There seems to be a little broad stroked painting going around Pittsburgh since the window smashing of the Quiet Storm and the East End Food Co-Op. The night after they were hit, "anarchists" struck again. This time the manager of the Co-Op got a call from the police at 4am saying their new front windows were smashed again. Later that morning we learned that the windows of a number of Shadyside businesses were broken and tagged with anti G8 slogans and circle A's. My problem is the lumping of all black- clothes-wearing, bike-riding, Eastenders as "anarchists". Very little attention is paid to how this subset of Eastenders differ from one another. And the issue of lumping all these groups together then raises the age old political economic question of "who does it benefit"? Let's see.
Coverage from WTAE:
Police said they received a report of two men wearing dark clothes, riding bikes and throwing rocks through windows on Walnut Street.Two men wearing dark clothes, riding bikes. Hmm, that's a pretty regular site in the East End. Pittsburgh Organizing Committee? Nope. It's the Pittsburgh Organining Group, not committee.
Pittsburgh councilman Bill Peduto held a news conference Wednesday with community leaders regarding the recent vandalism.
Officials said they believe the Pittsburgh Organizing Committee, a group that organizes anti-war rallys, is behind the vandalism, which targeted national chain stores.
Peduto said the vandals are only hurting local businesses.
Coverage from WPXI and real insightful quote from James Ford, owner of Shadyside Market:
James Ford: "I heard that it was, some people on bicycles throwing river rocks because of the G-8 summit that they were protesting against some of the things going over in Poland and Russia... Probably environmental. I think so, the activists get pretty extreme. "Thanks Mr. Ford for your informed perspective on the matter. Sorry your windows were smashed but putting the blame on 'protesters', organized by POG that walked passed your store peacefully en masse by the hundreds before and after the invasion of Iraq are not equivalent to Greenpeace or, better yet, the Animal Liberation Front. But thanks for broad stroking and lumping together anything different from wooly cotton brained Shadyside. Sounds like you haven't gotten over the "love it or leave it" argument. Poland and Russia, huh? You obviously have no clue as to the well-intentioned aims of the alternate-globalization movement. It's the entire global South that is starving from the unfair political-economic policies of the North. Judging by the prices of your wax-polished produce for expensive palates I wouldn't expect more from you.
Police are not saying that there are protesters or anarchists involved.
Initial coverage from the PG:
Vandals left the messages "Smash money" and "Down with G8"Righteo, Mr. Baran. I can't even think of these people as anarchists either. Pittsburgh labor organizers of the late-19th century wouldn't consider these dudes anarchists either.
The food co-op had windows broken, and an anarchy symbol -- a circled 'A' -- was drawn in several places along the building's front, as was this stenciled message in red: "There are no good corporations. Stop [word intelligible] selling."
Rob Baran, the general manager of the cooperative, said he spoke with Jill McDowell, owner of the Quiet Storm "and we think it's the same folks. I can't even think of these people as anarchists."
Finally we arrive at the resulting conflict from all the coverage. Peduto has apparently struck a chord with POG, and rightfully so. The PG covers this today:
"They're losing the one elected official they had because of the accusations and tactics in the field. They're proving their actions don't work and actually are counterproductive," Mr. Peduto said.
"They're saying it's irresponsible for me to isolate any one group. What other group of anarchists are there in this city?"
POG, an anarchist group? POG is a well organized group that often holds "radical" positions on the war in Iraq and other global justice issues. They are a 'radical' group, not anarchists. Their stated position of identity is to "seek to understand and oppose the inter-connected forms of oppression while utilizing non-hierarchical, consensus-based organizing". And they do so, often collaborating with the Thomas Merton Center, which follows the principles of the Catholic monk by the same name.
"I am against war, against violence, against violent revolution, for peaceful settlement of differences, for nonviolent but nevertheless radical changes. Change is needed, and violence will not really change anything: at most it will only transfer power from one set of bull-headed authorities to another." --Thomas Merton
Consensus, as a principle, does not translate well to anarchy. Various groups who self-identify themselves as anarchist do not often agree with one another on ideological principles, and particularly on economic models.
So, POG has written an open letter , referred to in the PG article above, asking Peduto to take back his statements which was sent out to its mailing list and is also posted on its site.
Councilman Peduto's comments at the June 6 press conference were highly irresponsible for a public official to make, detrimental to local movements for peace and social justice, and a slap in the face to those progressives who have previously considered him an ally. He was the first, and as far as we are aware, only non-police official to attempt to link us to these events. His statements have contributed to a public perception of our guilt, caused division within the local anti-war movement, drained our time and resources away from important campaigns, and damaged our personal relationships with members of the community.When you see dark-clothed bike-riders around town, they are likely NOT anarchists. From my perspective, they fall into three rough categories. They fall into what I term hipster vampires, DIY, and youngsters. Hipster vampires hang out at all the cool bars in the East End, are fashion conscious, and are vampires in the sense that their social circles are very insular and difficult to access to a non-hipster. DIY (do-it-yourself) are those progressive thinkers and actors who are really contributing to the new Pittsburgh. I would place active POG members in this camp (apologies in advance if I offend) as well as Free Ride volunteers, Construction Junction affiliates, and many many other progressives active in organizations, several newer organizations, that are driving much of the great culture-shift happening in the city. Youngsters are those who may appear as 'dark-clothed bike riders' but have not yet developed the nuances in their ideological positions to understand how to navigate tactically. Therefore, their tactics are to tear down and destroy (economic systems, Starbucks, everything). They likely don't understand that people in the resource-poor countries they are arguing for would probably not understand their position at all.
It doesn't seem as though POG would be involved in window smashing in this instance for a number of reasons. As they said, they are a public organization and it would not benefit them to have windows smashed at, among all places, the Quiet Storm or the Co-Op. When they came into being they were made up of young, smart, cleverly tactical members. They were well organized and carefully picked issues to which they would attend. They never sanctioned breaking the windows of Navy buildings during anti-war protests. When people choose to do this, they do so as free-choosing individuals. POG has been a great contributor to the organization of Pittsburghers against war and social injustices. Breaking windows of local businesses just seems too dumb and organizationally immature as a POG tactic.If POG affiliates did commit the crimes, public pressure from Peduto and media attention will likely force the organization through growing pains. Peduto is not backing down from his statements. I would trust that he has good information to make such a claim but without definitive evidence that POG did, in fact, do this, perhaps Peduto could make some concessions that he may have overstepped his claims. There is a way that he could defend his constituents in the business district on Walnut St. without lambasting POG. Go after the criminals, not the radicals.
Finally, who does this all benefit? To make the argument that all those who are opposed to global injustices are to blame for smashed windows is being an intellectual cheapskate (ahem, James Ford-ians). According to WPXI, the police were not saying that protesters or anarchists were involved. Let's stay with that mindset and not benefit those whose worldview equates anti-war and freedom hating.
Whoever did this at the co-op cut themselves pretty badly and bled on the front windows and sidewalk. Know anybody that wears dark-clothing, rides a bike, AND has a pretty bad cut on their body somewhere, likely their arm?