“Hey POG, Why The Heck Did You Do THAT!?”
A Statement on What POG Does and Does Not Organize
Pittsburgh is fortunate to possess large and diverse movements for progressive social change. On any given day thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations are pursuing a variety of strategies to oppose institutions of injustice and improve our communities. Within our movements there are many debates and disagreements about what our goals should be and how we can best accomplish them. There are genuine differences of opinion on what methods are appropriate and strategic.
Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) is one of the largest, most visible and prolific radical groups on the Pittsburgh left. Since 2002 we have organized more than 120 actions and events around a variety of peace and social justice issues, garnering hundreds of news stories and attracting thousands of participants. We have truly been humbled by the support and solidarity by local communities and the relationships we have built with people of varying political identities and tactical preferences. We have also, as one might expect, made our share of mistakes, attracted the attention of the state, and made some enemies and detractors. Occasionally we encounter misconceptions of who we are and what we do that results in serious confusion about what we are and aren’t responsible for. Sometimes we are blamed for things we had nothing to do with. Whether those accusations may be the result of someone with an axe to grind, the result of ignorance, or an honest case of confusion among potential allies and supporters, these situations can do harm to our reputation and impact our long-term work. We wrote this statement as a point of reference for others in order to clarify these situations.
Pittsburgh Organizing Group is an above ground group in the public eye. We are not a clandestine organization working in the underground. What we do is what we find effective given the political and tactical space we occupy in our local context and is not a condemnation of those who organize in alternative ways. Basically, we organize the framework for small and large-scale actions and campaigns. We utilize a diversity of tactics, which have typically included pickets, protests, sit-ins, street theatre, conferences, civil disobedience and non-violent direct actions such as blockades and unpermitted marches. We work to build a sustainable community of resistance to put into practice our values of solidarity, mutual aid, and self-determination while protecting ourselves and our community from those who wish us harm. As a group we absolutely never organize anything involving destruction of property or physical harm to human or non-human animals.
Most of our actions and events are advertised before they occur on our Web site and through our e-mail announcement list. Events that depend on the element of surprise, or that are planned shortly before they occur, are sometimes only reported on after the fact. If you don’t see an announcement for, or a report from, an action on our Web site, then it’s unlikely we are associated with it.
Sometimes an action will happen in the city and people will wonder why POG doesn’t issue a statement distancing itself from it or condemning it. Through our years of work we have found a set of principles that guide our organizing. These are embodied in our statement of solidarity to the movement.
Most importantly, in the context of this discussion, are the following principles:
We talk about *our* strategy and beliefs, not the strategies and beliefs of others.
We seek to avoid perpetuating a “good” protester/”bad” protester dichotomy.
We do not denounce other demonstrators.
We acknowledge other groups’ existence and role they play in creating change.
We acknowledge that we sometimes disagree with one another about strategy and tactics.
Simply put, our major focus is our work. We don’t have time to disavow or comment on the work of everyone else nor do we think doing so would be practical or productive. Our silence does not indicate support or disagreement. We realize that POG is a known entity and when actions occur, people who disagree would like an outlet to express their feelings. It’s important to remember that we are only one of many groups and we do not claim or possess ownership of any movement. We are not the official representatives of the radical/anarchist/youth/political left/anti-war/counter recruitment movements. There are hundreds of people, and dozens of other groups, that are similar to the work of POG in some respect. Just as we do not wish to be associated with actions we did not organize it’s likely the actual organizers do not wish to see the blame/credit placed on POG.
So, if after reading this you still feel unsure about whether a recent action was organized by POG feel free to e-mail us: email@example.com
In solidarity and resistance,
Pittsburgh Organizing Group