"We're here protesting a war circus," said Enrique Romero, an actor who presided over Sunday's protest and quoted at Hispanic Business.
It was the first time in at least 25 years, the association's chairman said, that the National Guard's convention was met with protest.
Hispanic Business reports when the school year began this month, independence activists were posted at high schools around the island getting students to sign "opt-out" forms, which prohibit military recruiters from contacting them.
"We don't want our youth going to war, dying in war or coming back from war ill with post-traumatic stress disorder," said Ivan Broida, a volunteer with Live in Peace who helps circulate the forms.
Nearly 60 percent of Puerto Rican high school students have signed them, compared to the average of 10 percent elsewhere in the United States.
Back inside the convention hall the Governor of Puerto Rico received loud applause and a standing ovation from the gathered guardsmen when he called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
The following arrived in my e-mail box this AM.
Protest for peace and against “tourism of death” promoted by National Guard Asssociation in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN. 8/26/07 – An alliance of thousands of Puerto Ricans from dozens of religious, labor, environmental and cultural groups; representatives of political parties, anti war and youth organizations, pro- Vieques and pro – independence activists held today a peaceful massive demonstration for peace and against the American National Guard Association’s 129th Annual Convention, being held in San Juan during this week end.
The protesters also called for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, where more than seventy Puerto Rican soldiers have died so far, and demanded that local soldiers be brought from overseas.
Coordinators of the event criticized the military Convention that brought to Puerto Rico more than five thousand members of the Association, as well as U.S. Congressmen, armed forces generals and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. With them came the eight most important weapons and battle equipment moguls to exhibit and sell their wares: Lockeed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, EADS and L-3 Communications.
The local Government was also criticized for sponsoring the convention, and for hosting an organization that “promotes violence and a new kind of tourism that focuses on death and destruction”, and letting the military and their suppliers use Puerto Rico’s national territory as an “open market” for selling state of the art battle equipment and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that are being used against innocent people in Asia, Africa and the rest of the World.
Activists also said the same Government that claims having financial problems is sponsoring the National Guard Convention and organizing special activities and receptions, labeled it as “shameful” and called for an investigation on how much the Government will spend in honoring death and war when our country faces a financial crisis.
Local newscasters covering the convention informed this evening that while outside people condemned the war in Iraq, inside the Conventions Center, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, was addressing the Convention. He said the war in Iraq will continue for several more decades and that eventually the United States will prevail for ideological reasons.
Today’s activity was part of a series of events that were held during this weekend to protest war, promote peace and condemn the National Guard Association’s presence in Puerto Rico and its military series of events.
Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano
Comisión Nacional de Comunicaciones