Repression in Pittsburgh

In a sure sign that the anti-war movement is finally starting to have some effectiveness, protesters are now coming under violent attack. Over the weekend, police in Pittsburgh, PA, used dogs and tasers against a group picketing a recuitment center in the neighborhood of Oakland. From the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center, Aug. 21:

Today in Oakland in front of the Army Recruiting Center on Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh Police and University of Pittsburgh Police fought with protestors on the sidewalk. At least six people were arrested; police fired tasers and other weapons at the crowd, including restrained arrestees and bystanders.

During the rally at the station, a freelance Fox News cameraman who was aggressively filming demonstrators’ faces was told to leave and started a minor confrontation with protestors. He returned with police officers, claiming that either he was punched or that his camera was broken (although he continued to use his camera the rest of the day). Witnesses confirm that neither of these things happened. On this pretense, police began chasing any masked protestors they could find, arresting several and firing weapons at the crowd. Several people have confirmed that they were hit with tasers and chemical weapons. Video cameras captured tasers being fired at people who had already been subdued and restrained by police officers.

Later, police dogs were used to chase away protestors on the sidewalk, and one woman was bitten from behind by a police dog. Some time later, after telling police she wanted to file a complaint, she was told the police would “take her information,” but instead she was arrested and placed in the back of a police van.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes in a follow-up story Aug. 23:

Anti-war protesters involved in a weekend scuffle with Pittsburgh police decried the department’s tactics as brutal and excessive and demanded an independent investigation of the incident, in which a woman was shot with a Taser stun gun and another was bitten by a police dog.

“To respond to messages of peace with outright violence is absolutely outrageous,” said James Kleissler, executive director of the Thomas Merton Center, which hosted a news conference yesterday at its Garfield headquarters.

The Pittsburgh Organizing Group, People Against Police Violence and the Merton Center also called for a moratorium on Taser use by city police officers and demanded that charges be dropped against four adults who were arrested Saturday and an unidentified juvenile cited for disorderly conduct.

Police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. declined interview requests yesterday. In a previous statement, he said the use of force would be reviewed by staff at the bureau’s training academy.

The Pittsburgh IMC also links to a news account that one “Pittsburgh GOP guy” posted to the right-wing FreeRepublic website, to which one “Freeper” responded:

To: pittsburgh gop guy

Live Ammo next time

On Aug. 22, dueling rallies against and in support of Cindy Sheehan got into a tense shouting match in Sacramento. The verbal clash began when the right-wing “You Don’t Speak for Me, Cindy!” road show arrived in town. (Sacramento Bee, Aug. 23)

See our last post on the Iraq war and the rapidly polarizing propaganda war.

  1. Salt Lake City
    Bush spoke to more than 6,000 people at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City Aug. 22, while three blocks away about 2,000 people gathered to protest Bush administration policies and the war in Iraq. Mayor Rocky Anderson, who called for a strong showing at the protest in an e-mail he sent last week to local activists, addressed both the VFW convention and the protest.

    Anderson was booed in his speech to the veterans at the Salt Palace Convention Center about two hours before Bush’s speech. At the protest he said: “The message we want to send is that we are behind our troops, we care very much about our troops. That if their lives are going to be put on the line, they are going to be put in harm’s way, that we’re told the truth and our nation hasn’t been told the truth.”

    Chants of “Rocky!” followed Anderson as he took the podium at the anti-war rally. “Those who take a stand … who stand up to deceit by our government. Those are true patriots. You are true patriots,” Anderson said. (KUTV, Salt Lake City, Aug. 22 via TruthOut)