5,000 protest war in Pittsburgh on Super Bowl Sunday

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jan 27 22:37:40 MST 2003


Day of Action: 5,000 Protest in Pittsburgh
Streets Against War in Iraq

Published on Monday, January 27, 2003 by the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette


Five thousand people marched slushy streets under a
steady snowfall yesterday in the culmination of a
weekend of anti-war events in Pittsburgh.

 [Photo]An estimated 5,000 protestors march through
Oakland to protest the possibility of a potential
U.S.-Iraq conflict. The demonstrators rallied outside
the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering
Institute because some research there is funded the
U.S. Dept. of Defense. (John Beale/Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette)

On Super Bowl Sunday, it was a peaceful
but unquiet afternoon with blaring loud-speakers and
thousands chanting slogans. They spoke through the
signs they carried as well: "Regime change begins at
home," "Who would Jesus bomb?" and one everyone on
wind-chilled Fifth Avenue could relate too: "Freezin'
for a Reason."

The Oakland march and rally in a 6-degree windchill was
the second one in the weekend Regional Convergence
Against the War co-sponsored by the Thomas Merton
Center, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group and many other
organizations. There were no arrests during the march,
the largest peace rally in Pittsburgh since the Vietnam
War era.

It ended with a die-in, in which people lay down in the
street to represent the war dead. The mass of bodies
were piled not atop each other, but massed close
together to resemble the effect of a bomb blast. The
huddled mass on and beneath the snow made an eerie
spectacle.

Disparate groups -- children, teens, senior citizens,
long-time lefties, newcomers, anarchists, nuns, and
veterans -- took part in the event. Their stories
follow.

Claire Schoyer is so strongly against a war with Iraq
that she was willing to die for it.

At least, to mock die.

Still, several onlookers admired her fortitude as she
lay down in the deepening snow in the middle of Fifth
Avenue in Oakland -- especially with temperatures in
the low-20s.

This was during a "die-in" meant to depict war
casualties held at the end of yesterday's leftist March
Against the War -- from Bigelow Boulevard left on
Fifth, left on Meyran, left on Forbes, left on Craig
and left on Fifth again.

[Photo] Snow pelts peace marchers Lee Decker, left, and
Joan Beard, both of Morgantown, during the Regional
Convergence Against the War yesterday in Oakland.
(Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) As the march
started, the 17-year-old Schoyer found herself in the
very front, and felt comfortable there, and not just
because her mother had brought replacements for the
boots she'd soaked during a morning of making signs.

The Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing
Arts senior co-leads the Pittsburgh Association of
Peacemakers and Proactive Youth, called PAPPY, a group
for area high school students that she co-founded in
the fall. As she put it: "Our mission is to get kids to
have a mission."

She hasn't lacked causes to care about since she was a
child and helped stuff fliers for the late Peace
Institute, where her mom, Linda, worked. One she's very
active in now is the Sierra Club. But lately, her main
mission has been to help prevent a war with Iraq -- a
mission that took her with other PAPPY members to march
in Washington, D.C.

"People think teenagers are apathetic but we're not,"
she said as she struggled with a 10-foot sign that used
an eye, a heart and a dove to spell out "I Love Peace."

Helping her was her 12-year-old sister, Lucy, who
wasn't the only family member marching. Linda Schoyer,
who came with her husband, David, said, "I think
[Claire's] probably bringing us back to our old
passions."

Claire Schoyer can be very articulate about all the
reasons she disagrees with how the United States is
dealing with Iraq, and knows there are as many agendas
as there were different groups in the march. But she
hoped that, besides being part of the overall peace,
she and her peers could show other teenagers how easy
it is to get involved -- in various ways.

True to form, she was among the last to get up from the
die-in, only after organizers cheered them and warned
of hypothermia. She emerged from beneath a pile of
friends with frozen hair, red cheeks and a smile.

She said she could not get arrested -- her school
finals start today.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

[Photo] Margaret Wolak, 79, of Oakland listens to
anti-war speakers outside the Carnegie Mellon
University Software Engineering Institute in Oakland
yesterday. She said it was her first peace march. She
was among an estimated 5,000 protestors who marched
through Oakland from the University of Pittsburgh to
Carnegie Mellon University to protest the possibility
of a potential U.S.-Iraq conflict. (John
Beale/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

For all the
demonstration's youth, loudly chanting their refusal to
serve the "Empty Warheads," as one creative sign-maker
dubbed the president and vice president, the march also
turned out more than its share of graybeards who
started fighting wars at home more than 30 years ago.

For Tom Rodd, 57, an attorney in Morgantown, W.Va., the
threatened war with Iraq is deja Vietnam.

"I know what Vietnam did to my generation, but some
have forgotten how hard war is on a country," said
Rodd, who is Claire Schoyer's uncle and spent two years
in federal prison for refusing to register for the
draft and protesting in Pittsburgh against that war.
"It ruined American politics and a lot of families. We
should have learned our lesson then that crazy
unilateral wars are bad for our nation."

Mike Kielman, 50, Vicki Guy, 58, Mike Mihok, 53, and
Mel Packer, 57, emergency room doctors and physicians
assistants at UPMC Shadyside, retraced old 1960s and
'70s anti-war activist footsteps while stepping out for
a new generation -- their children.

