Activism: Anarchists gather for picnic, not protest | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Activism: Anarchists gather for picnic, not protest

Partially hidden from the road, behind a black banner with red block letters stating "The future belongs to the daring," people gathered at the Anderson Shelter in Schenley Park for food, games and a reaffirmation of personal politics.

On July 5, the fourth annual anarchist picnic -- conceived and organized by the Pittsburgh Organizing Group -- played host to a motley cast of the usual young ragtag punkers, adults in "grown-up" clothes and all their kids too. Blueberry pie, tabouli salad and water-balloon fights were interrupted occasionally for a few words about -- what else -- anarchy.

"We want to be able to come together and talk and learn from one another and celebrate the things we find best in American society," said POG organizer Alex Bradley.

The need and desire for an alternative narrative springs from the exploitation of major American holidays that promote "consumerism" and a patriotism based on "allegiance to rulers," according to the official invitation posted on POG's Web site (

"We're celebrating social movements and acts of millions who have been struggling to create a more egalitarian society based on community and solidarity," says Bradley.

However, most of the anarchy discussion involved the recitation of biographies from some of the movement's earlier advocates, such as Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta, and Alexander Berkman. Berkman infamously blundered an assassination attempt against Henry Clay Frick, resulting in his incarceration for 14 years.

As Bradley admits, "The new society we want isn't going to be created through oppositional events like direct action or protest, but [by] a supporting group of people."

This year, around 100 people attended the picnic, about 20 more than last year, which 20 more than the year before that.

POG is working on creating a strong anarchist presence in Pittsburgh through yearly events. Besides the picnic, POG events include the alterna-prom Anarchist Ball and monthly anarchist speakers presenting their activist and literary works.

"We get anarchists from all over the city to come together and talk about anarchism, their lives, and their struggles, which helps to build a greater network of support," says Mike Butler, 22, of Bloomfield. "We want a society based on mutual aid and respect, and to build those things, we need events like the picnic and the Anarchist Ball to bring people together."

click to enlarge Participants at the anarchist picnic whack a police-car piata.
Participants at the anarchist picnic whack a police-car piata.

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