Protesters hold anti-war demonstation
On March 20, 2003, the United States began the war campaign against Iraq. Last Saturday, local protesters across the world organized rallies to commemorate the one-year anniversary of that event in a global call for peace. Fifty-five local groups contributed to, endorsed, and helped to organize the Pittsburgh rally, which met at Flagstaff Hill between noon and 1 pm.
A "peace picnic," which was scheduled to take place before the march, was beset by pouring rain. The protesters continued despite the weather, marching to the William Pitt Union for the main event. They marched for many causes beyond the war. Jennifer Kelly, from the Pittsburgh Bill of Rights Campaign, was one of those present who spoke out against the PATRIOT Act, referring to it as "a huge assault on our civil liberties."
After the main rally, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) and activists on campus staged a sit-in at the University Center, which was attended by approximately 50 to 100 people.
Those in attendance said they would remain at the UC until given a chance to speak with University President Cohon concerning CMU's military contracts. Daniel Papasian, a sophomore social and decision sciences major, was one of those present.
"If making weapons that kill children is a good job, then I have no problem being unemployed," said Papasian.
He added, "Had I known of the military's involvement [with CMU], I would not have come here."
One of the main points of contention was a project currently underway in the Robotics Institute called Gladiator. Gladiator is a robotic tank, which POG alleges will fire chemicals weapons and be equipped with an M240 machine gun. William Cole, military writer for the Honolulu Advertiser, wrote on July 7, 2003, "It looks like something out of Robocop, a mini tank-treaded terror bristling with so many cannons and guns that only a Hollywood screenwriter could have dreamed it up."
Tim Vining, executive director of the Thomas Merton Center, seemed to express the sentiments of many protesters, saying, "We are very concerned that an educational institution is spending that much money on weapons."
Michael Murphy, dean of Student Affairs, commented on the sit-in in an e-mail on Friday. "I respect that choice of action, if they wish, so long as it does not violate anyone else's access to or use of space, or otherwise violate university policy.... Healthy expression of differing views is a good thing, and it certainly helps to highlight various issues and perspectives. This helps make for a vital, exciting campus."
Sometime during the course of the night, protesters made their way into Warner Hall, where, according to some accounts, they occupied the sixth floor and set up a barricade.
Sergeant Ricci of the Campus Police gave his account of the incident: "They left a note on the second floor and set up a flimsy barricade." According to Ricci, there was no one present when CMU police arrived. "It was very non-destructive, and I think it was a good little demonstration to make their point," said Ricci. "I think [yesterday's events] went well; they showed a lot of respect for us."