Four Days in NovemberPittsburgh 07 Nov 2004 20:10 GMT
For four days in November, Pittsburgh had a taste of popular revolt. Emphasizing health care, public transit, the dangers of a massacre in Fallujah, and drawing attention to mass-disenfranchisement and the flaws in the electoral system in the United States, activists held back-to-back demonstrations in an unprecedented week of action for peace and justice.
Wednesday, Nov. 3 -- Some angry at Bush, others angry at the System, as many as 250 protesters threw down the gauntlet in Oakland on the day after the (s)election.
Following a brief rally on the steps of the Software Engineering Institute at 6 pm, an energetic crowd snaked through the streets of Oakland in what many described as the rowdiest action since the invasion of Iraq first began. One dozen bucket drums--accompanied by a chorus of cowbells, sticks, shakers and chants--grabbed the attention of students in dorms and eateries, some of whom joined in and helped stop rush-our traffic on Forbes, one of Pittsburgh's busiest arteries. The protest was non-violent, but marchers chalked the streets of Oakland, lit ablaze American flags and newspapers, ceremoniously obliterated a red, white and blue balloon float that had been rescued from a campus election party, and used barricades to defend themselves from police aggression. Two activists were arrested and eventually released on $500 bond and charges of disorderly conduct. Similar "beyond voting" demonstrations took place in cities across the country.
Thursday, Nov. 4 -- Chanting "busses not bombs!", about 90 public transit riders braved the rain and marched across the Smithfield bridge to the Sheraton Station Square, the location for the Port Authority public hearing on the demise of public transit. The hearing concerned a proposal to cut weekend and nighttime service, shut down 70 routes, layoff 500 employees, and raise fares to boot. Once the marchers arrived at the Sheraton, they stormed the building chanting "no more fare hikes, no more service cuts" and occupied the front of the hearing chambers for ten minutes before allowing the proceedings to get underway.
Friday, Nov. 5 -- About 35 people re-visited Centre City Tower for a lively lunchtime health care and justice for janitors solidarity rally. Last year, nine janitors were laid off by Centre City Tower when the company decided to hire non-union workers so as to avoid paying their health care benefits. Demanding that the company restore the janitors jobs, complete with healthcare benefits, pension, and living wages, a dozen protesters entered the building with bucket drums, signs and informational flyers chanting "No justice, no peace," "We're not going away" and "This is just the beginning" while supporters stood outside and cheered. Building security called the police, but the protesters exited the building before the police had a chance to threaten them with arrest. Organizers, who regard the Centre City Towers case as emblematic of the health care crisis in this community, say they will continually escalate the intensity of their campaign against until their demands are met.
Saturday, Nov 6 -- Oakland was once again the setting for resistance as activist gatherings and protests went on throughout the day. The day began with a four-hour "Post-Election Town Meeting on Building a Progressive Movement," in which 250 individuals packed the William Pitt Union to participate in a post-election analysis and discussion on strategies and tactics for building the movement. Following the town meeting, members of Code Pink (each wearing pink) lined the Soldiers and Sailors wall with letter-placards that spelled out "women say no to war." They were soon joined by members of Women in Black (each wearing black), who unfurled a banner listing the names of victims of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and who performed a informative and entertaining puppet show.
At around 3:30, activists gathered at the William Pitt Union patio for a brief anti-war rally featuring performances by the Raging Grannies and Radical Cheerleaders. Following the rally, a lively bucket drumming brigrade and about 200 protesters filed past eateries on South Craig as a march sloped around the Pitt Campus, sticking to the sidewalks. Some of the marchers stopped back at Soldiers and Sailors for a peace circle, while others continued to snake throughout Oakland in the hopes of recapturing some of Wednesday's energy, stopping at two military recruiting stations. A heavy police presence including K-9 units may have stifled further actions, but activists vow to keep up the momentum, particularly as the U.S. is poised to massacre innocents in Fallujah.