For Immediate Release
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, 415-235-6517
Jean Stevens, national media coordinator, 508-769-2138
Victory: Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia
Army announcement made just days before planned protest. Several large demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance and regular vigils contributed to its demise.
WASHINGTON - Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia, PA - A
coalition of thirty peace groups has proven triumphant in their goal of
forever shutting down the “Army Experience Center” in a suburban
shopping mall in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today
that the Army plans to permanently close the facility. http://www.philly.com/philly/
After almost two years of glorifying the “Army experience” and
U.S. wars through video and war games, the Army Experience Center at
Franklin Mills Malls announced it will shut down on July 31, 2010. The
$13 million, 14,500 square foot Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills
Mall boasts dozens of video game computers and X-Box video game
consoles with various interactive, military-style shooting games. The
facility has sophisticated Apache helicopter and Humvee simulators that
allow teens to simulate the killing of Arabs and Afghans. Philadelphia
Inquirer reporter Rob Watson compared the Army Experience Center to "a
heavy dose of candy cigarettes."
Dozens of local and national peace groups joined the “Shut Down
the Army Experience Center” effort in January 2009, soon after the
heavily marketed Center got national press coverage. The mall was the
site of several protests of hundreds of people, with more than a dozen
Six of those arrested were acquitted by a Philadelphia trial judge
on May 24, 2010, and prior to that at a trial last year, six arrested
were also acquitted.
Elaine Brower, one of those arrested
twice, whose son joined the Marines at age 17 and served three tours in
Afghanistan & Iraq, became a vocal opponent of the AEC. She said
today, “This is a victory for the entire peace and anti-war movement.
The team work and coalition building that was accomplished led to our
success. We were relentless in our struggle to shut this center down,
and we did it strategically. As they say, a people united will never be
When the center opened the Army announced it was designed as a
pilot program and would decide whether to launch them nationally. As
recently as August 2009, however, Jared Auchey, Company Commander at
Franklin Mills, was boasting of the center's “success” and claiming
others were being planned.
Former US Army SSgt. Jesse Hamilton, now a member of Iraq
Veterans Against the War, stated today, “By portraying war as a game,
the AEC glorified violence to our children and disrespected those
soldiers who gave their lives in combat. As a combat veteran, nothing
makes me happier than to know that the AEC will no longer have the
ability to corrupt our children’s minds and disrespect our deceased war
Bill Deckhart, Coordinator of the BuxMont Coalition for Peace
Action stated, “I am just elated. Being a peace activist we don’t get a
lot of wins so we must savor this victory. There’s still lots of work
to do and we need to help create a world that can be peaceful and does
not need to think about military recruiters and sending people to kill
or be killed for corporate profits.”
The Army is planning an official
announcement today and a news conference tomorrow, before another large
demonstration planned for Saturday.
The coalition to Shut Down
the Army Experience Center involved BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action,
Veterans for Peace, Brandywine Peace Community, Iraq Veterans Against
the War, CODEPINK, Granny Peace Brigade, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace
Action National, NorthWest Greens, Woodstock Peace and Justice, Pax
Christi Long Island & Pennsylvania, Military Families Speak Out/NYC,
Delaware Valley Veterans For America and World Can't Wait.
CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence.