Anger over police use of weapons against protesters on Aug. 20 continues to draw new faces to pickets in front of the military recruitment center on Forbes Avenue in Oakland.
On Sept. 10, Allison Campbell, 18, of Oakdale was among 40 people standing with anti-recruitment signs for the seventh picket conducted by the Pittsburgh Organizing Group. A Pitt student, Campbell had never attended a counter-recruitment protest before.
"I was at an interview for a job a few weeks ago," she says, "and I saw the protest here and I saw how violent it was, from the police. I couldn't believe my eyes." City police used pepper spray, a taser and a police dog in the course of dispersing the crowd and arresting six protesters on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to riot. The protest itself was nonviolent. "So I thought I'd come and support what they are doing peacefully," Campbell says.
"My friend didn't even know this recruitment center was here," she adds, turning to a fellow Pitt student holding a sign beside her. Campbell's friend refuses to give her name. "She's not really against the war," says Campbell. "She's a kind of hard target to convince. This is a big deal, that I got my friend here."
"I'm trying it out," says the friend.
"And that's the point," says Campbell.
Organizer Alex Bradley agrees. "I think a lot of this is going to bear fruit down the road," he says. "A lot of people here are 15 and 16 years old. The amount of organizing experience they're getting at that age! At 16, I was mostly playing video games and thinking about girls. I guess they're doing that too ..."
Most of the 40 protesters -- down from the 100 who attended the group's last picket Aug. 27 -- were indeed college age or younger. Victoria Snelsire of Carnegie, a Carlynton High School sophomore, and her former classmate Krista Larvig of Bloomfield, a Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School sophomore, were back after having witnessed the Aug. 20 fracas as protest participants. Snelsire plans to distribute anti-recruitment fliers in her school -- one of the counter-recruitment movement's goals. She's upset by the presence of military recruiters at Carlynton lunch tables once every month or two, passing out Army souvenirs along with the message Snelsire summarizes as, "'It's a good way to pay for college, meet new people, go places in the world.'"
"And kill people," Larvig adds.
"You can't even go to the mall without recruiters coming up to you," Snelsire says.
"At Wal-Mart!" Larvig marvels.
The protest even drew Swedish citizen Max Von Bodungen for the first time. "I was just eating a burrito at Qdoba," he says -- one of the restaurants next door to the military recruitment center -- when he felt compelled to pick up a sign and join the group. "It's hard as a foreigner to come here and criticize America," says the 26-year-old employee of a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine lab. While "Sweden has its faults," he says, the war in Iraq "seems to be one of America's."
The recruitment center was open when the first picketers arrived but was locked at the start of the protest. Police presence was light: Six city police officers stayed on surrounding corners and blocked off one lane of Forbes to keep traffic from passing directly in front of the picket line.
Those arrested on Aug. 20 face their first hearing on Sept. 27.
"I'm really not worried about it," says De'anna Caligiuri, the only one of six Aug. 20 arrestees to attend the two pickets since then. "I think everything is going to turn out in our favor."