Halliburton Recruiters Meet Protest In Wisconsin

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Associated Press

Halliburton Recruiters Meet Protest In Wisconsin

by
Ryan J. Foley

MADISON, Wis. -- About 200 demonstrators sang and heard speeches Thursday at a protest against Halliburton Co. recruiters at the University of Wisconsin before departing peacefully - unlike a bloody event 40 years ago to which some compared it.

The Campus Antiwar Network has accused Halliburton, whose former subsidiary had large contracts to aid the U.S. military in Iraq, of profiting from war and other unethical practices.0922 02

Protesters summoned the memory of a 1967 demonstration against recruiters for Dow Chemical Co., which made napalm used in the Vietnam War. A peaceful sit-in that ended in a violent confrontation between students and club-wielding police officers galvanized the anti-war movement.

"Forty years ago, students stood up then, and now we're back again," engineering student and protest leader Chris Dols, 24, sang through a bullhorn, with the crowd repeating the words. "It started with Dow and continues now!"

The group rallied at noon on a hill at the heart of campus, then marched to the Engineering Centers Building, where the career fair was held. Activists tried to discourage students from meeting with the oil services company.

Protesters carried signs reading "Curly, off campus," a reference to the Dow recruiter whose visit sparked the 1967 protest.

The protesters sat in front of the Halliburton booth, virtually blocking access to the four recruiters. University officials worked to clear a path so those attending the fair could walk by and even meet with company representatives - if they could withstand heckling.

"How can you justify this?" David Hammond, a 37-year-old freelance writer who joined the protest, asked a Halliburton recruiter. "On a personal level, how do you live with yourself?" The recruiter did not respond.

Josh Kossel, 22, a senior studying mechanical engineering, passed the crowd to meet with Halliburton recruiters and said he would have no problem working for the company.

"I don't let this crap affect me," he said. "I think protesting in general is pretty stupid."

University rules said protesters could not chant or shout, so they sang instead. "I said, 'From high to low, Halliburton's got to go,'" the crowd repeated.

The demonstrators left the career fair after 90 minutes of song and bullhorn speeches.

Several recruiters from other companies complained about the protest, said Sandra Arnn, an assistant engineering dean. But the protest went reasonably well, she said.

"It's not an ideal setting for a career fair, but it is balancing and honoring the rights of all UW-Madison students," she said.

Nearly 300 companies are taking part in the three-day fair, university officials said. Halliburton was there only Thursday, and further protests are not planned.

Houston-based Halliburton is looking for entry-level employees as part of its plan to add 13,000 workers this year. Halliburton recruiters on campus declined to comment and referred questions to the company's spokeswoman.

Spokeswoman Melissa Norcross has called its critics uninformed since Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, separated earlier this year. KBR has won billions of dollars in contracts from the U.S. government to help the military in war zones.

The protesters never made it to the building's basement. If they had, they would have found recruiters for Dow Chemical Co. busy at work promoting their company to students.

© 2007 The Associated Press

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