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Day of Action: Anarchists branch out from anti-war march

Monday, January 27, 2003

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Masked protesters broke away from yesterday's anti-war protest and roved the streets of Oakland and Shadyside in a meandering parade designed to defy the law but with police clearing the way for them.

The group, most describing themselves as anarchists, paused briefly in front of a military recruiting center on Meyran Avenue in Oakland where one hurled a brick through the glass door of a Marine Corps Recruiting Station.

"This is what democracy looks like," they chanted, pushing their way down Forbes Avenue after the main anti-war rally had ended.

Police held back from making any arrests.

"At that point we couldn't identify who broke the window," said police Cmdr. William Valenta, who oversaw operations in Oakland yesterday. Valenta said police wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the demonstrators and provided an escort to avoid any injury to the marchers or to bystanders.

At one point the marchers debated among themselves what course to take.

"Right now we're just walking around messing up traffic," explained one protester, who gave his name only as "John."

For the next hour, the group marched and chanted their way through Oakland, turning left up Craig Street and looping through the business district of Shadyside.

In the course of the march, the cadre of protesters hurled insults at two Starbucks coffee shops and chanted protests outside a Gap store before tramping back into Oakland where they broke up.

With the exception of one interlude when the group ducked down an alleyway to escape their escort, a squad of three city patrol cars and three uniformed motorcycle officers scooted ahead of the protesters to clear away oncoming and sometimes irritated motorists.

The anarchists, who adhere to a philosophy opposed to both government and capitalism, have become a major feature in anti-war and anti-racist protests throughout the country.

Several identified themselves as students from the Pittsburgh area, while others came from Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, and one identified himself as a recent graduate of Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana.

The most curious member of the march turned out to be not an anarchist, but a mail carrier.

Brad Zielinski, 49, of Freedom, Beaver County, walked at the head of the group in hopes he could prevent confrontations.

"I didn't want any trouble. I thought I could help somehow," Zielinski said.


Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.

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