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The Pittsburgh regional convergence against the war took place in Pittsburgh, PA, on March 20, 2004.

Under a heavy downpour, more than 2000 people from all over Western Pennsylvania and Ohio gathered in Pittsburgh to mark the 1-year anniversary of the beginning of the War in Iraq this Saturday, making it the largest protest in Pittsburgh since just before the war began. They gathered at Flagstaff Hill in Oakland, then marched to the University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Union. A contingent of protestors also occupied a building at Carnegie Mellon University for several hours in protest of that university's extensive military ties.

Despite a heavy police presence, no protestors were arrested and the events remained peaceful. Carnegie Mellon Police had initially planned to block any off-campus protestors from entering any CMU building, but changed their minds at the last moment. Students had been warned days in advance of the weekend that some protestors would be targeting the university. About 100 protestors entered and briefly occupied the University Center at 5000 Forbes Avenue. Carnegie Mellon Chief of Police monitored the protests, but took no action.[1]

Six members of TRAM provided medical support to the Pittsburgh regional convergence against the war.

Educational "Health, safety and first aid" workshops[edit | edit source]

What we wanted to do[edit | edit source]

The goal of the workshops was to encourage protester preparedness prior to the march, with a focus on older adults and parents. The workshops would also raise awareness of TRAM and help us gain experience in leading workshops.

What we did[edit | edit source]

We scheduled and prepared for two workshops. Sections of the workshop outline were assigned to be taught by medics, singly and in pairs.

At the first workshop, two people who wanted to work with TRAM came.

The second workshop was changed in location from the Merton Center to the Quaker House. No march participants attended. At the second workshop, an Indymedia reporter asked questions and took pictures.

What to improve[edit | edit source]

Promotional posters were made at the last minute, with limited visibility. More promotional materials were needed, and sooner.

The location could have been set well ahead of time, and checked for conflicts with other events.

Get together beforehand to make sure everyone is prepared.

Integrate workshops into the action and its events to boost attendance.

First-aid tent[edit | edit source]

What we wanted to do[edit | edit source]

The purpose of the tent was to provide a space for people to get out of the weather, to lie down, or to change clothes. It was also a source of supplies to hand out, like sunscreen and educational resources, as well as to prepare for weather-related first and second aid situations. The tent would raise awareness of TRAM and provide patient care experience for the medics involved.

What we did[edit | edit source]

There were many frustrations in advance planning. These included enlisting help to build tent, lateness in acquiring supplies for tent, delayed expectations on tasks assigned to others (with no phone contact info), packing supplies up, tent security and errands which had to be assigned on the spot, like moving supplies and acquiring plastic bags. The kerosene heater couldn’t used because of the surface incline and had to be moved again.

On the positive side, the tent was large enough to share with Food Not Bombs, which was a good partnership, as well as to shelter protesters from the rain.

We distributed several trashbags full of Goodwill sweaters and warm clothes - which were a hit! We also distributed many rain ponchos we made out of trash-bags.

At least one medic was at the tent throughout the day. The tent raised awareness of TRAM, though no literature was distributed. There were conversations with people who wished to be in supporting roles (legal). Some people asked directions.

The morning of the march, setting up the tent was slowed by not having everything ready to move. After the march, all of the supplies were left unpacked in the basement of the house. In terms of organization, too much responsibility fell on one medic, which required her to always be the person to delegate tasks.

What to improve[edit | edit source]

The location of the tent, with the possibility of having two locations or moving.

Setting up the tent reliably, in terms of preparation and timing.

Organization of responsibilities – some medics expressed not knowing what to expect or how to help.

Mobility of supplies – a mobile first aid station, perhaps transported by shopping cart?

Warm water and aid for the end of march.

More organization in clean up, to have people help at house.

Street teams[edit | edit source]

What we wanted to do[edit | edit source]

Our goal was to cover the permitted march, the breakaway march, and the sit-in. This meant protecting the participants from the weather (rain and cold), preparing for possible confrontation with the police, and working together as a team and in conjunction with the first aid tent.

What we did[edit | edit source]

Given the last-minute knowledge of who was running, it was a last minute decision of how to run. We ended up having a single group of three. During the march, we distributed cough drops, candied ginger and rain ponchos we made out of trash-bags. We stuck together and only had to deal with the inclement weather.

During the rally, we mainly waited for the breakaway march to begin. During this time, we could have been more prepared for the people standing around in the wet and cold (for example, with warm drinks). A few people asked about becoming involved with TRAM. We reported back to the tent using hand-held radios.

During the breakaway march, we followed mostly at the back. In retrospect, our position meant that we could have potentially been cut off from helping if a confrontation had occurred. As it was, we stayed together and made it to the sit-in without incident.

At the sit-in, we did not know the situation. It appeared that all marchers were being allowed in, with no police intervention. On the spot, we decided by consensus to go in. Two trashbags full of Goodwill dry clothes were distributed, and we were ready for long-term support if necessary. Two medics were interviewed by the Pittsburgh City Paper and had their pictures taken.

TRAM patches were silkscreened for the event and worn by all the medics.

What to improve[edit | edit source]

More practice with hand-held radio coms. Coms could have been more effective by not revealing too much information and with practice.

Better preparedness for the weather conditions, both for ourselves and others.

More support at the rally for the cold and wet conditions.

Clearer roles within the group.

Positioning of the team during the march.

Advance planning of the teams, with respect to buddy pairs.

More focus on our goals as the street team, rather than being too distracted by helping with the tent and errands.

Sit-in[edit | edit source]

What we wanted to do[edit | edit source]

We sought to find out the situation ahead of time through open communication with the sit-in organizers and to encourage their preparedness. We planned to provide care in case of police action, aftercare, and emotional support.

What we did[edit | edit source]

One medic attended a meeting for the sit-in and did an abbreviated workshop on occupations. She emphasized our willingness to provide support and education, given advance knowledge and to keep all information confidential. The medical phone number was given out.

What to improve[edit | edit source]

No improvements. More information from the organizers would have been nice, but was not available to us.

Expenses[edit | edit source]

  • Prepaid phone
  • Photocopies
  • Car/gas money
  • Pedialyte and Benadryl

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Indymedia Pittsburgh
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