Pittsburgh Organizing Group is about to increase its pressure on local military recruiters.
POG, co-sponsor of recent anti-war demonstrations, has for months been picketing local recruitment offices and handing counter-recruitment literature to local high school students (see City Paper main feature, "Beyond the Call of Duty," June 29). Now POG plans a Sat., Aug. 6, rally in Oakland that will end at the door of the military recruiting office on Forbes Avenue.
"We're hoping they'll just shut down that day," says Jeremy Shenk, one of several POG members helping to organize the protest.
"It's the public opportunity for young people who are actually targeted by recruiting to speak out," says Marie Skoczylas. Both work for the Thomas Merton Center, the Garfield social-justice organization whose Anti-War Committee is among the event's sponsors.
POG contends that military recruiters' promises of college money and career help are not fulfilled often enough, and in any case do not balance the risks required of recruits headed for the war in Iraq. Countering recruitment, they say, is one of the few ways to have a concrete effect on the Bush administration's war efforts.
The march, starting from Forbes and Bouquet streets, will feature the usual progressive pageantry (the Raging Grannies, Radical Cheerleaders and a new addition, the Steel Gum Bandits on trumpets, drums and found instruments). It will also include speeches by students such as 17-year-old Whitnee Stack of Wexford, who will be a North Allegheny High School senior this fall. Recruiters man a table in the North Allegheny cafeteria about three times a month, says Stack. But they also have a table with military literature in the school's library.
"The parents and the school board threw a fit when Channel One was playing in our school," says Stack, referring to the in-school television station offered in many districts, "because it forced kids to see Pepsi commercials. Having recruiters in our school is the same thing ... but Pepsi doesn't kill you. If you buy everything [recruiters] are selling you, you'll end up in Iraq."
Stack, president of the school's Progressive Club next year, says she's gotten permission from school administrators to set up a table in the library promoting other ways for kids to serve their country or the world after high school, such as joining the Peace Corps or assisting Doctors Without Borders.
"There's just so much more of a future for kids," she concludes. "I really doubt the school board would allow recruiting in schools by companies that had working conditions so hazardous that 1,700 employees would die on the job in two years."
Counter-Recruitment Rally: 11:30 a.m. Sat., Aug. 6, 11:30 a.m., Forbes and Bouquet, Oakland; 412-901-7038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.