Hundreds flood Oakland – in rain – to protest war


With signs reading, “Behind every Bush is a terrorist” and “Like a Rock, only Dumber,”… With signs reading, “Behind every Bush is a terrorist” and “Like a Rock, only Dumber,” those in opposition to the United States’ presence in Iraq marched through Oakland to protest the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

The march was part of a series of weekend events organized by the Thomas Merton Center to support bringing an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Hundreds gathered on Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park for a pre-march peace picnic amid speeches and pouring rain to protest the policies of President George W. Bush.

Felix AuYeung, a graduate student at Pitt, held up a sign reading “Regime change begins at home. Vote out Bush/Cheney” and expressed his opposition to the administration’s policies.

“[Bush has] turned back the clock on a lot of progress,” said AuYeung, who also disagrees with what he sees as the unilateral decision of the United States to invade Iraq.

“It was against international law,” he said. “And if we don’t follow the law, we can’t expect other countries to do so either.”

Some protesters came to the picnic in costume to lend their support to the anti-war protest. Jabari, a self-described gorilla, expressed his opposition to the United States presence in Iraq.

“War no good. I like people.” Jabari said.

A small group of people supporting the war and the Bush administration also came to Flagstaff Hill, carrying signs like “Make love after war” and “Gave peace a chance.”

Julia Cowher, a freshman at North Allegheny High School, felt that those protesting did not understand the situation in Iraq.

“I feel that it’s ignorant. That they don’t know what they are talking about,” Cowher said, adding that the Iraqi people are better off now than a year ago.

“They can listen to the music they want, and all the other things they want to do,” she said. “They were oppressed, and now they are free.”

The picnic concluded with speakers urging the crowd to action. Matt Balotta, a junior at Pitt and a member of the anti-war committee of the Thomas Merton Center, spoke to the crowd.

“Not one more lie. Not one more day. Not one more death. Let’s march,” Balotta said.

More than 1,000 people marched through Oakland, chanting, “Drop Bush, not bombs,” and “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”

Although there was a large police presence, Pitt Police Chief Tim Delaney asserted that the police were there for the safety of the protesters, as well as to make sure the march stayed on track.

“We needed more vehicles to block off the streets so that nobody gets hurt,” Delaney said. He stressed that a successful march means communication between the organizers and the police.

“Right away we make sure to communicate with the organizers,” Delaney said. “We’re all on the same channel.”

The march culminated with a rally outside the William Pitt Union, where more speeches were made on behalf of some of the endorsers of the event.

Neal Bisno spoke on behalf of the Pennsylvania Health Care Union District 1199P/SEIU about the war being about the common man.

“The war in Iraq is a working class issue,” he said. “The war in Iraq is a union issue.”

After the rally,*JK many continued to Carnegie Mellon University’s student union to protest what they see as a connection between the University and the United States military.

They staged a sit-in inside the union, where students used a megaphone to share their thoughts with those listening.

Daniel Papasian, a sophomore at CMU, changed his major from engineering after learning that many consider jobs with defense contractors that deal with CMU as good jobs.

“Is making weapons that kill children a good job?” Papasian asked those in attendance. “Then I want to be unemployed.”