Third annual “March for Peace” comes to Oakland


Wu Caiyi | Staff Photographer

At the third annual March for Peace, speakers expressed their grievances with Pittsburgh institutions that invest in nuclear weapons and militarization technology.

By Rachel Romac, For The Pitt News

Michael Madaio stopped at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Craig Street Saturday afternoon and directed the crowd of  about two hundred protesters behind him to look at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.

Madaio, a graduate student at CMU and a member of the action group Tech for Society, went on to denounce the school’s role in developing weapons technology for the military and U.S. enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“These algorithms are being developed by researchers right here at Carnegie Mellon, and are being used initially in tests with the Pittsburgh Police,” he said. “These technologies have not had an opportunity for public input, public screening or public accountability.”

The third annual March for Peace, organized by the Thomas Merton Center — a peace and social justice center based in Garfield — traveled through the streets of Oakland on Saturday to speak out about local companies’ and universities’ roles in the global military industrial complex.

Organizers who spoke said they hoped that with pressure on local companies and universities, the United States military budget will be decreased and the nation can live in a war-free and demilitarized society.

Protesters first gathered at the pavilion in Schenley Plaza to rally together in support of the march’s demands. At Schenley, a crowd of about 200 people made their way around the organizations tabling the event — including the Green Party of Allegheny County, the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations and the Anti-War Committee of Pittsburgh — before the march began.

According to a Facebook event created by the organizers, the march’s demands included ending all forms of war in which the United States is currently engaged, greatly reducing the U.S. military budget and ending the militarization of domestic law enforcement organizations.

Mike Stout, a local musician, began the event at the pavilion with original music calling for action against many issues, including government inaction on climate change and the crisis at the United States’ border with Mexico.

“Oh, the change is here,” Stout sang, accompanying himself on the guitar. “The global warning is clear.”

Surrounding the pavilion and on the grass of the plaza were many members of the public, most of which had signs that read words of protest such as “STOP BANKING THE BOMB” and “NOT IN MY NAME.”

After leaving Schenley Plaza, march leaders and protesters made their way down Forbes Avenue before heading down Bellefield Avenue to make their way to Fifth Avenue.

In addition to stopping at CMU’s Software Engineering Institute, the march paused at PNC Bank and the CMU campus green for speakers to express their grievances with these local Pittsburgh institutions for their associations with nuclear weapons and militarization technology.

Jane Dirks, 67, a Pitt researcher in the department of anthropology, proudly displayed her sign with the words “Honor Veterans: End Regime-Change Wars.” Dirks, who lived in a Nicaraguan war zone in the 1980s, said she had personally seen the devastation that wars have on countries and communities.

“I experienced firsthand a regime-change war,” she said. “This was a war that was not in any way a threat to this country and yet … our country at that time was supporting terrorism and trying to overthrow another country, basically for global-political reasons.”

Another target of discussion was PNC Bank’s investments in six companies that build nuclear weapons. In the past, PNC — Pitt’s student banking sponsor — loaned more than $600 million to these companies, according to the “Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign.”

Briann Moye, 24, spoke about PNC’s involvement in the funding for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, which some environmental activists say will be a step backward from their cleaner and greener goals.

“Pennsylvanians are no strangers to pipelines,” Moye said. “We recognize that this infrastructure will only keep us locked into fossil fuels when we need to be moving toward a cleaner and greener future.”

The event concluded with a final stop at the CMU campus green on Forbes Avenue. There, speakers gave final words on how crucial it is for Pittsburgh businesses and universities to divest from nuclear weapons and military technology development in order to end war between the United States and countries around the world.

The final speaker was Brian Rhindress, 25, a CMU graduate student studying public policy and data analytics. He is a member of the CMU Students Against ICE coalition and brought attention to big data company Palantir.

Big data companies such as Palantir have recently come under fire for developing technology that assists ICE in deportation raids of immigrant communities. Palantir often recruits students from universities such as Pitt and Carnegie Mellon to use and to develop their technologies.

“Palantir and companies like it pay thousands of dollars to get access to university recruiting, but students are waking up to the truth and exerting power in our spheres of influence,” he said.

Dirks said the large amounts of money the United States allocates to its military and defense budget could go elsewhere.

“With the money that is spent, billions and billions, trillions of dollars spent in the last years against non-enemies, we could be changing things profoundly here in the United States by bringing that money home,” Dirks said.