By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Organizers of a protest outside the United States Marine Corp Recruitment Center Monday afternoon say the action is just the first step in a campaign against United States aggression in the Middle East, following the January 3 drone strike that killed Iran’s top general as he left the Baghdad airport.
The action was organized by the Pittsburgh Anti-Imperialism Committee. The group met shortly after 2 p.m. in a small courtyard outside the Federal Building at 1000 Liberty Ave., which houses the recruitment office. They started with chants like, “Occupation is a crime from Iraq to Palestine,” and began to state the purpose of not only this action but those in the future.
“We won’t stand for aggression and imperialism,” said the group’s spokesperson who identified himself as Shahid, an Iranian-American whose family came to the United States in the 1980s during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. It’s time, he said, to make this a “people’s war” and “we will fight the war right here on this soil.” He said the only way for there to be peace was “only through the death of American Imperialism.
“We will take the fight to the door of our enemy,” Shahid said the goal of the action was to enter and occupy the Marine Recruitment Center.
From there the assembled walked a short distance to the building’s main entrance. About a half-dozen Department of Homeland Security Officers stood in front of the door and just inside the entrance. There was a handful of other officers in the immediate area, including some Pittsburgh Police officers. The group approached the door and Shahid attempted to enter, which the Current captured in this video. Several of the speakers referred to the officers as “pigs.”
While a small percentage of the group stood on the steps and attempted to block the entrance, more stood nearby out of the way. However, one speaker who identified himself as a Venezuelan-American made an impassioned plea to the crowd.
“The reason I hoped more of you would come up and block this walkway is because, at the end of the day, there are real people in the line of fire,” he said. “If you come up here and get arrested for blocking this stairway, you get a night in jail. But, if we invade Iran, hundreds of thousands of people will die. That’s the reality and we should all be in the streets.
“Imagine if those people were real to you. What if it were your grandmother … or your little sister; the second they killed that general, we would have been in the streets, but we’re not. We are conditioned in this country to think of those people as not real. And what’s it all for? To stop terrorism? If you want to stop terrorism, stop launching drone strikes and slaughtering people’s families. That’s why they’re fighting us. And it’s all in the economic interest of rich folks who don’t give a shit about you or me. We’ve got more in common with the people being slaughtered in Iran and Iraq than we do with these folks.”
After the speech, more people did join the group on the steps and refused to move when several people pushed passed them to get to the door. In a couple of instances, officers physically moved the protesters out of the way of people going into the building. Shahid said the plan is to continue to disrupt the recruitment process not only at recruitment centers but also at places a little more open like college campuses, job fairs, and high schools.
Shahim acknowledged that protesting military recruitment centers is not a new strategy. It was done during the Vietnam War. But it was also done a lot in Pittsburgh over the past two decades. Protests at recruitment centers led by the former Pittsburgh Organizing Group often led to arrests and standoffs with police.
“This is only the first step,” he said. “We are going to show that we are willing to take the struggle to their doors. But this enemy has many doors and there are more of us than there are doors to protect. We have to pick out our targets strategically. We will go to the universities and high schools where the students are fed up with this bullshit. The colleges are where we can do real harm to the [recruitment effort].”
LIVE: Anti-war protests outside of the Marine Recruitment Office downtown
Posted by Pittsburgh Current on Monday, January 6, 2020