The third anniversary of the start of the Iraq War on March 19, 2003, will be marked here by nearly a month's worth of exhibits, concerts and protests -- all to be centered around an anti-war march and a military recruitment protest on March 17 and 18.
The gatherings start Wednesday, Mar. 8, with a one-hour International Women's Day Rally at Downtown's Federal Building (Grant Street and Liberty Avenue). The noon kickoff will involve collecting petition signatures to end the war, sponsored by the local chapters of Codepink and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
From March 31 through April 2, the American Friends Service Committee is bringing part of the Eyes Wide Open exhibit to Pittsburgh. The full exhibit -- 2,298 pairs of military boots, or one for every American soldier killed (so far) in the current Iraq War -- "has almost become too large to move," says AFSC leader Scilla Wahrhaftig. That's why Pittsburgh and 12 other Pennsylvania cities will see only the Commonwealth's segment -- representing the third-largest group of war dead, now numbering 111. The display will be at the Friends Meeting House (4836 Ellsworth Ave., Oakland) on March 31 and at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church (Penn and Highland avenues) on April 1 and 2.
The war's anniversary weekend will kick off with a counter-recruitment rally in front of the much-picketed Oakland military recruiting station on Forbes Ave. on Fri., March 17 (5-7 p.m.). "Laying Siege to Recruitment" is the theme, says Alex Bradley, one of the leaders of the anti-recruiting movement being conducted by the Pittsburgh Organizing Group. "We're hoping for siege towers and dragons" among the protestors, he says.
As part of the Sat., March 18 march, POG is also gathering students from several local high schools, along with their parents and allies, to publicize their campaign against recruiting. The demonstration is set to start at 1 p.m. with a rally at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, stepping off toward the Oakland recruiting station at 2:30 p.m. Surrounding the march are several concerts, including Soma Mestizo and Thin White Line at the pre-march rally.
Previous years' marches have focused on Oakland or Squirrel Hill. "We wanted to spread the word to different neighborhoods" this time, says organizer Pete Shell, who notes that East Liberty is also the site of the weekly Black Voices for Peace vigils. Shell, of the Anti-War Committee at Garfield's Thomas Merton Center, says there are even more local anti-war groups signed on to the march this year than last. He credits anti-war organizing for at least some of the current anti-war feelings. But, he adds, "That's a good reason why we need to continue to speak out."