"The biggest thing for me now is my 12-year-old son,
Dylan, who's asked me if he will have to fight in this
war," said Kielman, who fought the Army's denial of his
application for conscientious objector classification
during the Vietnam War. "I can't answer him, but I know
I don't want him dying for a gallon of gas."

"The youth of this country have been asleep, but this
threat of war has awakened them and it feels great,"
said Mihok, who marched in Washington during the 1972
Nixon inauguration. "My son is draft age and I can
assure you he will not fight in this war."

Molly Rush, 67, of Dormont, a longtime activist with
the Thomas Merton Center in Garfield, said yesterday's
demonstration showed off the skills of the youthful
organizers.

"There are a lot of new people here, not just your
usual suspects," said Rush, one of the Plowshares 8 who
hammered on nuclear warheads during a protest at a
General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Montgomery
County, in September 1980. "The young are more
sophisticated. They read the international press. They
have access to the Internet for organizing help. They
understand the global view of our nation's
imperialistic policy."

Marty O'Malley, 61, of Forest Hills, took a different
path to the steps of the Software Engineering Institute
in Oakland where he was the first speaker yesterday. It
started in Danang harbor where he worked for a year
until December 1966 as a Navy lieutenant "keeping the
harbor clear for ships carrying bombs and body bags."

"Our current administration is impatient with the
progress of inspections, but that is not a reason to go
to war," O'Malley said, as wind-whipped snow obscured
the military campaign ribbons on his jacket. "I ask you
to work for peace and negotiations and sanctions and
commitment to the political process to bring this
threat of war to an end."

-- Don Hopey

[Photo] Dozens of people block Fifth Avenue at Craig with a "Die-In," a
human
representation of the potential casualties in a U.S.-Iraq war. The Regional
Convergence Against the War drew several thousand people to Oakland in sub-
freezing weather to protest against a possible U.S.-Iraq conflict -- the
largest anti-war crowd in Pittsburgh since the Vietnam War. (Steve
Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

America likes to act as
the world's policeman. In the eyes of some, it's one
corrupt cop.

"We should stop supporting all the people who violate
civil rights, whether they're Arab or Israeli," said
Dr. Nadeem Iqbal, a Marshall resident and president of
the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Muslim Council.

Members of Muslim and Arab groups yesterday criticized
the United States for a foreign policy double-standard.

While vilifying Saddam Hussein, they said, U.S. leaders
support an Israel that mistreats Palestinians and hold
hands with dictators around the globe when doing so
serves the national interest.

"Saddam used to be our friend," said Dr. Mazin
Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian-American geneticist at Yale
University in New Haven, Conn., referring to a period
in the 1980s when the United States was at odds with
Iran.

"Why war?" said Ahmed Abdelwahab, a Forest Hills
resident and vice president of the American Muslim
Council's Pittsburgh chapter.

"America has a lot of homework to do," he said. "It has
first to build a reputation as a soldier of human
rights and peace."

He said that U.S. policy gaffes have contributed to the
instability and repression in the region and eroded the
nation's credibility worldwide. For example, U.S.
economic sanctions against Iraq have devastated the
Iraqi people, not Saddam, he said.

No discussion of U.S. policy failures is part of the
national debate on Iraq, he and many of his companions
said.

Like many involved in yesterday's march, Omar Slater
sees an economic motive in a U.S. rush to war with
Iraq.

Because North Korea's nuclear weapons program poses a
bigger risk, conflict with Iraq must be about oil and
"making the world safe for investment," said Slater, a
Penn Hills resident and president of the Islamic
Council of Pittsburgh.

-- Joe Smydo

For a protest that included priests, lawyers, students,
anarchists and grandmothers, they lacked one thing: an
exit strategy.

That found Hami Ramani, 19, Jonas Moffat, 20, and
Brandyn Bold, 16, locked between a cold sky and a
frozen pavement. The trio were the last of the 150
die-in participants left bundled under blankets and
sleeping bags as a circle of 50 supporters passed them
cigarettes, granola bars and words of support.

"We're leaving whenever they tell us we have to go,"
said Ramani, a student at the University of Pittsburgh.

"We're not looking to get arrested or anything like
that. We're just waiting for them to say we should
leave," said Moffat.

Across the barricade 50 feet away, a group of city
police stamped their feet against the cold.

"Everybody's waiting for those three to get up,"
explained Lt. Scott Schubert.

It remained for Beth Thornton, who had stayed on to
wait out the end of the protest, to explain that each
side was waiting for the other to move. Police Cmdr.
William Valenta decided to break the impasse.

"How are you guys doing?" he asked the three as they
shivered on the street. Then Valenta asked them how
long they planned to stay there.

"I'm just waiting for you guys to tell us it's time to
leave," said one of the young men.

"It's time to leave," Valenta smiled.

A round of cheers broke out. Ramani, Moffat and Bold
cheered the loudest of all. Valenta posed for a picture
with Ramani, the street cleared and traffic returned to
Fifth Avenue.

It was 5:05 -- plenty of time to watch the Super Bowl.

Copyright ©1997-2003 PG Publishing Co., Inc




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