- Photo by Charlie Deitch
While a Saks Fifth Avenue customer clad in pink paisley grimaced at the presence of a half-dozen war protesters, several others applauded the women's peace and social-justice group, Codepink Pittsburgh Women for Peace.
"Great job, ladies," shouted one shopper as she made her way past the glittering Macy's storefronts into a bustling crowd.
Codepink was one of a handful of groups gathered under the historic Macy's clock during the afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving -- a day nicknamed "Black Friday" because it is one of biggest sales days of the year. The women gathered in freezing temperatures to hand out hot-pink dollar bills, an effort to remind shoppers that perhaps holiday-season purchases should not be their top financial concern.
"My message specifically today is to rebuild the crumbl[ing] infrastructure," explained Codepink member Carol Wiedmann. "There is a great detachment with the public from the war. Protesting shows people who are willing to stand up for what they believe."
Standing for just over an hour, clad in varied shades of pink, Wiedmann and her fellow Codepink members dispensed "Bush Bucks" to passers-by. The hot-pink faux dollar bills featured President George W. Bush's chagrined face emblazoned alongside the cost of the war to date: $448 billion.
"On this particular day, it's important to remind people that this worship of consuming is feeding into a culture of spending," said Edith Wilson, another Codepink member. "As I watch these people walk by, I wonder, 'What are they thinking about for the future?'
"Consumerism is a disregard for human rights. It is our culture to buy products and then throw them away," continued Wilson, who wore silver peace-sign earrings and a bubblegum pink parka with "Troops out now!" scrawled on it.
Another protest group, Pittsburgh Raging Grannies, was nearby, singing "We Wish You Would Wake Up" to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Some Downtown pedestrians welcomed the event. Fifteen-year-old Robert Ward passed by with his mother, and seemed impressed by the protest and the response it got. One man, he said, patted a protester on the back and complimented the group's efforts.
"He even raised his fist in the air before he walked away," says Ward.
Others, however, seemed less appreciative.
"It's annoying," said Meredith Owen, who was bound for Saks Fifth Avenue. "They're blocking everyone, no one comes Downtown anyway so when they finally do come Downtown and see this, they're not going to come down any more."
But one way or the other, Weidmann said, "Codepink is a group who is truly holding Congress accountable."