Update: Also see “Why I will risk arrest on March 2” for one activist’s defense of the planned direct action. An excerpt:
I’m hyped to be trying something new. Utilizing the same tactics or strategies is likely to lead to diminishing returns on their effectiveness. I’ve always felt lucky to live in Pittsburgh at this time in history because there continues to be a genuine interest among disparate views in taking the risks necessary to try new tactics. It’s true we may fail spectacularly at actualizing a barricade and I’ll still consider this action a positive step in the growth of our movements. It’s only through trying new and bold things that we’ll find an occasional promising new model or method, that will make the kind of history I want to be a part of.
Friday, March 2, will be a day of civil disobedience and direct action against the war machine in Pittsburgh. The main action will be an attempt to barricade the National Robotics Engineering Center, a branch of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that develops robotic vehicles and weapons delivery systems for the U.S. Army and Marines.
7:00am: Gather in Friendship Park (Friendship Ave and Mathilda St in Bloomfield)
7:30am: March to barricade NREC facility (40th and Willow St in Lawrenceville)
Calls are also going out for autonomous actions at military recruitment stations, the offices of politicians supporting the war, and local war profiteers like Bechtel.
Why CMU and NREC?
CMU is one of the largest academic military contractors in the country. Many of the software guidance systems, general communications networking systems, and some of the robotics technology used in Iraq were developed at CMU. And through the efforts of its National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) — which receives most of its funding from the Pentagon — it has become the world leader in warfare robotics. Among other monstrosities, it is building is the “Gladiator” Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle, a remote controlled robo-tank designed for urban warfare.
The military research done by CMU and NREC is a glaring example of the increasing militarization of academia; students and faculty are knowing, and often unknowing, cogs in an expanding and terrifying war machine. Instead of allowing CMU and NREC to glorify war at the expense of more humanitarian ends, let us start calling and treating them for what they are: war profiteers and merchants of death.
Why a blockade and why March 2nd?
We are excited that local protests are being organized for the 4th anniversary of the Iraq war and yet we can’t escape the feeling that, at this time in history, something more is needed. Alongside large marches, there is a need for actions that are direct and compelling: actions that speak to public refusal of the war, that are demands — not requests, that directly confront militarism itself rather than one particular manifestation of it.
On March 2, let’s bring anti-war resistance to the center of the public’s attention and shut down a local player in the war machine. Attempting to shut down NREC will be a non-violent direct action against the Iraq war as well as a symbolic statement on the increasing degree to which people are prepared to resist endless U.S. wars for empire.
For more information about the Shutdown NEC action see this page.
Pittsburgh has been a hotbed of counter-recruitment activity over the last several years. In 2005 the Pittsburg Organizing Group organized a regional counter-recruitment conference. On Wednesday of this week the POG again protested outside a local recruiting center. In an announcement of the action the POG “clarified” where they stand on recruiters, what kinds of tactics they will continue to use, and what their goals are. This seems to me the best of direct, forceful resistance to military recruitment:
Recently, a prominent military recruiter in Pittsburgh stated that POG has “crossed the line” and “one too far” in opposing military recruitment in the city. He stated that over the last two years recruiters have been pied, the door to the station blocked, broken and decorated on multiple occasions, and the station’s signs have been thrown in the trash. For the sake of honesty, we must admit that POG has not organized any of those particular actions, but who are we to turn down a compliment?
Since he brought it up, we felt we should address the issue of “lines” for the edification of the local recruitment apparatus. Recruiters will have stopped “crossing the line” when they find a new “job”, accept some responsibility for the pain, grief, suffering, and death they have made possible, and begin working for peace and justice for the people of the United States and Iraq. We do not respect military recruiters. We do not appreciate their work. All that is necessary for recruiters to get out of recruiting is to miss their quotas. We have no sympathy for their situation; they receive safety and extra privileges in a volunteer army through participating in the key system that ensures our government can continue to negatively project its power at the expense of the people of the world. We believe they should be confronted and the community should make them answer for the human and material loss our city has suffered. We always hold out the hope that they can change and we continue to believe dialogue is a positive thing. The second they suspend their harmful actions, we are prepared to sit down and dialogue.
Read the rest of their statement here. The similarities between the POG’s tactics, and the resulting pleas from military recruiters, to the anarchist-led counter-recruitment efforts in Kansas are striking. The POG also say their actions, including when they shut down a recruitment center in January, have been met with increasing police harassment.