Shutting Down The Philadelphia Army Experience Center

Kids in a war simulator at the center


On Saturday, September 12, 2009, twelve people from Long Island drove over to Philadelphia, PA to tell the Army Experience Center (AEC) that WAR IS NOT A GAME!

The AEC is a 14,500 square foot “virtual educational facility” opened in the Franklin Mills Mall in August 2008 as a two-year pilot program costing taxpayers $12 million. Although the Army says it is not a recruiting facility, the 20 soldiers stationed there are active duty recruiters. The facility boasts a Humvee, a Black Hawk helicopter, M-16 rifles, automatic machine guns and a tank where children as young as 13 years old can be virtual soldiers shooting at life like targets. The center also includes 20 PC workstations where recruiters provide GED instruction. And it’s all free!

On this particular day, our second visit to the AEC, we joined about 200 other activists in a demonstration at a busy intersection outside the mall. Chris Hedges, a foreign correspondent who has reported from more than 50 countries, spoke to the crowd as well as Celest Zappala, a Gold Star mom, and others.

A march to the mall and to the doors of the AEC then ensued with shouts of SHUT IT DOWN disrupting many shoppers, some who did not know what the AEC was even about. We were met by a wall of cops and security guards who were separating us from visitors inside the AEC who rented it out for the day for a 9/11 memorial. We were soon made aware the visitors were none other than the right wing pro-war group the Gathering of Eagles. They were mostly large old Caucasian bikers in leather who did us the favor of not permitting anyone else into the arcade facility, including young children, potential recruits for institutionalized killing.

Seven people were arrested, including a journalist for OpEdNews, who was picked out of the crowd. They were charged with criminal conspiracy and failure to disperse. They spent the night in the Roundhouse, the central jail in Philadelphia. Upon their appearance in court recently, they plead not guilty and want to bring their case to trial.

The Franklin Mills Mall is owned by Simon Properties, the largest mall owner in the country. Long Islanders held a pre-emptive demonstration at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove to send the message that a facility like the AEC would not be tolerated here.

The Army has since sent a statement that they will not be renewing the AEC lease in August 2010 nor building new facilities as the economy has caused a surge in military recruitment and the military will be spending less on “marketing.” Those who protest this form of manipulation of our youth are not letting up on voicing their opposition to the desensitization of killing and violence.

Posted Oct 1 2009 - 2:25pm by Karen

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