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(en) US, Pittsburgh m20 reportback from organizing group (POG*)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 2 Apr 2004 10:48:44 +0200 (CEST)

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Random positives besides the stuff we mention below that we want to say:
No arrests! food not bombs was wicked good, person in the gorilla suit,
black blocers from ohio, high schoolers who drove from NY, green
party members, awc supporters, Greensburg folks, Medics, radicalize
pittsburgh, slam poetry, up the punx, the lawyers and volunteers doing
legal support!, those 3 cats from radio station wrct, two kids who were
in San Francisco and passed up those m20 protests to come here, circle
pit, radical cheerleaders, and whoever else we forgot :)

POG report back from March 20th

On March 20th, ~1500 people gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for
a convergence demanding the liberation of the people of Iraq, in protest
of continuing US occupations around the world, and in resistance to the
local institutions whose ties to the military machine make US
aggressions possible. Following the Thomas Merton Center's mass
march and rally, 300 people headed for the campus of Carnegie Mellon
University (CMU), one of most military funded, and connected,
colleges in the nation. For months we had stated we would be beginning
a sit-in/occupation to protest CMUís development of weapons
system for the US military and their general complicity in the war
machine. Prior to the CMU march, around 200 police from at least 4
agencies were stationed in the area of the closing rally in the largest
show of force by the local police in more than 30 years. Despite
apprehension on the part of many, people began to head out with the
march led by a 4ft puppet replica of the robotic tank CMU is developing
for the US marines (dubbed Ďgladiatorí by CMU). The puppet
led the march on the sidewalk towards campus with participants and
supporters in tow. The use of the sidewalk seemed to catch the police
and some participants off guard. During our initial organizing we had
decided the march would use the sidewalks, as we expected the police
would assume they would get an opportunity to disperse a street march
and prevent people from reaching CMU. All indications are that this
was in fact their plan and we believe our anticipation of this, the
determination of sit-in participants to carry out the sit-in even if it meant
enduring police repression, and the incredible amount of solidarity
shown by the larger peace community in marching with us to cmu, are
in fact the reasons we were able to achieve our goals. In order to make
the sit-in as inclusive as possible we had selected CMUís University
Center, a porous building difficult to shutdown and hard to stop people
from entering, as the sit-ins target. This proved accurate, despite the
numbers of police on the scene, a CMU student simply opened a side
door and 20+ people dashed inside, while the main contingent outside
strode confidently past the police on the scene and entered through the
main doors. A larger then expected 75 people participated in the sit-in
and another 225 were initially present at the scene to provide witness
and support in case of police violence. Making themselves comfortable
on pleather chairs, a banner reading CMU students against the war was
unfurled from a balcony, and events got underway. Over the next 3hrs
there was: a series of speeches that articulated the demands of those
sitting-in to CMU, slam poetry, soccer, basketball, and a sound system
was set up to provide music. Some participants danced and moshed to a
variety of musical genres while others quietly read schoolbooks and did

The reaction of the CMU administration was as expected, they chose to
ignore the opportunity for dialogue and despite the presence of
CMUís police chief, the dean of student affairs, and many other
ranking officials they refused to enter into any discussions with us.
When, after 3 hours of occupation this fact had become clear, POG and
CMU students initiated a discussion on what course of action to take.
After a short debate on how to proceed it became clear that there was
consensus to declare the actions a success and go home. We made the
decision to leave because the sit-in had achieved everything it could
achieve and no matter how much longer people stayed we werenít
going to be able to achieve more. A lot of people felt that given this clear
reality it was better to save planned arrests for another time, turn the
event into a party/sit-in/teach-in, and go home to plan for another day.
Speakers congratulated those in attendance on the major victory they
had won, encouraged them to get involved in planning future actions,
and emphasized the point that this was just one in what will surely be a
series of increasingly determined actions whose goal is to begin a
dialogue with CMU on the demands that POG-concerned members of
CMU and the community at large have put forth.

So what did the sit-in achieve? (in no particular order)

1: It garnered large amounts of positive media attention of the protests
that wouldnít have otherwise occurred (Specifically coverage
around CMUís ties to the military and the killer robot CMU is
developing- dubbed Ďgladiatorí by CMU)- tv coverage focused
on the life-size replica puppet we built of the robot to a participant
talking about itís machine gun and chemical weapons launchers,
and the reasons for the protests.

2: For the first time, it forced the university to respond directly to
students and faculty. In an unprecedented action, they were forced to
acknowledge, in an email to the entire student body, the protests that
were occurring and to mention that the cause of these protests related to
research projects occurring on campus.

3: It was many peoples first experience with taking direct action. 75
people were committed to participating in the sit-in (a much larger
number than we expected) with another 225 present at the scene.

4: It showed that large scale direct action at CMU is possible and that
there are CMU students who are not only resisting the increasing
militarization of the school but are prepared to take direct action against
it. CMU repeatedly referred to those planning on sitting in as
Ďoutsidersí who planned to invade the campus and the fact that
there was active participation from many CMU students and alumni
exposed this as a lie.

