POG Stayed Warm This Winter

By Marie Skoczylas

It may have been bitterly cold outside, but Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) members have been busy stoking the fires of justice this winter. Here are some exciting action briefs:

Standing with Oil Workers: On Jan. 15, POG held a "Stand with Oil Workers" solidarity picket at a local Exxon Station. The contract covering oil workers nationally was set to expire in February. We wanted to send a message that they should get a new contract and that we are in solidarity with their demands that it provide safer working conditions.

Eating Disorders and Radical Communities: On Jan. 23, members of POG put on a workshop as part of an internal anti-oppression initiative to educate each other about eating disorders within radical communities.

Anarchist Ball 2009: We set the night on fire with a blazingly successful annual Anarchist Ball on Feb. 20. This major POG fundraiser brought out more than 100 people and brought in about $1,000. The evening included a raffle featuring items such as prints, 'zines and media projects by local artists, gift certificates and anarchist books, to name a few. Local DJs kept the crowd dancing throughout the night after the Pittsburgh Radical Marching Band kicked off the festivities. Attendees feasted on lentils and rice, vegan chili, cupcakes, cookies and gluten-free snacks. There were fire pits, giant string-light circle-A's and a general atmosphere of anarchist pride.

Back in Court for the RNC: During the last week in February, five members of our group traveled back to Minnesota for our arraignments from the arrests at the Republican National Convention in September 2008. After several months of waiting, the Ramsey County Courts finally summoned us to be arraigned for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. After some hurried travel arrangements and legal negotiations, we eventually took a deal offered by the county prosecutor: We each paid a fine plus court costs, and the state immediately dropped one of the original charges and agreed to drop the other charge after a year (if we are not arrested in Minnesota again during that year). This was probably the best we could have hoped for. Unlike the majority of people arrested at the RNC who had been penned in and taken to holding cells, we had planned -- months in advance -- to blockade an intersection; we had widely publicized our intent, followed through with it and our action was well-documented by onlookers as well as the authorities. Additionally, our one and only trip back to the Twin Cities cost us a substantial sum in travel costs and lost work hours -- not really an affordable trek for most of us to keep making. We are relieved that our cases are closed, and we continue to get the word out about the events surrounding the RNC and the cases of others that are still pending. To raise awareness, in May, we're hosting a screening of "Terrorizing Dissent: the Election Cut," a documentary by the Glass Bead Collective, Twin Cities Indymedia and others.

Anarchists Against the Wall: On Feb. 28, we co-hosted the Pittsburgh stop on the AATW speaking tour, along with Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine and other local groups. AATW is a direct action group that fights against Israeli apartheid and oppression in all its forms. Members, working in cooperation with Palestinians, have participated in hundreds of demonstrations and direct actions against the wall and the occupation.

Police Brutality Protest: On March 6, some members of our group -- alongside folks from other local collectives -- participated in an autonomously organized demonstration at Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper's house to call attention to the violence and abuses that the system allows the police to get away with on an everyday basis. Fourteen blocked-up demonstrators carried black flags and distributed flyers that detailed some of the reasons that we have to be upset with the police, including beatings, harassment, eviction enforcement and murder -- all under the guise of "protection." The response from bystanders was overwhelmingly positive; many of them cheered and shouted encouragement. The cops reacted dramatically; a few minutes after the demo started, eight police cars pulled up, sirens wailing. Nevertheless, we held our ground for about 15 minutes, holding up flags and signs and chanting, "No justice, no peace! No racist police!" and "Stop killer cops!" Police cars followed us home the entire three miles, filming and harassing us with provocative comments.

Anti-War Anniversary Film Screening: On March 20, the anniversary of the war, we gathered members of the larger anti-war community together to screen two appropriate films: Shutdown, which tells the story of how social justice organizers and everyday people came together to plan and shut down San Francisco's financial district in March of 2003, and 500 Miles To Babylon, which presents a narrative of Iraqi daily life, disintegration, and the humor that ordinary people adapt when living in a war zone. The room was packed and, despite some technical difficulties that prevented us from screening the entirety of the second film, the event spurred informal discussion among the different groups and people in attendance.

Financial Fools Action: On April 1, Financial Fools Day, about 50 Pittsburghers turned out for a rally and march expressing solidarity with those demonstrating in London. The message was that any economic system that puts profits before people and our environment is foolish and must be resisted. The spirited march through downtown set off behind a banner that read, "Globalize Liberation - (A)." There were stops at PNC Bank, the Federal Building, Payday Lenders, Mellon Bank and our local city and county government buildings.

As this issue of the Nor'easter goes to print, POG is planning to mobilize for the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C. We are also preparing for a weekend-long training by two incredible organizers from the Signals Collective in New York City. Autumn Brown and Sam Conway will be coming to Pittsburgh April 17-19 to share their mad skills on building consensus, facilitation and public speaking.

And, of course, we continued to work hard on putting out Issue #3 of the Steel City Revolt!, our quarterly anarchist publication.

If you live in Western Pennsylvania and are interested in getting involved in our myriad activities, send us an e-mail (pog [at] mutualaid dot org). We have periodic orientations for new members. We could always use more help!

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