Ending the Occupation
One Woman's Fight to Keep the Army Out of Seattle Parks
Kathy Barker is at war with the U.S. Army and the Seattle parks department. Barker, a military "counter-recruiter" and mother of three high-school students, has already been
part of a push to limit military recruiters' presence on high-school campuses. Now she's set her sights on Seattle's parks department.
Last April, Barker, who sits on the board of Washington Truth in Recruiting, which provides students with alternatives to military recruitment, fired off a letter to the City Council and the parks department after army and navy soldiers showed up to a teen event at the Delridge Community Center in Southwest Seattle in a shiny black Hummer.
"[The parks department had] been advertising a teen-appreciation day [with] basketball, swimming, a DJ, and a barbecue," Barker says. She says the woman who alerted her to the recruiters' presence "pulled up with her kids and saw two guys in army fatigues in a black Hummer. She wanted them to go away and they wouldn't." Barker says she's also heard of recruiters showing up to events with climbing walls and video games.
In September, attorneys for the parks department killed a proposal that would have allowed recruiters at job fairs in parks facilities but prohibited them from passing out materials or appearing at other events in fatigues.
Dewey Potter, a spokeswoman for the department, insists that the soldiers "weren't recruiters," although she admits "their presence may have been to attract people" to the armed forces. Scott Lawrence, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's Seattle Recruiting Battalion, says that "if [military officers] show up in a Humvee," they're "probably" from the recruiting office, adding, "We go where there's an opportunity to show up."
This is exactly what Barker is concerned about. "I think the recruiting events are really predatory," she says. "The City Council passed a resolution against the Iraq War [in March 2007]. It seems almost crazy and against policy to be recruiting in parks."
So far, Barker says, only one City Council member, Richard McIver, has responded directly to her April e-mail. In his response, McIver wrote, "The military no doubt participated in part because it was an opportunity to present the military in a positive light... to eventually help with recruiting. The same could certainly be said of the participation of the navy's Blue Angels at Seafair. (Of course, that participation is opposed by some for just this reason.)"
In another e-mail, an aide for Council Member Tom Rasmussen told Barker the council was busy dealing with the annual budget and that Rasmussen—who chairs the council's parks committee—does not think the recruitment issue should fall to the council.
Despite Barker's hell-raising, the parks department says it doesn't have any plans to restrict the access of recruiters or even announce which events they'll be at. "It's a First Amendment issue as far as we're concerned," Potter says.