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Counter-Recruitment Rally Encounters No Foes

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About 150 people marching against military recruitment on Aug. 6 in Oakland discovered their main protest target -- the Armed Forces Career Center on Forbes Avenue -- closed during normal business hours.

 

 "If you can shut it down for one day, you can succeed," said Alex Bradley of Pittsburgh Organizing Group, leading the rally that included members of the Garfield-based social-justice organization, the Thomas Merton Center, and other groups.

 

Recruiters at the Forbes Avenue office did not return calls by press time.

 

In past months, POG has undertaken smaller, direct-action campaigns to obstruct military recruitment, both at recruitment centers and on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, as a protest against recruiters' means and as a way to hamper the Iraq War effort (see City Paper main feature, "Beyond the Call of Duty," June 29).

 

The Aug. 6 rally was their first large-scale, publicly promoted demonstration. It drew participants such as Brian Wolovich, who teaches math, English and social studies at Quaker Valley Middle School. In addition to homework, he's also been sending his students home with information about how their parents can withhold their contact information from high school recruiters.

 

Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, military recruiters must be granted the same access to kids that colleges and universities have. Wolovich calls the law's opt-out clause the "one little bright spot in this piece-of-crap legislation."

 

POG's Bradley used the Aug. 6 rally, which had a city permit, as the occasion to announce an un-permitted (though nonviolent) march on Saturday, Aug. 20. It was a "call for the public attempt to shut down the recruiting station in Oakland ... as long as possible," he said in an earlier interview. "We're calling for and supporting a diversity of tactics," including "confrontational" ones. "If we in the community believe everything that we say about recruitment, then what else can we do except try to confront it and remove it from our community?"

 

Jeremy Shenk, Merton Center office manager, says the Aug. 20 rally is already drawing participants from outside Pittsburgh. Activists plan to gather at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Oakland Carnegie Library's dinosaur sculpture, then proceed down Forbes Avenue to the recruiting station.

 

Bradley acknowledged "the possibility of repression" by law enforcement at such an un-permitted rally but added: "This is a center that exists for the sole purpose of recruiting people to kill other people, and when you compare that to small issues of engaging in direct action -- civil disobedience -- it really pales."

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