Reports are coming in that Occupy Portland briefly shutdown at least four army recruiting centers in the metro area earlier today. The plan to close the facilities was announced just before noon at a protest outside city hall. The action and protest was in support of Private First Class Bradley Manning, the former intelligence officer turned whistle blower who brought WikiLeaks to national attention after handing the group thousands of classified documents more than two years ago. In an act of good-willed political humor, the plan to shutter the centers was made by a man dressed as Cobra Commander— for those unfamiliar with 1980s children’s cartoons, his is the avowed enemy of G. I. Joe.
“You have been manipulated into thinking G. I. Joe is the good guy,” said the costumed man. “You have been lied to.” The man, who admittedly did a pretty good impression of Cobra’s slithery voice, then announced that a “group of concerned citizens” had shutdown army recruiting centers in Portland, Beaverton, and Gresham. As of this writing the Mercury has been able to confirm at least four centers were closed today.
Gary Stauffer public affairs officer for the area’s military recruiting centers said he could confirm that four facilities had briefly shut their doors due to protests. Stauffer said this action was “standard procedure” for a protest. At his office near the airport, Stauffer said about 15 protesters entered the center and read a statement. “They had signs. They marched, and it was peaceful,” said Stauffer. Staff at recruiting centers in Gresham and Beaverton, who asked not go on the record, were able to confirm there had been protests in those cities as well. The actions were also reportedly filmed for Livestream.
Occupy’s Nicole Balmforth, slightly contradicted Stauffer’s statements saying protesters were able to completely shut down all five recruiting stations they targeted. However Stauffer contends the facilities weren’t completely closed, saying business went on as usual behind the locked doors. Even so, Balmforth said, “I image our actions impacted their ability to recruit for the day.”
The protests supporting Manning as well as the attempts to close the centers were organized by 12 groups including Occupy Portland, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace. The metro-area protests were one of 15, according to this website, held around the nation and the world. No news yet on whether other cities’ recruiting centers were also closed.
Today is the second day of pretrial military proceeding for Manning. All told the 24-year-old has 22 counts against him and could face the death penalty. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has filed several motions on his client’s behalf claiming the prosecution hasn’t handed over evidence necessary to the defense. Coombs is also asking for transcripts of a Department of Justice proceeding that the lawyer says contains talk of bringing a criminal charge against WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. You can follow Manning’s case on Coombs’ blog.
Following speeches from organizers, just this afternoon, about 70 protesters headed up downtown Portland’s Main Street. Chanting and carrying signs reading, “I am Bradley Manning,” and “Free Bradley Manning,” the group marched through the business district stopping briefly in front of the federal court house. Protest organizer Glenn Silbersdorff said the message of the protest is clear. “It should be illegal to commit war crimes, not to report them,” said Silbersdorff.