Activism: POG lending a hand at RNC blockade | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Activism: POG lending a hand at RNC blockade

The Pittsburgh Organizing Group will be joining more than 40 other anti-authoritarian groups from around the country on Sept. 1, to try to shut down the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., on the day it begins.

"I'm not sure I can tell you" the exact form the demonstration will take, says Amanda Zeiders of Bloomfield, who is among the 35 Pittsburghers making the trip with POG, though she is not a declared member.

"We will be blockading the intersection" of 7th and Wall streets, four and a half blocks from the convention. "Our tactics will depend on who shows up and how the police respond."

Some clues may be gleaned, however, from previous POG tactics, and the watchword adopted by the "RNC Welcoming Committee," which is organizing the protests. The organization has dubbed its strategy for the convention "Swarm, Seize, Stay." And during a March 2007 blockade of a Carnegie Mellon University robot-design facility in Lawrenceville, POG members blocked both entrances by chaining their arms together inside PVC pipes, which were covered with tar and wire. Police eventually cut them free; a judge released them with community service.

Zeiders -- a former leader of both the Garfield-based Thomas Merton Center and Save Our Transit -- is a veteran of local anti-war marches and other POG protests. She and the group are preparing for a stiff reaction from St. Paul police; POG's Web site recommends swim goggles and mouth coverings to mitigate the effects of pepper spray, for one.

The Democrats convening this week in Denver were set to face their own protests at CP press time from other anti-authoritarian groups, not to mention the right wing; Denver police have converted a warehouse to a temporary jail for protestors. One activist already in St. Paul reports on Indy Media that local police have been asking questions about POG's involvement.

"Our goal isn't to push a more centrist or even a more liberal candidate," a statement issued by POG asserts. "Our aspirations are to change the fundamental structures of society to decentralize power and decision-making so all those impacted by a decision have a say in its outcome, to change the economic question from 'what is profitable?' to 'what is necessary, desirable, and sustainable?' and to expand the concept of liberty and the pursuit of happiness from simply 'freedom from' to include 'freedom to.'"

Zeiders says she "probably will" still vote in this fall's election. "If I [vote], it's knowing that even though I'm voting, that's not all I am going to do to create change within society and make the world a better place."

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