The Thomas Merton
Center Anti-War Committee (AWC) emerged in
opposition to the imminent invasion of Iraq in January of 2003.
Highlighting the erroneous reasons that the Bush administration
offered to justify invading Iraq, the AWC, together with Pittsburgh
Organizing Group, planned what became the
largest antiwar mobilization in Pittsburgh since the anti-Vietnam
War protests. On 25 and 26 January 2003, about 5,000 people of
diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, and political beliefs flooded
Pittsburgh streets on the South Side and Oakland, railing against
the ravages of war in a massive antiwar convergence. Every local
television network, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pulp and City
Paper, covered the story, and CNN, National Public Radio, the
Associated Press, and news outlets in other U.S. cities and London,
United Kingdom, picked up the feature.
The AWC held subsequent mass marches
downtown on 26 April 2003, and in Oakland on 20 March
2004 where about 2,000 marched through
the rain. Later in 2004, the AWC worked with Pennsylvanians
United for Single-Payer Health Care to stage the "Healthcare
Not Warfare" march and rally. This action
emphasized how the government's diversion of funds away from health
care toward fighting an unjust war in Iraq devastates people's lives
and health in Pittsburgh and the region. And several times throughout the
year we held dramatic re-enactments of the Abu-Graib prison torture
scandal, with activists dressed up as torture victims, wearing hoods
and standing on crates.
Unfortunately, it has taken war to unite
so many people in civic action. The AWC's momentum has buoyed the
efforts of other groups. For instance, the AWC lent its support to
the Confluence Against Gun Violence (CAGV), a coalition of different groups that oppose gun violence.
CAGV organized a lively and inventive protest in front of the David
Lawrence Convention Center at the National Rifle Association's
national meeting in Pittsburgh in April 2004. The AWC's presence was
evident in the anti-militarism and antiwar feeder march that it
organized from the North Side and that merged with another feeder
march outside the Convention Center. In the interest of sustaining
momentum across the progressive spectrum, members from the AWC
helped to organize a morning conference that featured discussion
about "Building a Progressive Movement" on the morning of 6 November
2004. In the afternoon, the AWC followed the discussion with
concrete action by taking to the streets in an antiwar march and
rally in Oakland.
The AWC has drawn seasoned and newly
politicized activists, Thomas Merton Center members and personnel,
and students who contributed more than 4,000 hours to organizing and
planning successful antiwar actions. The AWC has a facilitator who
runs every meetings in a non-hierarchical, democratic manner, and
members belong to one of several working groups (Publicity,
Fundraising, Outreach, and Program). The Thomas Merton Center
provides meeting space, functions as fiduciary agent for the AWC,
and advertises AWC events and meetings on its online community
calendar and in its monthly print publication, The NewPeople.
The AWC has kept up the pressure to end
the war year after year and month after month.
In 2005 we held another
mass march and rally against the war on 19 March , as part of a
Global Day of Protest on the second anniversary of the war in Iraq;
both the World Social Forum and United for Peace
and Justice (UFPJ), a 1,400-member antiwar
coalition that encourages activists to organize antiwar actions in
cities nationwide, called for this action. The event's theme
fittingly is simple: "End the War. Rebuild Our Communities."
In 2006 we organized the
Organized the three-year anniversary mass march against the war in
Iraq. Close to 2,000 people marched from East Liberty to the army recruitment office
where we held a protest attended by riot police.
March and April: Together
with the ACLU and other anti-war groups, held a press
conference to expose and denounce the Department of Defense (DoD)
for spying on activists from the AWC and other groups Participated in a lawsuit
with the ACLU charging the DOD with violating the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) by refusing to turn over documents
pertaining to its unconstitutional domestic spying program
June: Worked with other
groups to help organize events for “Torture Awareness Month”: a
slide show presentation at CMU by Frida Berrigan from Witness
Against Torture and a protest in Market Square to shut down Guantanamo and
end indefinite detentions.
August: Organized a rally
and march against nuclear weapons manufacturer Bechtel at their
plant in West Mifflin.
October: Organized the
anti-war workshop at the Global Solutions conference at the University of
Throughout the year:
defended activists from the AWC and sister groups that were
unjustly targeted by the police and judicial system for
non-violent anti-war organizing. One of the group’s members (David
Meieran) represented the AWC in the national steering committee of
the UFPJ (United for Peace and Justice, the largest national
In 2007 we kept the
January 20: Held an activist organizer training workshop at Pitt. for
the student group Pitt. Against the War.
27: Brought buses to the
national march against the war in Washington, D.C., consisting of
about 500,000 people surrounding the
24: Organized the four-year anniversary mass march
against the war in Iraq. About 1,200 people marched in
Oakland, with veterans against the war and students speaking and
in prominent attendance.
to organize a protest against George Bush at St.
College. The protest was successful, attended about 120
people, and well covered by the press, despite the fact that the
Secret Service forced us to hold the rally in a ditch a mile away
– Sept: Organized
together with the IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War).
Sponsored several speaking events consisting of veterans speaking
to community, religious groups, and schools about why they’re
opposed to the war.
two buses to Washington, D.C. for a national march against the war.
a meeting of 12 activists and community representatives with
Senator Casey to make sure that he understood the depth and
breadth of opposition against the war and occupation in
on the Iraq war at
Global Solutions conference.
11: Participated in the Vets for Peace march in Meadville,
We are working with local artists and
other peace and justice groups in generating an organic response to
the war through compelling visuals and sounds that communicate the
human cost of war to the public and offer concrete ways that people
can oppose the war.
We work with local and national groups that believe in our vision of uniting the movement to end the war now.