- "A glaring example of the increasing militarization of academia," says a local anti-war group: a publicity still of the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle, developed at Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, in Lawrenceville.
Calling Carnegie Mellon University "the world leader in warfare robotics," Alex Bradley and other anti-war organizers from the Pittsburgh Organizing Group are planning a March 2 "complete blockade" of CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center.
POG, which has been responsible for the most persistent local protests against the Iraq War over the past four years, announced Jan. 13 that its members and associates from outside the city will march on the morning of March 2 to block entrances and roads around the Lawrenceville facility. There, they may use everything from locked arms to actually locking themselves to the structure. (Participants are still settling on spcific tactics, Bradley says.)
CMU's Department of Defense-sponsored software development has long been the target of protests. But Bradley says the NREC, the site where prototypes of such large, armed robots as the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle are designed and made, is also a worthy target.
"Before, you might protest at the place making the bullets," Bradley adds. Now, "you've also got to do something about the huge drone that's going to fire the 500-pound missile from 100 miles away. It's the modern equivalent of the bullet factory."
Patrick Young, another POG organizer, notes that the March 2 event will mark yet another anniversary of the Iraq War, which began March 19, 2003. "We've done symbolic actions, pickets, written letters, signed petitions," Young says. "We need to create an opportunity to put us materially in front of the war machine."
No one at the robotics center returned a phone inquiry by press time. But earlier this month, a CMU spokesperson earlier this month said that the institution does not comment on protests.
Both organizers say the group is ready for a police response: Bradley says he expects group members could be jailed. On Aug. 20, a march that blocked Oakland's military recruiting station on Forbes Avenue ended with six protestors arrested after being pepper-sprayed, stun-gunned and bitten by a police dog. On Jan. 8, a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas remanded the case of the dog-bite victim, Carole Wiedmann, back to the city magistrate. Wiedmann is appealing her citation for disorderly conduct. Tapes of the protest show her trying to leave as the dog attempts to bite her on the back of the thigh.
POG is holding trainings Feb. 2-4 for the upcoming civil disobedience, which Young notes is one of POG's more traditional moves. The group has been targeting military-recruitment efforts for much of the past two years. POG is also holding its first "informal formal" to raise money for its efforts.
"March 2 is not going to end the war," Bradley allows, but it's an attempt to instill "a deep-rooted local opposition to the war and militarism that ... raises the pressures in society that are necessary for a change in policy. Not everyone in Pittsburgh will think that what we are doing is the most effective thing. But most everyone will recognize we are taking a stand and paying a price. If they are also against the war, whether they write letters or give money, they have a responsibility to do more."
Details at www.organizepittsburgh.org/m2.