5: It brought together people of widely divergent tactical preferences in a
unified action that built solidarity and respect among participants and
between participants and supporters. Itís not usual for actions to
have such a diverse mix of (our estimate) 1/3 people who usually do
black blocs and 1/3 first time direct action participants. As well as a
large number of people from the liberal and faith based communities
who came to bear witness and provide solidarity directly outside of the
events (that these groups came is even more impressive given how
volatile the situation appeared) there was in almost all respects diversity
in the people taking part and supporting. This has convinced us that
large numbers of people from across the tactical and ideological
spectrum will support calls for local direct actions that directly confront
the war makers if the actions are organized properly and a clear and
convincing case is made for why we're doing what we are.

What it didnít achieve- 1: Our overarching demands of the
university. Donít worry though, weíre working on this :) and as
someone at the sit-in so aptly articulated, this was just one action and
there is going to be another one, and then another one, and another,
and theyíre going to continue to occur and continue to change until
we see the University address the grievances that the community has
put forth. It seems that how people judge the success of the sit-in is very
much tied to whether they consider this a one-time action or part of a
longer term campaign. As a one time event it did not achieve our
overarching goals, but as part of a continuing campaign we consider it a
HUGE step forward.

2: A more tangible and direct way for people to register their opposition
to CMUís policies. There was a definite trade off for this action
between having the most tangible and direct place for a long-term
occupation/sit-in and making the action as inclusive as possible. Many
groups indicated in their calls to action that they would be taking
autonomous actions if the sit-in was repressed or the march attacked,
the fact it wasnít meant there werenít other things going on.
Maybe in the future groups will plan things to compliment our events
(feeder marches might have been a nice addition to the m20 events,
maybe a tour of local institutions with ties to the war, or affinity group
actions at strategic locations in the city/cmu while the entire police force
is occupied by us).

Random negatives:

Stupid weather!

The closing rally at the William Pitt Union (which we didnít
organize) went too long. It was scheduled to end at 3pm and organizers
needed to make sure that happened. Planning for any type of direct
action is precise and other groups need to make it a priority to stay on
schedule if other groups are waiting for those events to end so they can
begin their actions.

Diversity of speakers message and length of rallies: Again, we did not
organize the rally, nor did we determine who spoke, but it is worth
pointing out for reflection that this is the largest complaint weíve
received from attendees. There is a significant portion of the generally
younger, generally more radical (in tactics and perspective) movement
that does not feel they are being represented at these events.

Tightness of march to CMU and lack of urgency: The four flags were
intended to hold the direct action contingent together-they didnít.
We needed much larger flags and more emphasis on the reasons for
staying together. If the police had tried to stop people from entering the
building for the sit-in there would have been a confrontation and the
lack of cohesion would have worked against us and put people at risk.
We need to work on ways to increase the speed, sense of urgency, and
cohesion of the march.

The program at the sit-in: So much hectic work went into
march/sit-in/legal/etc logistics that there wasnít enough time left
over to work on a tighter program for the sit-in. It worked out pretty well
due to the initiative and awesomeness of the people who were
assembled, but we can do more next time.

The police

As has already been mentioned the police presence was the largest seen
at a local protest since the Vietnam war: There were visibly around 20
mounted police, 50 bike cops, the swat team armored car, 50+ riot
police, sheriffs and county police, ~16 undercover police, police
pretending to be journalists with fake press passes, and large numbers
of uniformed University of Pittsburgh and CMU police. Disgustingly, on
March 19th the police raided a house where Pittsburgh street medics
live under dubious claims they were making bombs for the
convergence. During this raid they interrogated residents about m20.
Despite all of this, the police presence didnít affect the planned
actions at all. Everything planned went exactly according to the original
plan. Since the beginning we said our goal was to do an inclusive
non-violent sit-in and we never planned any other non-violent direct
action, a fact we were extremely explicit about. Future actions will likely
take the streets in which case we will plan accordingly to make sure that
happens. In this case, the police spent tens of thousands of dollars to
stand around for hours in a futile attempt to intimidate people
(unfortunately in the end itís the people who finance their own
repression). The police were also unable to affect other non-pog direct
actions: CMU police have confirmed that on March 19th protesters shut
down the 6th floor of the CMU administration building and there are
also unconfirmed reports that people decorated the army recruiting
station in Oakland with anti-war messages on March 21 or 22nd.

Make no mistake, every indication is that the police were looking for
more opportunities to use violence, to distort the message of the events,
to target organizers and the movement, and it is a testament to the
planning and determination of all those in attendance that this
didnít happen. More direct repression will happen in the future and
we must always be planning and strategizing ways to constrain their
ability to use violence and insure that should they use violence it works
to our advantage. With M20 we gambled that our planning would allow
us to reach CMU and that the police could not risk the media
catastrophe of severe repression on CMUís campus and we were
right. The phalanx of police horses stopped at the line of CMU's
campus. We must continue to organize our actions in a way that no
matter what the police do we are effective in advancing our goals. We
put them into a box on m20 that restricted their actions and we must
continue to do so in the future. Besides the raid on the medic house and
a couple people who got detained and had their idís illegally run by
police there were no other incidents we are aware of.

Media coverage from m20: www.pittsburghmarch20.org
Copied from infoshop.org
* http://www.organizepittsburgh.org/about.html
POG is a Pittsburgh based progressive group concerned with
peace, social justice, and environmental issues locally,
nationally, and internationally. We are consensus based,
non-hierarchical, believe in affinity groups, and support
a diversity of tactics.
*[Ed. Note: POG are anti authoritarian initiative]

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