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Anti-War Grannies Close Recruitment Center

Eight angry grandmothers threatened to stage a sit-in at the army recruitment center on NE Broadway and 13th last Friday, forcing the center to close its doors shortly before noon. In response, the activists slapped a "mission accomplished" sign above the center's door.

The grannies were part of a 50-strong protest organized by Portland's newly formed Surge Protection Brigade (SPB), a group that is against President Bush's latest plan to send 21,500 more troops to the war in Iraq.

Police say the center decided to close after a representative from Portland Police Bureau's NE Precinct warned the center about the planned protest. The SPB says they did not contact the cops before the January 19 protest, but speculates the police may have found out about it by reading portland.indymedia.org.

Passersby say the center, which did not return the Mercury's request for comment, reopened at around 3 pm, after the protesters had moved on.

The SPB says the center gives potential recruits insufficient information about things like troops' exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq, which means they can't make informed decisions about signing up. The activists say new recruits will likely be exposed to depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq, which some studies have linked to long-term health problems, including the controversial Gulf War Syndrome. The group plans to repeat their protest this Friday, January 26.

The SPB was also behind a protest outside the Federal Building at SW 3rd and Jefferson on January 11—the day after Bush's surge announcement. That day, five women were arrested for trespassing and disobeying a police officer when they chained themselves to the railings.

"The idea, simply, is to make trouble for people who support sending more troops to Iraq," says SPB spokeswoman Marianne Barisonek.

"I'm pleased [the recruitment center] closed down, that we could disrupt them without getting arrested," said Sara Graham, a 66-year-old retired counselor who had participated in the protest. "But we'll be back next week."

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