An Update on the Pittsburgh Organizing Group

By Marie Skoczylas, a member of POG

Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG), a Southwest Pennsylvania anarchist group that is an affiliate of the Northeast Anarchist Network (NEAN), kicked off 2008 with a weekend retreat in the woods to reflect on past work and plan for the year ahead, including the formation of a POG cluster at the September demonstrations to protest the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As this issue of the Nor'Easter goes to print, POG is preparing to host an inter-regional consulta February 16 - 17 in Pittsburgh that will bring together members of NEAN and the Midwest Action Network (MAN) to discuss, strategize, and aid our networks' efforts to shut down the RNC. The RNC Welcoming Committee will be sending representatives to provide logistical information and present the strategic framework. The gathering will also provide a space for networking and relationship-building between collectives and individuals, and an opportunity to learn about each other's work.

After two years of general anti-war organizing, in 2005 POG began an effort to counter military recruitment, which has included hundreds of pickets outside recruiting stations, and direct actions that have shut the stations down. POG has also put on presentations and skill shares outside of Pittsburgh, and a networking conference for counter-recruitment activists in other cities across the country. The counter-recruitment project also included educational outreach at local high schools, and the distribution of tens of thousands of flyers that dispel the myths recruiters like to perpetuate to meet their quotas.

Recently, POG's Counter-Recruitment and Anti-Militarism project has continued to draw attention to local groups and people working towards the development of warfare robotics. In January, the group held a demonstration outside the home of John Bares - director of the National Robotics Engineering Center, a mainly Pentagon-funded branch of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that develops robotic vehicles and weapons delivery systems for the US Army and Marines. NREC recently received a $14 million contract to further develop "Crusher," a new generation of unmanned offensive ground weapons for the army. This further moves CMU toward not just research, but direct design and production of killing machines. Seventeen people attended the demonstration, local law enforcement recorded the protesters from a distance, and the event garnered two very favorable articles in Pittsburgh's corporate media.

The Counter Recruitment Project is co-sponsoring a Valentine's Day picket with CodePink Women for Peace on February 14 at a local recruiting station with the theme, "Don't enlist, stay and kiss; that way, everybody makes out!" Members of the project are also planning to mark the March 19 anniversary of the war with a pitchfork- wielding, torch-lit march to a modern day castle of abominations - the local military recruiting station - which marchers plan to evict. Rumor has it that members may also be bringing a moveable cage in which to confine any recruiters who stand in the way.

This spring marks POG's official transition to an explicitly anarchist group. While the group has always worked within a non-hierarchical, consensus-based, anti-authoritarian framework, opposing interconnected forms of oppression, the decision to reposition as a revolutionary organization working to overcome capitalism and the state marks a new beginning. The decision was a product of extensive dialogue among members.

POG will continue the many projects and campaigns from the past five years including the anti-militarism work, support for the global justice movement and global solidarity, and work on a myriad other local, regional, and global issues, incorporating pickets, rallies, marches, teach-ins, film screenings, and lectures that have always been a mainstay of POG's tactical repertoire. But the group will be working to integrate more explicitly anarchist messaging into many actions and events, and will be producing educational materials, developing an introductory workshop on anarchism, and exploring other ways to spark dialogue and discussion on anarchism.

This exciting transition will take place at the annual radical "informal- formal" dance on March 1 at Chatham University's Rea Coffeehouse. Last year's "Somewhere Over the Barricades" was a huge success, drawing more than 100 people of all ages. This year, POG will continue the tradition - big bowls of punch, cheesy photography, and prizes - with "The Anarchist Ball."

Other upcoming efforts include a Speaker Series spanning March through May. Members of POG are currently solidifying presenters and dates, which will include noted anarchist author, activist, and organizer Cindy Milstein on March 29, Spanish Civil War veteran George Sessanko on April 26, and "Anarchist Panther" Ashanti Alston sometime later this spring. On May 10, North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC) member Wayne Price, author of The Abolition of the State, will lead a lively discussion about revolution and the anarchist vision for a post-revolutionary society.

POG continues to provide skill shares to interested groups through its Tactical Training Initiative. Workshops include Media 101, Strategic Corporate Research, Lockboxes and Lockdown Devices, Self-Defense, Recent History of the Global Justice Movement, Global and Political Economic Frameworks, and Going to a Mass Action 101.

For more information about POG or to get involved, contact the group at pog [AT]