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The Heat Goes On

Local activists salute end of political season with protests

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"The silver lining" to George W. Bush's electoral victory, says David Meieran of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, "is that the anti-war movement will be easier to reinvigorate" to 2003 levels.

 

Not that POG, Garfield's Thomas Merton Center and other left-activist groups waited for the outcome of the presidential election to plan a protest. Pittsburgh was one of dozens of cities that held mock corporate victory parties on Nov. 1 and a "beyond voting" march on Nov. 3, which Meieran calls "the rowdiest since the war in Iraq began," drawing the participation of passersby as it wound through Oakland.

 

"A lot of the anti-war movement went to sleep, went into getting out the vote and to [electing] Kerry" during 2004, he says. "It masked a wide range of similarities between Bush and Kerry. It left Kerry off the hook.

 

"No one is happy that Bush was elected," he continues. "I am horrified that over 58 million people want to support violence and injustice but somehow they have made a moral choice." But, he adds, "every bit as much as Bush is a monster, the problem we face is not just Bush, it's the system."

 

One post-election protest target, on Nov. 5, was the management and owners of Centre City Tower, who switched from a unionized to a non-unionized cleaning contractor at the end of 2003, effectively firing nine building janitors who had just secured affordable health benefits and increased pay. (The building also houses the offices of City Paper.)

 

"We're back," shouted Merton Center head Tim Vining through a bullhorn outside the building. The firing of the janitors, he said, was "actionable, it's immoral, it's unbelievable. ... Centre City Tower, you are the target. You are the symbol of everything we are not going to let this city become."

 

Ten protesters drummed on plastic buckets and on the glass wall of Sky Bank inside the building's lobby for 10 minutes, handing out literature to sometimes interested, sometimes reluctant building workers until security guards convinced them to leave.

 

"Our next step is [to target] any corporation [or] organization that has benefited from the injustice upon these janitors," Vining said.


"We're prepared to get arrested," said POG member Alex Bradley. "The tenants are not our enemies, but you have to take a damn side ..."

 

In what might be counted as the first protest arrest of the 2008 presidential campaign, Bradley was charged with disorderly conduct by a University of Pittsburgh police officer in front of the 'O' in Oakland on Nov. 3 -- charges he says are unjustified -- as he witnessed another arrest. Marching now, he says, makes even more sense than before the election: "Now ... people see there was no electoral solution. Now the only chance is popular movements."

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