Spring 2009 Issue of the Steel City Revolt!
“We are marching to Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper’s house to let him, and all cops everywhere, know that we are angry, and that they cannot hide from us,” announced literature that a group of about 14 local activists distributed the night of March 6, as they marched through Garfield and Morningside for a demonstration outside of Harper’s house. The demonstration was meant to call attention to the violence and abuses the system allows the police to get away with on an everyday basis.
Demonstrators dressed in black and carrying anarchist flags, distributed flyers as they walked that detailed some of the reasons that we have to be upset with the police: “We are sick and tired of the police. Sick of their beatings, tired from their harassment. They say they’re here to serve and protect us, but you know better—enforcing evictions, already murdering two people in our city since January, giving people shit because of the color of their skin or the wealth they don’t have. And with $2.1 million on the way from the Federal Government, you can be sure that more cops with more guns will be out on our streets.”
The response from bystanders was overwhelmingly positive. Many of them cheered and shouted encouragement. The response from city police was also dramatic, especially given the action’s small size. Police cars first approached the group shortly before they reached Harper’s driveway, apparently having been tipped off to the unannounced protest by a neighbor half a block away. After only a couple of minutes, demonstrators found themselves flanked by over a dozen initially very confused police, while the commander on the scene quickly got out her cell phone and someone inside the house peered out through the blinds. Nevertheless, protesters held their ground for about 15 minutes, holding up flags and signs and chanting “No justice, no peace! No racist police!” and “Stop killer cops!” before they left. Police cars, of course, followed them for three miles, making harassing, provocative comments. But in the end, all demonstrators got home safely with no arrests, citations or other incidents.
One anonymous participant reflected on the experience, “This protest was one small effort, quickly organized by individuals representing different local networks. It was important as an autonomous action for a couple reasons that speak to our movement’s evolving approach to police violence and repression. After years of watching the lack of results achieved by individuals who’ve sought redress through institutional channels, such as the Citizens’ Police Review Board, there is a developing community consensus: The most effective recourse we have is self-organization in which we directly respond, with some measure of proportionality, to those state agents and higher-ups that single us out for violence. This means taking the initiative on our own terms so as not to fall into a pattern of responding to the latest outrage as if it’s an isolated incident, when it is, in fact, part of a systematic campaign of state terror being waged against many communities of resistance.”