Shattered windows and bomb scares are growing threats for recruiters working to find young men and women to join the U.S. military, according to a new report that claims attacks on military recruiting stations are on the rise.
The report, issued by a not-for-profit group that supports members of the military, calls the incidents — including the spray-painting of graffiti — "attacks," and claims there have been more than 50 since March 2003.
"The peace protesters are not peaceful," said Catherine Moy, executive director of Move America Forward, which released the report. "They are violent. They are causing havoc in an illegal manner on recruiting offices across the United States."
Vandals last week targeted the Milwaukee Army Recruiting Station, leaving behind the anti-war graffiti message "War Is Offensive." On March 6, a hooded bicyclist was captured on video pedaling away from the military recruiting station in New York's Times Square after a small homemade explosive damaged the facade of America's busiest recruiting center.
Milwaukee and Times Square are among the incidents listed in Move America Forward's report, which documents protests, broken windows, graffiti, bombs and other disturbances among the "attacks."
"We hope that people will see the report and see that this is not just one or two incidents," Moy said. "They are attacking these institutions to try to stop the war even as we are winning the war."
Moy continued: "These people will stop at nothing."
The Pentagon reviewed the report but couldn't confirm that the more than 50 incidents listed were actual "attacks."
"Beyond incidents of vandalism, it's obviously difficult to count non-violent protests as an actual attack since these demonstrations usually do not result in deliberate acts against the U.S. military," said Paul Boyce, a U.S. Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
"Our soldiers remain committed to their recruiting mission," Boyce said. "They are vigilant about both their personal security as well as how to handle potentially confrontational situations."
Recruiting stations tend to be located in downtown areas or other high-traffic places; there are about 1,650 U.S. Army offices across the country, with about 8,000 Army recruiters.
The Army is aiming to recruit 80,000 soldiers for the active Army and 26,500 for the Army Reserve this year.
"We understand that we're high visibility and we have to take appropriate security measures," said S. Douglas Smith, spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command Headquarters in Fort Knox, Ky.
If the goal of vandalizing or protesting at a recruiting station is to hurt recruitment efforts, it's not working, Smith said.
"We're not at all anxious about this. Of course, we don't enjoy having instances, but it's not having a negative impact on recruiting," he said.
"Ever since we've been in a wartime environment, we have been very security-conscious, just like the rest of the country," Smith said.
When an incident disrupts operations at a recruiting center, recruiters can continue their work from mobile locations, Smith said, noting that recruiters were back on duty within 24 hours following the explosion at the Times Square center.
Military recruiters in Berkeley, Calif., found themselves unwelcome guests in January when members of the anti-war activist group Code Pink began sidewalk protests outside the recruitment center there, urging that the station be closed.
The report from Move America Forward describes the protests at the Berkeley center as attacks, but Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink, said, "We're a nonviolent organization and don't believe in violence at all. ...
"We're trying to end the war, and military recruiting is a way that continues war. One of the pillars of war are soldiers that fight it."
Code Pink members, who spoke out against the explosion in Times Square, are working to get a zoning initiative on the November ballot that would help close the Berkeley center by banning it from being near schools.
In January, the Berkeley City Council voted to send a message to the Marines that they're not welcome in the city. It also voted to give Code Pink its own parking spot outside the recruiting center, which allows a group member to protest during the center's office hours.