Around the world this month groups were calling on their Governments to cut military spending and focus on human needs. This important event was recognized by Pittsburgh with two events.

 Four of the youth from the American Friends Service Committee PA Program (AFSC) went to Washington DC to be part of the “If I Had a Trillion Dollars (IHTD)” film festival. This is the fourth year of this festival and was probably the most spectacular. Youth groups around the country submit three minute video’s on how they would spend the trillion dollars that have been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Youth groups who submitted the winning videos had the opportunity to go to DC to be part of the festival, to lobby their legislators on their concerns and be part of the final action. Over the years four years of the IHTD festival over 800 videos have been submitted. This means a lot of youth in this country have a better understanding of the Federal discretionary budget and have considered how they would allot the money. This year 71 youth went to DC to be part of the festival.

 The video our Pittsburgh youth submitted was called “The Trillion Dollar Tree” and focused on education, the environment and youth empowerment which were the issues they raised with Senator Casey and Toomey’s aides. http://www.afsc.org/video/trillion-dollar-tree

I was very proud of our youth as they talked to legislative aides on their concerns about funding for education and the environment. They were especially impressive with Senator Toomey’s aides as he praised charter schools and talked about the jobs that would be created by fracking and the keystone pipeline. In both cases the youth pushed back strongly supporting public schools and the need to protect our environment and calling for emissions reduction.

On the Monday before tax day we all congregated at Farragut Square and the youth laid out seven fighter jets they had made and decorated out of foam board. In the background were signs reading “Move the Money” and as everyone shouted for the money to be moved the youth rushed in and converted the fighter jets to buildings. The buildings represented the things they would spend the money on such as schools, garden, hospitals, etc. It was a lovely action and very visually dramatic.

GDAMS Tax Day event

On April 15th, Tax Day, the American Friends Service committee PA, Women’s International league for Peace and Freedom and the Coalition for Peace Action Western PA held their annual tax day event dramatizing how much of our tax dollars are spend on the military.

Due to the cold and snow we had a last minute change of venue and set up outside of the Squirrel Hill Library which had the advantage of being heavily trafficked. We had a strong visual presence with AFSC's banner showing the distribution of discretionary spending and our Penny Polling Station. Greeting passerbys with "Happy Tax Day!" we handed out leaflets and “One Minute for Peace” information.  People were invited to make their federal budget priorities known by distributing 10 pennies, each penny representing %10 of the federal budget, into various budget categories. The budget categories that got the highest number of pennies were Education, Health Care, and Transportation while the lowest was, not surprisingly, the military.

The mood was lighthearted and fun despite the cold and the snow with the Raging Grannies sharing a few songs as the flurries came down. Many participants commented on the visual impact of the AFSC’s 14 feet banner showing 57% of the money going to the military. Participants enjoyed doing the Penny Poll and were generally excited to choose their own budget priorities. We even had one toddler participate in the Penny Poll with the help of her mother.