POG Remembers Spain, Cages Recruiters, Fights Racism, and More...

By Marie

In July 1936, the Spanish army attempted to overthrow the country’s popularly elected left wing government. In response, the Spanish people rose up to fight fascism. A long-awaited anarchist social revolution was unleashed with the creation of non-hierarchical militias fighting at the front, the collectivization of land by rural peasants, and the establishment of worker self management of industrial Spain. That same month, 16-year-old George Sossenko headed for Spain; he left his parents a note stating that he was leaving his loved ones in Paris behind to join the struggle and that history was being decided in the fight for Spain.

In April 2008, George Sossenko came to Pittsburgh to share stories about the fight for Spain, his life, and the enduring appeal of the anarchist ideal. As part of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group's (POG) Anarchist Speaker Series, Sossenko reminisced about his experiences fighting with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the Durruti Column, and – after the fall of Spain – his continued struggle against the Nazis in north Africa, Italy, and his native France alongside units of the “Free French” resistance. The event was held at the Teamsters Temple and included a potluck, a screening of Land and Freedom and clips from Into the Fire – a documentary about American women in the Spanish Civil War. Listen to Sossenko’s speech on POG’s Web site.

Also part of the Speakers Series, noted author, activist, and organizer Cindy Milstein gave an inspiring introduction to anarchism and its aspiration on March 29th to a standing-room-only crowd at the Thomas Merton Center – Pittsburgh’s hub of peace and justice. As this issue of The Nor’Easter goes to print, POG is preparing for the next two speakers in the series: “Anarchist Panther” Ashanti Alston on anarchism, Black Liberation, the Black Panthers, and the revolutionary struggle for freedom on May 17th and “The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives,” a discussion with author Wayne Price on May 24th.

On March 19th, POG and supporters gathered to mark the anniversary of the war in Iraq and remember the tragic toll the world continues to pay. Sixty five protesters gathered on a cold and rainy evening to stand in solidarity and resistance with protesters in hundreds of cities around the world marching, protesting, speaking out, disrupting, and taking direct action. But while the anniversary of the war is – much like symbolic casualty milestones – not significant in and of itself, and each day and each death is equally lamentable, it has meaning for those who have suffered and for those who remember. Faced with the reality of limited resources to devote to publicity and a desire to avoid the long time and resource commitment large scale arrests/direct action would entail, POG members decided to try something new: enlisting the right wing to help us.

The plan was simple: put out a call saying POG was going to evict the recruiting station and bring a moveable cage to confine military recruiters until they no longer posed a danger to our community, all the while we would march to a different war-related institution, either the local ROTC office or Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The goal: get the right wing to do publicity for us, allow us to focus the cops and expectant counter-protesters on somewhere we wouldn’t be, all the while publicizing a message not typically heard or discussed—that military recruitment and recruiters themselves are a threat to our communities, a blight on our neighborhoods, and they deserve to be confronted with direct action capable of addressing the fact they are key to the continuation of this war.

And help us the right wing did. From the far right blogosphere, news of our protest migrated to national Fox news, a press conference in Washington, DC, and local talk radio. The Department of Defense gave us a shout-out in a leaked bulletin warning local recruiters of the diabolical antiwar crowd and all the resulting buzz sent traffic to our Web site skyrocketing. This guaranteed advance media coverage and created a huge spectacle. The multitude of creepy death threats, violent homophobic language and imagery, and promises to meet us there and beat us to death with their own hands helped highlight the true agenda of war supporters who claim to care about the “freedom” of others. Highlights of the action included: locking a 12 x 5 foot metal cage to the front of CMU’s administration building; entering the military-funded halls at the university; failing to be deterred by an overwhelming police presence from multiple departments; leaving right-wing war supporters angry and confused, in the rain, in front of an empty, closed military recruiting station; and enjoying extensive press coverage while suffering no arrests. Read the full report on our Web site.

On April 2nd, POG held a demonstration outside a local bar, the Garage Door Saloon, to bring further attention to the presence of a racist bar in Pittsburgh. This spring, the bar began running a drink special for Coronas and tacos called “Wetback Wednesdays.” When it started making headlines in early March, it spawned a lot of controversy. Most either insisted that it was offensive and should be taken down or that it was a harmless joke. POG members strongly disagree that using a racial slur in a joke is harmless, and also don’t think that it’s enough to claim that the drink special itself is the whole of the problem. The problem is deeper than a sign; the problem is that a white supremacist who owns and operates two bars in our city is trying to spread his hateful ideas through his business. About 50 protesters demonstrated outside the Saloon. Some attendees handed out fliers about the bar and even convinced five people not to go in.

Finally, on May Day eve, POG held a solidarity dinner for workers on the picket line of Calgon Chemical who had been locked out since late February. Rather than let work continue under an extension of the previous contract, management locked out 63 members of United Steelworkers Local 5032, barring them from the plant. Workers are struggling to maintain affordable family healthcare coverage and pensions in the face of continual management efforts to cut benefits and crush the union. On April 30th, a dozen POGgers showed some solidarity and support of labor by bringing the workers dinner and standing with them on another cold night of the camp-out. For more on POG, visit www.OrganizePittsburgh.org or e-mail pog |AT| mutualaid dot org.

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