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OpedNews Journalist and Six Protesters Charged With Criminal Conspiracy After Arrest At "Army Experience Center"

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Philadelphia, PA, September 13, 2009: Six members of various anti-war groups, including World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, and an OpedNews journalist, were arrested on Saturday, September 12, 2009, at approximately 3pm (ET) at a protest organized to shut down The Army Experience Center, located in Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, PA. They were released early Sunday morning and charged with Criminal Conspiracy and Failure To Disperse. Their arraignment is scheduled for September 23, 2009 at 11:30am (ET) at Philadelphia Municipal Court, 1301 Filbert Street.

Photo by Rob Kall: Protester arrest outside Army Experience Center. Cheryl Biren (OpedNews) in foreground photographing event.

Those arrested included Debra Sweet, National Director of World Can't Wait, and Elaine Brower, of Military Families Speak Out, whose son was deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Brower:
"The AEC is giving guns to 13 year olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghani civilians and US military are being killed in the US occupation of Afghanistan, we're saying NO to these wars. We've got to stop the flow of youth into the military where they're being used to commit war crimes in our name."
Also arrested with Sweet and Brower were protesters Sarah Wellington, Joan Plume, Beverly Rice, Rich Marini and OpedNews' Managing Editor, Cheryl Biren, who was standing separate from those being arrested and photographing the arresting officers. Biren identified herself to police as a journalist, however they swiftly approached her and arrested her with the others. The six women were detained at The Roundhouse, the central police facility in Philadelphia, until their release at 5am Sunday morning.

After her release, Biren reflected, "How can press be prevented from recording news in the making? It's shameful. It's anti-democracy."

Earlier on Saturday, as part of the Army Experience Center protest events, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Christopher Hedges, author of "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning," and "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," addressed the crowd outside the Franklin Mills Mall.

Photo by Cheryl Biren (in photo Celeste Zappala, Chris Hedges, Debra Sweet)

Hedges, a former war correspondent for several publications including the New York Times, has spoken openly of his aversion to war after spending years covering major conflicts in El Salvador, the Middle East, Bosnia and Kosovo. In advance of today's event, Hedges released the following statement describing his opposition to the Army Experience Center:
"War is not a game. Weapons are not toys. The essence of war is death. The purpose of war is to extinguish all opposing living systems from the economic to the political, social, cultural and finally, familial. Those who entice children to play with mock weapons of war will never allow these children to see what these weapons do to human bodies. They hide from them the fundamental truth about violence and in this way socialize them to kill."

Photo by Philadelphia Indymedia

On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Afghanistan, with President Obama's current escalation of military action resulting in increased American and Afghan deaths, the war on Afghanistan is quickly losing favor amongst Americans. The Army Experience Center is the military's most ambitious high tech effort to counter war disfavor and drum up army recruitment by instilling militarism and passion for weapons in impressionable youth.

This $13 million, 14,500-square-foot recruitment tool has drawn wide-ranging criticism for its extreme attempt to inspire enthusiasm for war through simulated games that show none of the horror and devastation of combat, but focus instead on the adrenalin rush of state of the art weapons of destruction.

Linda Milazzo is a Managing Editor of Opednews, Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time between the entertainment industry, government organizations, community development projects and educational (more...)
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how different is this from Amy Goodman being arres... by Joan Brunwasser on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 3:55:00 AM
Army personnel are vulnerable to crimes against hu... by Jason Paz on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 4:30:40 AM
when the government starts arresting crowds of peo... by Nick van Nes on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 6:36:40 AM
And wonderful of OEN and Rob to have it so soon, a... by GLloyd Rowsey on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 8:30:42 AM
I can just see those boys with the weapons in a je... by GLloyd Rowsey on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 8:57:18 AM
Well, this is indeed good news. It shows the new A... by Dak on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 9:23:12 AM
absolutly wrong on any level. This is yet just ano... by Janiece Senn on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 10:51:32 AM
I wonder if there is something in the Patriot Act ... by Kathlyn Stone on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 6:38:02 PM
The history of fascist Philadephia police actions ... by Bill Samuel on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:02:38 PM
To stop war effectively all women should abort eve... by CaptainZen on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:12:26 PM
I am very proud of you. Now let's do it again and ... by Rafe Pilgrim on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:36:22 PM
A veteran police officer I know listened soberly a... by Richmond Shreve on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:50:06 PM
I think this is what happens when you discover par... by Rakesh Krishnan Simha on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 9:11:40 PM
I guess it is appropriateto signal the arrival of ... by Michael Lee on Monday, Sep 14, 2009 at 10:15:29 PM
Why don't these Gestapo thugs arrest some of the a... by Bryan Emmel on Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009 at 3:08:43 AM
The AEC would be a sick enough idea if the kids we... by MJ Creech on Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009 at 11:21:16 PM