company Commander at Franklin Mills, was boasting of the center's “success” and claiming others were being planned.
Former US Army SSgt. Jesse Hamilton, now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, stated today, “By portraying war as a game, the AEC glorified violence to our children and disrespected those soldiers who gave their lives in combat. As a combat veteran, nothing makes me happier than to know that the AEC will no longer have the ability to corrupt our children's minds and disrespect our deceased war heroes.”
Bill Deckhart, Coordinator of the BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action stated, “I am just elated. Being a peace activist we don't get a lot of wins so we must savor this victory. There's still lots of work to do and we need to help create a world that can be peaceful and does not need to think about military recruiters and sending people to kill or be killed for corporate profits.”
The Army is planning an official announcement today and a news conference tomorrow, before another large demonstration planned for Saturday.
The coalition to Shut Down the Army Experience Center involved BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, Brandywine Peace Community, Iraq Veterans Against the War, CODEPINK, Granny Peace Brigade, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace Action National, NorthWest Greens, Woodstock Peace and Justice, Pax Christi Long Island & Pennsylvania, Military Families Speak Out/NYC, Delaware Valley Veterans For America and World Can't Wait.